Media exposure and self-esteem of gay and lesbian young adults

Cara Elise Koch, Fordham University


This study examined the relationship between identification with television characters and self-esteem, with consideration of the current representations of gay and lesbian characters on television. A new measure of identification with gay and lesbian television characters was developed to explore the connections between the sexual orientation of the television characters with whom people identify, viewer individual self-esteem, and viewer sexual orientation identity self-esteem. Results showed that, for gay participants, identifying with gay characters was not related to higher levels of individual but was related to one subscale of gay identity self-esteem. Similarly, for straight participants, no relationship was found between identifying with television characters and individual self-esteem. However, there was a relationship between identifying with television characters and straight identity self-esteem such that straight participants who identified with gay characters showed lower ratings of straight identity self-esteem. Thus, there are clear links between these characters and sexual orientation identity development for both gay and straight men and women. An additional study focus was the relationship between demographic characteristics, such as sexual orientation, and the books that individuals read to determine if these characteristics were related to book selection. Significant differences between the levels of importance of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and physical attractiveness on identification with book characters were not demonstrated. Nevertheless, the overall findings show that viewers identify more with television characters who are from their own gender and sexual orientation background and this identification is related to some aspects of sexual orientation identity development.

Subject Area

GLBT Studies|Developmental psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Koch, Cara Elise, "Media exposure and self-esteem of gay and lesbian young adults" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3588194.