Primary Sources: Improving Outcomes for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People

Photograph of a young woman with her parents.

Sexual Orientation, Parental Support, and Health During the Transition to Young Adulthood” (abstract), Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 39 No. 10, October 2010. 

What it's about: Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the authors of this study found that lesbian, gay and bisexual 18- to 26-year-olds report being less connected to their families than their peers. Specifically, lesbian and bisexual women and gay men reported lower levels of parental support than heterosexual women and men and bisexual men.

Why read it: Family connectedness is key to protecting young people from problems. While previous research has shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual teens feel less connected to their families than do other adolescents, the authors say, this is the first study to examine the association between sexual orientation and parental support during young adulthood. Overall, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in this study had higher rates of suicide, depression, drug use and heavy drinking than their heterosexual peers. But lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who were accepted by their parents and had positive relationships with them were less likely to have these problems.

Biggest take away for youth workers: Research suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are most likely to come out during early adulthood. In addition, most people establish patterns of behavior (healthy or unhealthy) during this stage that last the rest of their lives. Interventions designed to strengthen relationships between lesbian, gay and bisexual young adults and their parents could help reduce health disparities related to sexual orientation, the authors say.

Additional reference: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Support Project has published a list of posters, cue cards and assessment tools online, available to download after filling out a short form. In addition, read NCFY’s article “Supportive Families Make a Difference for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth” for advice from Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project on strengthening family connectedness for LGBTQ youth.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.) 

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