Although it has been established that the estimated 6-14 million children being raised by lesbian and gay (LG) parents are """"""""comparable"""""""" to those raised by heterosexuals, as members of a social minority group these families must contend with unique stressors. For example, according to data from the National Lesbian Family Study, by the age of ten, 43% of children raised by lesbian couples experience some form of discrimination or homophobia imposed by peers or teachers. Furthermore, in these children, chronic exposure to anti-gay stigma and discrimination has been associated with several poor psychological and behavioral outcomes, along with increased stress on their LG parents, making such discrimination a significant public health concern. Even though LG family studies are relatively new and few in number, there is considerable research that reports on the negative effects of discrimination which is associated with child poor psychosocial development (e.g. self-esteem), and compromised LG parent well-being (e.g. depression). It is possible that these developmental processes may be dependent upon the LG parents'coping responses and parenting methods as these are used to educate their children about homophobia and discrimination. Thus, the current application will examine the role of LG parents'anti-gay discrimination coping and parenting strategies, as these effect LG parents'and their children's psychological well-being and behavioral adjustment. In this vein, we will also elicit and identify the most relevant parenting needs of these LG parents as they would seek support from a parenting intervention designed for LG parents in both the curriculum and desired format. The proposed research plan will utilize an integrative mixed methods (IMM) approach to identify and examine LG parent narratives that relate their ways of coping and to their parenting strategies as used during and after an act of discrimination that involved the parent and/or the child. Furthermore, this study will assess LG parental and child emotional and behavioral outcomes that are associated with these discrimination coping and parenting strategies. Lastly, a family needs assessment survey will be used to determine the relevant parenting needs of LG parents. These results will be used to explore the unique stressors experienced by LG families and to determine the more important aspects of adaptive parenting and coping that these LG parents would seek to obtain from a future LG relevant parenting intervention. Data will be collected from a sample of 120 different LG families that will consist of 60 lesbian mothers and 60 gay fathers with school-aged child (6-12 years) whose families have experienced an act of anti-gay discrimination or stigma within the past year.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research has important public health implications that will further the understanding of the negative effects from the discrimination that lesbian and gay (LG) families often face. Children with LG parents who are victims of discrimination are more likely to suffer from adverse mental health issues, to experience behavioral problems, and to have a poorer long-term adjustment. A better understanding of the discrimination coping and parenting strategies LG parents use and a parenting needs assessment is needed to inform intervention programs that aim to promote healthy child development and that provide sound support to LG families.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F16-B (20))
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Maholmes, Valerie
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Arizona State University-Tempe Campus
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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