Lesbian and gay kids need parental consistency for better mental health
A new study has determined the importance of parental consistency in their perspective of their lesbian and children’s sexual orientation, even if this perspective is negative.
Presented at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting, the study revealed this consistency had better outcomes as compared to those parents who had changing perspectives on their children’s sexual orientation.
Parental consistency in support of children
The study was conducted by researchers led by Matthew Verdun, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California, as well as a doctoral student at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Los Angeles campus.
Verdun’s study looked whether parental support affected depression, anxiety, or substance abuse over time among 175 adult cisgender lesbian and gay individuals recruited over social media.
During a press briefing, Verdun said: “The time a person discloses their sexual orientation is probably one of the most anxious times in their lives and also where their rate of well-being is the lowest.”
“I wanted to know what happens when a parent is supportive or rejecting at that moment, but also what would happen over time,” Verdun added.
The subjects of the study were divided into three groups. The first was those whose parents’ reactions was consistently positive. The second was those whose parents’ reactions was consistently negative.
The third group was those whose parents’ reaction shifted from negative to positive. A fourth group– those whose parents shifted from positive to negative– was excluded because of the small sample size.
Parental consistency on views of sexual orientation
The study eventually determined that overall, consistency in parental attitude appeared as significant as positivity toward the child’s sexual orientation.
That is, those individuals whose parents were initially unsupportive of their sexual orientation but became more accepting with time were most likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Verdun said, “Depression and anxiety outcomes were significant when people had consistent parenting.”
He explained that, while other factors could come in, one factor is that family rejection could lead gays and lesbians to find new, healthier support systems.
“In coming out, we learn how to cultivate meaningful relationships and navigate across social context,” he said.
He added, “Who are safe people to come out to? How do I identify the people who are going to accept all of me, including my orientation?”
Parental acceptance not necessary a positive thing
Verdun pointed out that re-establishing a bond with a previously unaccepting parent isn’t necessarily a good thing as it could mean ending therapy or abandoning a chosen family.
What’s more, he said that a parent who is now more accepting of their child doesn’t mean that their environment is now a positive one.
Verdun said, “If a parent goes from being unsupportive to supportive, are they abandoning some of their relationships that may still be unhealthy?”
“Are they part of a faith tradition that rejects their child or says they’re an abomination? If the parent comes around but doesn’t shift out of that belief system, that’s going to affect their child,” he added.
He noted that this finding could be useful for mental health providers to help gay and lesbian people identify supports and build resilience factors that support improved mental health outcomes.
However, he said this shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that rejecting a gay or lesbian child is a healthy response.