Determinants of parental satisfaction with a child's disclosure of a gay or lesbian sexual orientation



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Texas A&M University


This study was an attempt to begin to understand the phenomenon of coming out from the parental perspective. Specifically, it focused on the factors contained within a child??????s disclosure of his or her sexual orientation and their impact on a parent??????s satisfaction with the disclosure. Participants were eleven parents of gay and lesbian children. Participants were interviewed individually regarding their memories of the moment that their children revealed their sexual orientations to them. Participants were asked questions about the parent/child relationship prior to the disclosure, questions about the disclosure as it actually occurred, and were also asked to describe the most ideal coming out scenario that they could imagine. Interview data were analyzed according to the naturalistic inquiry process as outlined by Lincoln and Guba (1985). The results indicate that there are two types of components that influence parental satisfaction with the disclosure of a child??????s sexual orientation: relational components and process components. Relational components are those aspects of the parent/child dynamic that influence a parent??????s feelings of satisfaction regarding the disclosure experience. Process components are the specific elements of the disclosure moment that influence a parent??????s ability to assimilate the information shared by the child and subsequently allow for the integration of that information into their schema of the child and the parent/child relationship. These two categories are discussed along with a proposed framework for understanding them as well as methods of integrating them into an individual??????s coming out script. The findings of the current study may be useful in helping gay and lesbian children develop more successful and accessible coming out disclosures which are targeted towards their parents. In addition, these results may guide the interventions of mental health professionals as they work with individuals who are preparing to come out to their parents. Future studies that address the specific components mentioned within this study would be useful, as would studies which address the coming out phenomenon from the perspective of other family members.