Franklin James Cook

Parents’ Behavior with Gay Children Linked To Health Risks

In Prevention, Research, Stigma on December 29, 2008 at 7:54 pm
Caitlyn Ryan, second from left

Caitlin Ryan, second from left

Several news sources are reporting today on a study–being published in Pediatrics–that shows a strong connection between parental acceptance of teenagers’ sexual orientation and the health of teens. The study was completed under the auspices of San Francisco State University and was directed by Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the university’s Family Acceptance Project. According to an Associated Press report by staff writer Lisa Leff,

Among other findings, the study showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use. More significantly, Ryan said, ongoing work at San Francisco State suggests that parents who take even baby steps to respond with equanimity instead of rejection can dramatically improve a gay youth’s mental health outlook.

In the print version of this morning’s “All Things Considered” on NPR, a “Health & Science” report quotes Ryan as follows:

“A little bit of change in rejecting behavior, being a little bit more accepting,” says … Ryan, “can make a significant difference in the child’s health and mental health.”

And Effie Malley, a prevention specialist at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center in Newton, Mass., says in the audio segment of the report, while noting that the issue is not about “trying to change who the parents are or their beliefs,”

“What I’d like to see down the road is that parents and people who work with families counseling them would … help them to recognize the words they use and the actions that are harmful to their kids and to stop using those behaviors.”

The development of programs for families is forthcoming, according to a Nov. 10 press release, which announces additional funding based on “groundbreaking research conducted by Caitlin Ryan … [showing] that families have a dramatic impact on their LGBT children’s health and mental health”:

San Francisco State University has received major support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop the first comprehensive interventions to help families increase acceptance and decrease rejection of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

[The abridged URL for this post is  http://tinyurl.com/ParentsAcceptance .]

[Related SPNAC post: Experts Weigh In on Suicidal Behavior in LGB Youth]

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  1. […] A study by the Family Acceptance Project, which “showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide.” […]

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