Family Ties

Link found in family attitude toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and adult health

(RxWiki News) Researchers have, for the first time, linked health to family attitudes and behaviors toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children.

The study, led byCaitlin Ryan, PhD, Director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, established a clear association between familial acceptance and a significantly decreased risk and better overall health. Parents and caregivers who advocated for their children and supported their gender expression helped protect children against a host of mental-health problems in early adulthood, including depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

Results of the study appear in a peer-reviewed article entitled "Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults" in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.

Little has been examined so far regarding the way families express acceptance and support for their LGBT children. No prior research had looked at the relationship between the relationship between family acceptance of LGBT adolescents and health and mental health concerns in emerging adulthood, for example.

"At a time when the media and families are becoming acutely aware of the risk that many LGBT youth experience, our findings that family acceptance protects against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression and substance abuse offer a gateway to hope for LGBT youth and families that struggle with how to balance deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children," said Ryan.

Among the study's findings:

• Family accepting behaviors towards LGBT youth during adolescence protect against suicide, depression and substance abuse.
• LGBT young adults who reported high levels of family acceptance during adolescence had significantly higher levels of self-esteem, social support and general health, compared to peers with low levels of family acceptance.
• LGBT young adults who reported low levels of family acceptance during adolescence were more than three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and to report suicide attempts, compared to those with high levels of family acceptance.
• High religious involvement in families was strongly associated with low acceptance of LGBT children.

In related news, a Mailman School of Public Health study examining the effects of institutional discrimination on the psychiatric health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals suggests mental-health effects also stem from society's treatment of sexual minorities. The study found an increase in psychiatric disorders among the LGB population living in states that instituted bans on same-sex marriage.

"Before this study, little was known about the impact of institutional discrimination toward lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals in our society," said lead author Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., professor of clinical epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. "The study highlights the importance of abolishing institutional forms of discrimination, including those leading to disparities in the mental health and well-being of LGB individuals."

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2010