Many parents of lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) children take years to adjust after learning about their sexual orientation, a new study finds.
The study included more than 1,200 parents of LGB youth aged 10 to 25. The parents visited a website with LGB resources and were asked to complete a questionnaire.
Of those parents, 26% had learned that their child identified as LGB in the past month.
The parents were asked: “How hard is it for you, knowing that your son or daughter is gay, lesbian or bisexual?” They responded on a five-point scale, ranging from not at all hard to extremely hard.
The survey revealed that adjusting takes time. Parents who had learned about their child’s sexual orientation two years ago struggled just as much as those who had recently been told.
Black and Hispanic parents reported a harder adjustment than white parents, and parents of older youth had greater difficulty than parents of younger children, the findings showed.
Fathers and mothers had similar levels of difficulty, as did parents of boys and girls, according to the study published June 18 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Parents who’d known for five years or more that their child is LGB reported the least amount of difficulty.
“Surprisingly, we found that parents who knew about a child’s sexual orientation for two years struggled as much as parents who had recently learned the news,” said David Huebner, associate professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. “Two years is a very long time in the life of a child who is faced with the stress of a disapproving or rejecting parent.”
Previous research suggests that parents who have trouble adjusting are more likely to disapprove or behave negatively, which can put LGB youth at risk of serious health problems.
One reason parents may have trouble accepting that their child is LGB is concern that he or she may face bullying or harassment, and a harder life overall, Huebner suggested.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers LGBT Youth Resources.