CitationMontano, Gerald T.; Thoma, Brian C.; Paglisotti, Taylor; Weiss, Patricia M.; Shultz, Michelle K.; McCauley, Heather L.; Miller, Elizabeth; & Marshal, Michael P. (2018). Disparities in parental support and parental attachment between heterosexual and sexual minority youth: A meta-analysis. Global Adolescent Health Equity. Seattle, WA: Journal of Adolescent Health.
AbstractPurpose: High levels of parental support (being emotionally present and consistently dependable for the child during times of need) and attachment (responding sensitively and appropriately to a child's needs) are associated with lower rates of adolescent mental health problems and substance use—health outcomes that disproportionately affect sexual minority youth (SMY) due, in part, to anti-gay stigma and discrimination. Limited evidence indicates that SMY perceive lower support and attachment from their parents than do heterosexual youth, but the size of the disparity varies across studies. The purpose of this study is to identify a more precise estimate of the disparities in parental support and attachment between SMY and heterosexual youth to inform potential interventions focused on reducing poor mental health among SMY. Methods: This study is a meta-analysis of medical and social sciences peer-reviewed articles from 1989 to 2014 from three electronic data bases: PubMed, PsycINFO, and Scopus. We retained an article for analysis if it: (a) made a comparison between SMY and heterosexual youth; (b) had participants between 13 – 26 years old; (c) examined perceived parental support and attachment; and (d) used quantitative methods for analysis. Multiple studies used the same data set (e.g., Add Health) and were pooled in the analysis by data set. Additionally, we conducted moderation analysis by bisexuality status (100% lesbian/gay versus bisexual) and by gender. Results: Nine published studies and one unpublished data set met inclusion criteria with an estimated total of 40,095 adolescent and young adult participants. Sixteen percent of the sample (n = 6,569) identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, endorsed same-sex attraction, or had same-sex romantic or sexual partners. Random effects analysis of six studies showed that SMY perceived lower levels of parental support than did heterosexual youth (Cohen's d = -.38, SE=.11, p < .001). Random effects moderation analysis showed that lesbian/gay and bisexual youth experienced similar disparities in parental support when compared to heterosexual youth (Q = .23, df = 1, p = .64), whereas the disparities in perceived parental support is larger between sexual minority and heterosexual girls compared to the disparity between sexual minority and heterosexual boys (Q = 10.51, df = 1, p = .001). Random effects analysis of four studies showed that SMY perceived lower levels of parental attachment than did heterosexual youth (Cohen's d = -.31, SE=.07, p < .001). Random effects moderation analysis showed that the disparities in perceived parental attachment is larger between bisexual and heterosexual youth compared to the disparity between lesbian/gay and heterosexual youth (Q = 4.28, df = 1, p = .04), whereas sexual minority girls and boys experienced similar disparities in parental attachment when compared to heterosexual youth (Q = .49, df = 1, p = .48). Conclusions: On average, SMY report lower levels of parental support and attachment than do heterosexual youth. These disparities are even larger in subpopulations of SMY, with sexual minority girls reporting lower parental support than do sexual minority boys, and bisexual youth reporting lower parental attachment than do lesbian/gay youth. Causal mechanisms for these differences within SMY subpopulations remain largely unknown. SMY and their parents may benefit from interventions to strengthen support and attachment, especially parents of sexual minority girls and bisexual youth, respectively.
Reference TypeConference proceeding
Book TitleGlobal Adolescent Health Equity
Author(s)Montano, Gerald T.
Thoma, Brian C.
Weiss, Patricia M.
Shultz, Michelle K.
McCauley, Heather L.
Marshal, Michael P.