Family Relationships and Adolescent Well-Being: Are Families Equally Protective for Same-Sex Attracted Youth?
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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.
KeywordsSexual orientation Same-sex attraction Family relationships Parental Involvement Risk behaviors Well being
This research was funded by a grant from Wichita State University. The research is based on data from the Add Health project, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.
JP conceived of the study, participated in the design and coordination of the study, performed the statistical analysis, and drafted the manuscript. LW conceived of the study, participated in the design of the study and interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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