Cherished families, unspoken truths: Navigating hidden and challenging family experiences while growing up with LGBTQ parents

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Objective: This study aims to advance understanding of hidden, complex, and resilient family experiences as perceived by adult children from LGBTQ-parent families. Background: Difficult and taboo family topics (e.g., mental illness, substance abuse, violence, infidelity, poverty) are rarely examined, particularly among LGBTQ-parent families, in part reflecting researcher and family concerns about stigmatization or misrepresentation. Unique, complex, and resilient aspects of growing up in LGBTQ-parent families reveal the need to study LGBTQ-parent families in their own right, and not simply from a heteronormative, comparative perspective. Method: A sample of 39 adults raised by LGBTQ parents responded to a mixed-methods online survey regarding parental and child-related dynamics, challenges, and disclosure practices experienced while growing up. Descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis were used to analyze the data. Results: Participants reported an array of challenging family experiences, about which they recalled great pressure to conceal, because of the intersecting stigmas associated with their parents' sexual orientation, the difficulties they faced, and their associated fears of negative evaluation and interference by systems of authority. Their narratives revealed several themes related to navigating challenging LGBTQ family experiences, such as feeling that their families' difficulties were not the result of having LGBTQ parents, but instead due to structural heteronormativity and marginalization. Conclusion: As a minoritized group, LGBTQ-parent families experience societal scrutiny and family stress. Yet, despite reporting multiple problems and stressors associated with their childhoods, participants also revealed great insight and resilience as they sought to understand the complexity of their family upbringing. © 2023 National Council on Family Relations.

Publication Title

Journal of Marriage and Family

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communication, conflict, LGBTQ, marginalized, parent-child relationships, resilience