Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 376–393 | Cite as

Family Relationships and Adolescent Well-Being: Are Families Equally Protective for Same-Sex Attracted Youth?

Empirical Research

Abstract

Existing research suggests that sexual minority youth experience lower levels of well-being, in part because they perceive less social support than heterosexual youth. Sexual minority youth with strong family relationships may demonstrate resilience and increased well-being; however, it is also possible that the experience of sexual stigma may make these relationships less protective for sexual minority youth. Using two waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we explore the links between same-sex attraction, family relationships, and adolescent well-being in a sample of over 13,000 7th–12th grade adolescents (51 % female, 52 % non-Latino/a white, 17 % Latino, 21 % African American, and 7 % Asian). Specifically, we examine whether lower levels of parental closeness, parental involvement, and family support among same-sex attracted youth explain in part why these youth experience increased depressive symptoms and risk behaviors, including binge drinking, illegal drug use, and running away from home, relative to other-sex attracted youth. Second, we ask whether family relationships are equally protective against depressive symptoms and risk behaviors for same-sex attracted and other-sex attracted youth. We find that same-sex attracted youth, particularly girls, report higher levels of depressive symptoms, binge drinking, and drug use in part because they perceive less closeness with parents and less support from their families. Results also suggest that parental closeness and parental involvement may be less protective against risk behaviors for same-sex attracted boys than for their other-sex attracted peers. Findings thus suggest that interventions targeting the families of sexual minority youth should educate parents about the potentially negative effects of heteronormative assumptions and attitudes on positive adolescent development.

Keywords

Sexual orientation Same-sex attraction Family relationships Parental Involvement Risk behaviors Well being 

References

  1. Almeida, J., Johnson, R. M., Corliss, H. L., Molnar, B. E., & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional distress among LGBT youth: The influence of perceived discrimination based on sexual orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1001–1014.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnes, G. M., & Farrell, M. P. (1992). Parental support and control as predictors of adolescent drinking, delinquency, and related problem behaviors. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 763–776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bouris, A., Guilamo-Ramos, V., Pickard, A., Shiu, C., Loosier, P. S., Dittus, P., et al. (2010). A systematic review of parental influences on the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth: Time for a new public health research and practice agenda. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 31, 273–309.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cavanagh, S. E. (2008). Family structure history and adolescent adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 944–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chesir-Teran, D. (2003). Conceptualizing and assessing heterosexism in high schools: A setting-level approach. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 267–279.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohler, B. J. (2004). The experience of ambivalence within the family: Young adults “coming out” gay or lesbian and their parents. Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, 4, 255–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cornwell, B. (2003). The dynamic properties of social support: Decay, growth, and staticity, and their effects on adolescent depression. Social Forces, 81(3), 953–978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crockett, L. J., Randall, B. A., Shen, Y., Russell, S. T., & Driscoll, A. K. (2005). Measurement equivalence of the Center for Epidemiological Studies depression scale for Latino and Anglo adolescents: A national study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(1), 47–58.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crosnoe, R., Erickson, K. G., & Dornbusch, S. M. (2002). Protective functions of family relationships and school factors on the deviant behavior of adolescent boys and girls: Reducing the impact of risky friendships. Youth & Society, 33, 515–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological Bulletin, 113(3), 487–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Augelli, A. R. (2002). Mental health problems among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths ages 14–21. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 7, 433–456.Google Scholar
  12. D’Augelli, A. R., Hershberger, S. L., & Pilkington, N. W. (1998). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and their families: Disclosure of sexual orientation and its consequences. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68, 361–371.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. D’Augelli, A. R., Pilkington, N. W., & Hershberger, S. L. (2002). Incidence and mental health impact of sexual orientation victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths in high school. School Psychology Quarterly, 17, 148–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeGaston, J. F., Weed, S., & Jensen, L. (1996). Understanding gender differences in adolescent sexuality. Adolescence, 31, 217–231.Google Scholar
  15. Eisenberg, M. E., & Resnick, M. D. (2006). Suicidality among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth: The role of protective factors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 662–668.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Espelage, D. L., Aragon, S. R., Birkett, M., & Koenig, B. W. (2008). Homophobic teasing, psychological outcomes, and sexual orientation among high school students: What influence do parents and schools have? School Psychology Review, 37, 202–216.Google Scholar
  17. Friedman, C. K., & Morgan, E. M. (2009). Comparing sexual-minority and heterosexual young women’s friends and parents as sources of support for sexual issues. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 920–936.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Furstenberg, F. F., & Hughes, M. E. (1995). Social capital and successful development among at-risk youth. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 580–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Galambos, N. L., Barker, E. T., & Almeida, D. M. (2003). Parents do matter: Trajectories of change in externalizing and internalizing problems in early adolescence. Child Development, 74(2), 578–594.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garcia, L. (2009). “Now why do you want to know about that?” Heteronormativity, sexism, and racism in the sexual (mis)education of Latina youth. Gender & Society, 23, 520–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Wissow, L. S., Woods, E. R., & Goodman, E. (1999). Sexual orientation and risk of suicide attempts among a representative sample of youth. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 153, 487–493.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ge, X., Best, K. M., Conger, R. D., & Simons, R. L. (1996). Parenting behaviors and the occurrence and co-occurrence of adolescent depressive symptoms and conduct problems. Developmental Psychology, 32, 717–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of a spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, M. R., & Steinberg, L. (1999). Unpacking authoritative parenting: Reassessing a multidimensional construct. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61(3), 574–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hair, E. C., Moore, K. A., Garrett, S. B., Ling, T., & Cleveland, K. (2008). The continued importance of quality parent-adolescent relationships during late adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 18, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Halfors, D. D., Waller, M. W., Ford, C. A., Halpern, C. T., Brodish, P. H., & Iritani, B. (2004). Adolescent depression and suicide risk: Association with sex and drug behavior. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(3), 224–230.Google Scholar
  27. Helsen, M., Vollebergh, W., & Meeus, W. (2000). Social support from parents and friends and emotional problems in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29(3), 319–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond “homophobia”: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 1, 6–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hofferth, S. L., & Sandberg, J. F. (2001). How American children spend their time. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 63, 295–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Human Rights Campaign. (2010). Statewide marriage prohibitions. Washington, DC: Human Rights Campaign. http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/US_Marriage_Prohibition.pdf. Accessed 23 Nov 2012.
  31. Institute of Medicine. (2011). The health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: Building a foundation for better understanding. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  32. Jacobson, D. E. (1986). Types and timing of social support. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 27(3), 250–264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kane, E. W. (2006). “No way my boys are going to be like that!”: Parents’ responses to children’s gender nonconformity. Gender & Society, 20, 149–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kitzinger, C. (2005). Heteronormativity in action: Reproducing the heterosexual nuclear family in after-hours medical calls. Social Problems, 52, 477–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Boesen, M. J., & Palmer, N. A. (2012). The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.Google Scholar
  36. Lamborn, S. D., Mounts, N. S., Steinberg, L., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1991). Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development, 62, 1049–1065.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  38. Lock, J., & Steiner, H. (1999). Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth risks for emotional, physical, and social problems: Results from a community-based survey. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 38, 297–304.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McNeely, C., Shew, M. L., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R., Miller, B. C., & Blum, R. W. (2002). Mothers’ influence on the timing of first sex among 14- and 15-year-olds. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 256–265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 674–697.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (2003). Social causes of psychological distress (2nd ed.). New York: Walter de Gruyer.Google Scholar
  42. Needham, B. L., & Austin, E. L. (2010). Sexual orientation, parental support, and health during the transition to young adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1187–1198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Newport, F. (2011). For first time, majority of Americans favor legal gay marriage. Gallup Poll. http://www.gallup.com/poll/147662/First-Time-Majority-Americans-Favor-Legal-Gay-Marriage.aspx. Accessed 1 Oct 2012.
  44. Pascoe, C. J. (2007). Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  45. Patterson, C. J. (2000). Family relationships of lesbians and gay men. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1052–1069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pearlin, L. I. (1989). The sociological study of stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 241–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pearson, J., Muller, C., & Frisco, M. L. (2006). Parental involvement, family structure, and adolescent sexual decision making. Sociological Perspectives, 49, 67–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pearson, J., Muller, C., & Wilkinson, L. (2007). Adolescent same-sex attraction and academic outcomes: The role of school attachment and engagement. Social Problems, 54, 523–542.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pilkington, N. W., & D’Augelli, A. R. (1995). Victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in community settings. Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 34–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Plummer, D. C. (2001). The quest for modern manhood: Masculine stereotypes, peer culture, and the social significance of homophobia. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 15–23.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Poteat, V. P., Espelage, D. L., & Koenig, B. W. (2009). Willingness to remain friends and attend school with lesbian and gay peers: Relational expressions of prejudice among heterosexual youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 952–962.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rohner, R. P., Khaleque, A., & Cournoyer, D. E. (2005). Parental acceptance-rejection: Theory, methods, cross-cultural evidence, and implications. Ethos, 33(3), 299–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ross, C. E., & Mirowsky, J. (1989). Explaining the social patterns of depression: Control and problem-solving or support and talking. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 206–219.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rostosky, S. S., Owens, G. P., Zimmerman, R. S., & Riggle, E. D. B. (2003). Associations among sexual attraction status, school belonging, and alcohol and marijuana use in rural high school students. Journal of Adolescence, 26, 741–751.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rushton, J. L., Forcier, M., & Schectman, R. M. (2002). Epidemiology of depressive symptoms in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(2), 199–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Russell, S. T. (2006). Substance use and abuse and mental health among sexual-minority youths: Evidence from Add Health. In A. M. Omoto & H. S. Kurtzman (Eds.), Sexual orientation and mental health: Examining identity and development in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (pp. 13–35). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Russell, S. T., Driscoll, A. K., & Truong, N. (2002). Adolescent same-sex romantic attractions and relationships: Implications for substance use and abuse. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 198–202.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Russell, S. T., & Joyner, K. (2001). Adolescent sexual orientation and suicide risk: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1276–1281.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Russell, S. T., Seif, H., & Truong, N. L. (2001). School outcomes of sexual minority youth in the United States: Evidence from a national study. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 111–127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Russell, S. T., & Toomey, R. B. (2012). Men’s sexual orientation and suicide: Evidence for U.S. adolescent-specific risk. Social Science & Medicine, 74, 523–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rutter, V., & Schwartz, P. (2011). The gender of sexuality: Exploring sexual possibilities (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  62. Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics, 123, 346–352.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ryan, C., Russell, S. T., Huebner, D., Diaz, R., & Sanchez, J. (2010). Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT young adults. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 23, 205–213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Saad, L. (2010). American’s acceptance of gay relations crosses 50 % threshold: Increased acceptance by men driving the change. Washington, DC: Gallup Poll. http://www.gallup.com/poll/135764/americans-acceptance-gay-relations-crosses-threshold.aspx. Accessed 1 Oct 2012.
  65. Saewyc, E. M. (2011). Research on adolescent sexual orientation: Development, health disparities, stigma, and resilience. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 256–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Saewyc, E. M., Homma, Y., Skay, C. L., Bearinger, L. H., Resnick, M. D., & Reis, E. (2009). Protective factors in the lives of bisexual adolescents in North America. American Journal of Public Health, 99, 110–117.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1998). The disclosure to families of same-sex attractions by lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 8, 49–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Savin-Williams, R. C. (2001). Mom, Dad. I’m gay: How families negotiate coming out. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  69. Savin-Williams, R. C. (2005). The new gay teenager. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity trajectories among sexual-minority youths: Gender comparisons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 607–627.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream, G. L. (2003). Sex variations in the disclosure to parents of same-sex attractions. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 429–438.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Scaramella, L. V., Conger, R. D., & Simons, R. L. (1999). Parental protective influences and gender-specific increases in adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 9(2), 111–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Seeman, M. (1959). On the meaning of alienation. American Sociological Review, 24, 783–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Smetana, J. G., Campione-Barr, N., & Metzger, A. (2006). Adolescent development in interpersonal and societal contexts. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 255–284.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Solebello, N., & Elliott, S. (2011). “We want them to be as heterosexual as possible”: Fathers talk about their teen children’s sexuality. Gender & Society, 25, 293–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Spencer, S. M., & Patrick, J. H. (2009). Social support and personal mastery as protective resources during emerging adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 16, 191–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Steinberg, L. (2001). We know some things: Parent-adolescent relationships in retrospect and prospect. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 11, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Teasdale, B., & Bradley-Engen, M. S. (2010). Adolescent same-sex attraction and mental health: The role of stress and support. Journal of Homosexuality, 57, 287–309.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Turner, R. J. (1981). Social support as a contingency in psychological well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 357–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Turner, R. J., & Lloyd, D. A. (1999). The stress process and the social distribution of depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40, 374–404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Ueno, K. (2005). Sexual orientation and psychological distress in adolescence: Examining interpersonal stressors and social support processes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 258–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Ueno, K. (2010). Same-sex experience and mental health during the transition between adolescence and young adulthood. The Sociological Quarterly, 51, 484–510.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Waller, M. W., & Sanchez, R. P. (2011). The association between same-sex romantic attractions and relationships and running away among a nationally representative sample of adolescents. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 28, 475–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wilkinson, L., & Pearson, J. (2009). School culture and the well-being of sexual minority youth. Gender & Society, 23, 542–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Williams, T., Connolly, J., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2005). Peer victimization, social support, and psychosocial adjustment of sexual minority adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 471–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWichita State UniversityWichitaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

Personalised recommendations