Microaggressions and Mental Health at the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in Graduate and Law School

Kaitlin M. Boyle, Elizabeth Culatta, Jennifer L. Turner, Tara E. Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


There is a proliferation of research on the effects of microaggressions among undergraduate students and in the workplace. However, scholars have not focused on biased interactions among graduate and law students, their capacity to create or exacerbate health inequities, and the types of support that might mitigate these effects. In two studies, we center minoritized graduate and law students—those who identify as women, LGBQ+, and/or people of color. We explore how marginalization produced by sexism, homonegativity, and racism increase the risk of microaggressions and mental health symptoms in a non-representative sample of 2,051 cisgender graduate and law students enrolled in a predominantly white research university in the southeastern United States. We find that white heterosexual men report significantly fewer types of microaggressions during graduate and law school, especially as compared to women and LGBQ+ people of color. In turn, experiencing more microaggressions produces greater depression and anxiety among members of these groups. However, we also find that adequate support and encouragement from an academic advisor and from one’s academic department are associated with decreases in some mental health symptoms, even at follow-up nine months later. We add to a small but growing literature that focuses on stressors and mental health symptoms experienced by graduate and law students while demonstrating the need for understanding their unique effects on LGBQ+ students, men and women of color, and those who are multiply minoritized in academia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-180
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Women and Gender in Higher Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Education


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