Teens With Lesbian Moms Are Coping with Stigma, Says Study


A new study suggests that fifty percent of 17 year-olds who’ve grown up in lesbian parent families in the U.S. have experienced stigma — but they are coping.

Also a key part of the study reveals that the overall rates of teasing experienced in lesbian-mother families does not significantly differ from those reported in heterosexual families.

The study, published by Children and Youth Services Review, also showed that peer groups were often the source of negative comments, with 30% of reported incidents occurring in elementary school and 39% occurring in high school.

In the study, “Stigmatization associated with growing up in a lesbian-parented family: What do adolescents experience and how do they deal with it?,” 78 teens were asked about whether or not they had been treated unfairly because of having same-sex parents. Adolescents who said they had been treated negatively were then asked to elaborate by describing two or three such experiences, specifying what happened, how they felt, what they said or did, and whom they told about it.

The 78 adolescents were drawn from families that are part of the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running and largest prospective investigation of lesbian mothers and their children in the United States. Initiated by Nanette Gartrell, MD, in 1986, the NLLFS examines the social, psychological, and emotional development of the children as well as the dynamics of planned lesbian families.

The current study was conducted by Loes van Gelderen, MSc. (University of Amsterdam), Henny Bos, PhD (University of Amsterdam; Williams Visiting International Scholar 2012), Nanette Gartrell, MD (University of Amsterdam; Williams Institute Visiting Distinguished Scholar), Floor B. van Rooij, PhD, (University of Amsterdam, and Jo Hermanns, PhD (University of Amsterdam).

What is perhaps more positive is that the study revealed that, in the face of bullying behavior, nearly two-thirds of teens in the study were able to adopt positive coping skills and stand up for themselves. Most teenagers, for instance, would either comfort themselves and ignore those comments, or they reported confronting those that had made negative comments and were able to clearly state that such behavior was unacceptable. Some also reported that they would seek support from within their family units.

However, there were a handful of teens who decided to adapt their behavior so as to erase the problems they encountered, with one teenager from the study quoted as saying “I soon learned to keep my mouth shut and use the term ‘parents’ instead of ‘moms’.”

“The findings suggest that educational systems could play an important role in preventing stigma incidents by discouraging homophobia in their anti-bullying programs,” lead author Loes van Gelderen, MSc, University of Amsterdam, is quoted as saying.


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Image used under the MorgueFile User License with thanks to anitapatterson.


Ashley D.
Ashley D.5 years ago

Terri Lynne M,

no-one is born gay, or at least I'm not convinced of this. My own church supported the Living Waters Trust, for LGBT people who wished to change their orientation; I have personally met a former LGBT activist who has given his life to the Lord and has changed from his previous lifestyle.

Hello G.
Hello G5 years ago

With time solutions will be available as lifestyle, human behaviour and society will keep on changing . All we need is to be up to date!! thanks for the article.

Terri Lynn Merritts
Terri M5 years ago

Sandy, being gay is NOT "just a sex choice". People are born gay and know it when they are kids. Recent research has found biological differences between gays and heterosexuals. Also, many gay parents are married or in a domestic partnership and the same as a married couple. Gays are having to fight to be respected because of the religious freaks who seek to abuse them. In Tennessee, for example, the legislature passed a law that says you can bully gays in schools if it is because of your religious beliefs and they passed another law that says that teachers and students cannot present being gay or having a gay parent in a positive context. These were just recently passed. Gays are targeted specifically by believers in christian mythology for abuse and to be treated as second class citizens. It does not matter how kind, nice, or helpful they are-they are STILL going to be abused. We must put a stop to it.

Andrea A.
Andrea A5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

Another opportunity to rid ourselves of hatred and redefine family....

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin5 years ago

I made a video about why Homosexuals should have equal rights.


Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil Homophobes.

Beth M.
Beth M5 years ago

Interesting article. There are always bullies who look for anything to hurt others.

Ruth P.
Ruth P5 years ago

But Sandy, you know that they live together and might be lovers. They can't hide that from you. They've not put themselves in your face or anything, but you know they might be a couple. If you talk about your parents and that you have two mothers, people know about their "sex choice". If I talk about my husband, as I'm a woman no-one says I'm trying to hard to be respected or I'm forcing details of my love life on other people. If I were a man too, they would. That's discrimination

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson5 years ago

My point being why are we so obsessed with erverybody being the same? Why do we feel the need to put everybody in abox? Control? I am different though I am not gay. I deserve respect. Let us respect each other. In my opinian gays are pushing way to hard to be respected. Be nice,helpful,kind people and really gay is only a sex choice. I really don't need to know about you sex choice. Maybe the foces is all wrong. i know two man living together down the street. Are they lovers? I don't know it really isn't my business. I do know that they are good neighbors. Above all we need to be good people. That is where the focus should be.

Jean Clelland-Morin

I understand. It probably wasn't as difficult for my children but we constantly heard how we were an inferior family because there was no father present. We could have used a little moral support and it would have helped if I hadn't been paid according to gender. // Jean Clelland-Morin