The Courage to Challenge: Measuring Hardiness in LGBT Individuals
Prior to the past 10 to 15 years, empirically grounded sociological understandings regarding diverse groups and populations tended to highlight associated psychosocial deficits and clinical vulnerabilities. Now, research findings are more likely to emphasize inherent strengths and resilient attributes of diverse communities and groups (Brendtro & Larson, 2004, Walsh, 1998). However, current means for assessing resiliency are constrained by instruments based on social constructs that fit poorly with the lived realities of many who are oppressed, disenfranchised, and/or stigmatized by dominant groups. For example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals typically show mediocre resiliency scores despite widespread recognition that members of these groups can be amongst the most resilient (Anderson, 1998; Dempsey, Hillier, & Harrison, 2001; Green, 2005; Meyer, 2003; Savin-Williams, 2001). From the conceptual intersection of three primary social constructs – stress/coping, self-efficacy, and social stigma – a new framework for identifying personal hardiness, a central component of resiliency (Maddi, 2004) was developed. Based on measuring a single personal attribute, the courage to challenge negative messages regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender expression, a new rapid assessment instrument was developed and validated. This new framework for assessing hardiness in LGBT adults, conceptualized as the courage to challenge, has broader implications for other stigmatized communities and oppressed groups. Beyond offering a more culturally relevant understanding of these distinctive client populations (LGBT), this new instrument helps students develop clincial practice skills that: a) facilitate more comprehensive assessments of client strengths, b) encourage a strengths-based focus into the interactions between worker and client, and c) recognize and utilize naturally occurring strengths, or personal hardiness, in clients’ lives as the basis for planned interventions.
Keywords: LGBT, Resilience, Hardiness, Courage to Challenge, Stress/Coping, Self-Efficacy, Social Stigma, Rapid Assessment Instrument
Dr. Mark Smith
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Barry University
Dr. Susan Gray
Professor, School of Social Work, Barry University