Heterosexual Parents' Gender Role Attitudes, Religious Orientation, Heterosexist Beliefs, Support Group Experiences, and Relationship Functioning with their Lesbian or Gay Children

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The purpose of this study was to explore how support group experiences are related to parents' attitudes and relationships with their lesbian, gay, or bisexual children in an effort to understand the development of positive attitudes and relationships and what experiences might facilitate this process. This study assessed the interrelationships among parental attitudes (including gender role attitudes, religious orientation, and heterosexist beliefs), parent-child and family relationships (including current family and parent-child relationship functioning, and changes in relationship functioning following disclosure or participation in a support group), and parents' experiences with psychoeducation and social support (including overall involvement in a support group as well as involvement in support, education, and advocacy activities). Participants were contacted through chapters of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The final sample consisted of 167 individuals, 110 females and 52 males, who identified as heterosexual parents of one or more same-sex oriented children. Some key findings suggested that greater parental endorsement of heterosexist attitudes was associated with less positive views of their current parent-child relationship functioning and fewer reports of positive changes in their relationships with their children since their child's disclosure of her/his same-sex orientation. Results further indicated that the more participants were involved in PFLAG overall as well as in its support, education, and advocacy activities, the less they endorsed heterosexist attitudes. Regression results indicated that parents with higher levels of PFLAG involvement, especially involvement in advocacy, were least likely to endorse heterosexist attitudes. Also, the more parents were involved overall, and the more they were involved in support, education, and especially advocacy, the more they perceived positive changes in their relationships with their children since disclosure. The results of this study confirm previous research that explored some of the steps that parents may take as they attempt to understand, accept, and integrate their lesbian, gay, or bisexual child. It appears that accessing resources in the community, participating in supportive or self-help groups, and engaging in social advocacy are some of these important steps for parents. Additional findings and implications for future research, practice, and advocacy are discussed.