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Study Links Gay Teens’ Parental Rejection To Future Health Risks

January 17, 2012 by staff 

Study Links Gay Teens' Parental Rejection To Future Health RisksStudy Links Gay Teens’ Parental Rejection To Future Health Risks, 2008 – Parents who reject their lsbn, gay or bisexual (LGB) teens may increase the odds that their offspring will experience depression, engage in risky sexual practices and even attempt suicide according to a study published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers led by Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at the Cesar E. Chavez Institute at San Francisco State University, asked 224 LGB young adults (ages 21 to 25) whether they’d experienced any of 106 treatments (51 of them defined as “rejecting,” the others as “accepting”) from their parents.

Those who reported that they’d experienced high levels of family rejection as adolescents were 8.4 times more likely to say they’d attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to say they’d suffered depression, 3.4 times more likely to say they’d used illegal drugs and 3.4 times more likely to say they’d engaged in unprotected sex.

Ryan says this is the first study to establish such links, which she repeatedly notes don’t constitute a cause-and-effect relationship. Instead, the study identifies specific parental reactions to kids’ sexual identities that are strongly predictive of negative health behaviors in those kids’ young adulthood.

Behaviors that LGB teens perceived as expressions of rejection of their LGB identity included everything from trying to change that identity to refusing to sit on the same church pew with their child. Ryan says much of what the teens saw as rejection was likely borne of parents’ care and concern. “They want to protect their children, help them fit in, help them live a good life,” she says.

In discussing the study’s findings during “briefings” with families, Ryan observed that “Once the parents saw that these behaviors were viewed by their children as rejecting and that they directly increased the risk of suicide” and other negative outcomes, “they were shocked. People around them had told them these behaviors would help their child. Many parents were very distress at the high level of attempted suicide” in particular, she notes.

Ryan and her fellow researchers are using their findings to develop means of counseling families of LGB children and teens, helping them identify ways of interacting with those children that are likely to promote healthful behaviors. Allowing LGB children access to LGB friends and partners, allowing those friends and partners into the family home, and permitting access to information and resources about LGB status are viewed by LGB teens as supportive, Ryan explains.

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