Author: George Brekoulakis
Psychologist – Psychotherapist
Translation: Evelina Koutsikopoulou
It is common for parents of LGBTQ+ adolescents (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer +) to feel anxious when realizing that their child does not have “heteronormative sexual orientation” (or so called “straight”) or gender expression (D’ Augelli, 2005; LaSala, 2000). Parents may react negatively, watching their child being unable to express heteronormativity leading to low interest in them, aggression and neglect towards them (D’ Augelli, 2005; LaSala, 2000). Parental rejection and lack of acceptance has been associated with increased mental health problems, such as substance use and suicide attempts from the side of the adolescent (D’ Augelli, 2002). Fathers are those who might manifest higher and more frequent negative reactions that can lead to more disagreements and confrontations with their children resulting in higher psychological anxiety for the affected adolescent (Ueno, 2005).
Other available research highlights the opposite side where LGBTQ+ adolescents experience positive relationships with their parents, teachers, friends and the LGBT community (Ryan et al. 2010; Saewyc, 2011). A positive attitude and the parental acceptance are positively associated with higher levels of general health, self-esteem, social support and lower levels of depression, substance use and suicidal behavior (Ryan et al. 2010; Saewyc, 2011). Parental acceptance and family protection against homophobia can restrict victimization and the symptoms of psychological anxiety (Needham & Austin, 2010). Moreover, family bonding, emotional attachment, support and overall positive parent-child relationships are also related to mental health development for LGBTQ+ adolescents (Bouris et al., 2010).
Apart from families, schools can play an important role by promoting the positive development of different sexual identities and expressions through inclusive education, appropriate policies that aim to decrease discrimination and violence as well as teacher-specific training in order avoid the promotion of stereotypes and prejudices against LGBTQ+ adolescents. Moving even further away from families and schools, legislature and public policy changes are equally important to allow for the protection of LGBTQ+ people and ensure equal rights that range from marriage and family law to the day-to-day interactions of LGBT people (Goldberg & Kuvalanka, 2012).
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