The Institute of Medicine recently issued a report on The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People (2011), which was followed by a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) from The National Institutes of Health regarding Research on the Health of LGBTI Populations. This FOA highlights the need for research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and related populations. The proposed study seeks to examine stress, aging, and health among midlife and older parents of adult lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons (LGBs), an under-studied population that is likely to encounter unique social stressors associated with the sexual minority status of their daughters and sons. We hypothesize that the health of these parents is significantly influenced by the sexual minority stress experiences of their children via the process of stress proliferation. We additionally posit that these stressors may influence the occurrence and/or impact of other stressors, and stress moderators, including specifically parental ambivalence. If this is the case, millions of American parents are at risk for sexual minority stress-related insults to their health. Previous research has documented health disparities between sexual minorities and heterosexuals, but whether these disparities extend to their parents is unknown because these parents are largely invisible and, therefore, existing studies have relied on convenience samples, severely limiting the generalizability of findings. The often rancorous sociopolitical climate in the U.S. regarding LGB civil rights compounds the situation because sexual minority issues are no longer closeted and are an open part of public discourse, to the satisfaction of some parents and the displeasure of others. We propose a study of stress processes affecting parents of adult LGBs using a nationally representative sample and based on an original LGB Parental Stress Model. Testing our innovative model will set the stage for a subsequent R01 study on parents of LGBs that will conceptually re-orient how we view their roles at the individual, familial, and societal levels.
Ou specific aims are to: 1) Develop and pilot test a survey (English/Spanish) that assesses: (a) generic parental stress among self-identified parents of adult LGBs and parents without adult LGB children; (b) parental ambivalence for both groups; (c) sexual minority stress specifically among parents of LGBs; and (d) other pertinent stress domains; 2) Field this survey with a randomly drawn sample of 500 parents of adult LGBs from a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults and a comparison sample of 500 parents without LGB children; 3) Test the extent to which within-group variation in health among parents of LGBs is uniquely explained by sexual minority stress and interactions with parental ambivalence, age/cohort, and aging-related stress; 4) Ascertain whether there are health differences between the two groups of parents, and if so, the extent to which these differences can be attributed to heightened parental ambivalence and/or sexual minority stress among parents of LGBs.

Public Health Relevance

The Institute of Medicine recently issued a report that highlights health disparities between sexual minorities and heterosexuals and emphasizes how stigma, discrimination, internalized homophobia, and the need to conceal one's sexual orientation are widespread forms of sexual minority stress that are harmful to the health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons (LGBs). Surprisingly little is known about the millions of parents of LGBs, however, and population-based research on the health consequences of sexual minority stress 'contagion' among these parents is nonexistent. The proposed study uses a nationally representative sample to explore sexual minority stress and health among midlife and older parents of adult LGBs, creating a model approach for subsequent stress and health research on these parents who are now growing older in the context of having traversed a historical era of tremendous personal, familial, and societal change regarding LGBs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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Gerald, Melissa S
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University of California Los Angeles
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
Los Angeles
United States
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