First study shows pivotal role of parents in conversion efforts to change LGBT adolescents’ sexual orientation

Thursday, November 08, 2018

“Change” efforts double and triple rates of depression, suicide attempts, decrease self-esteem, social support, education and income in young adulthood

Family Acceptance Project logoA study from the Family Acceptance Project has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young people who experience sexual orientation change efforts during adolescence report attempts to change their sexual orientation (often called “conversion therapy”) both by their parents and by therapists and religious leaders.

Whether change efforts are carried out at home by parents and caregivers or by practitioners and religious leaders, parents serve as gatekeepers to both engage in and take their LGBT children for external conversion interventions. Both home-based parent and external sexual orientation conversion interventions by therapists and religious leaders, coupled with parent conversion efforts, contribute to multiple health and adjustment problems in young adulthood. These include higher levels of depression and suicidal behavior, as well as lower levels of self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction, and lower levels of education and income in young adulthood, compared with LGBT young people who did not experience conversion efforts.

Parent-Initiated Sexual Orientation Change Efforts with LGBT Adolescents: Implications for Young Adult Mental Health and Adjustment” is the first study to examine the sexual orientation change experiences for LGBT youth across several domains and to ask about conversion experiences with both parents / caregivers and with practitioners and religious leaders. This builds on an earlier Family Acceptance Project study on family rejection and health risks that identified and measured more than 50 specific family rejecting behaviors that include parental and caregiver efforts and external interventions to change their LGBT child’s sexual orientation.

In the current study published online in the Journal of Homosexuality, more than half (53 percent) of LGBT non-Latino white and Latino young adults, ages 21-25, reported experiencing sexual orientation change efforts during adolescence. Of these, 21 percent reported specific experiences by parents and caregivers to change their sexual orientation at home; and 32 percent reported sexual orientation change efforts by both parents and by therapists and religious leaders. Notably, any sexual orientation change efforts — whether by parents alone or by parents, therapists and religious leaders contribute to higher risk for LGBT young people. However, those who experience both parental and external conversion efforts by therapists or religious leaders had the highest levels of risk.

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