Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) young people feel they are less supported by their families than do their straight peers, new research shows.
Despite improvements over the last decades in how society sees LGBTIQ people, queer youth reported the same or less support from their parents since 1998, according to the Canadian study.
In contrast, young people in general reported better parental and family relationships over the same period.
The study asked high school–aged adolescents about how they viewed their connectedness with family, over a period of 15 years.
“Parental support and family connectedness are key factors in supporting health and well-being in adolescents, especially sexual-minority youth,” wrote study author Hilary Rose from Concordia University.
She said that gay and bisexual young people are more at risk of being bullied at school, an example of a situation where parental support can be crucial.
The study found a particular drop over time in the support that bisexual and lesbian youth perceived from their mothers.
Gay boys reported poorer relationships with their fathers over the same period.
“Our study does not have data to address why LGB youth might see their families as less supportive than heterosexual youth do,” Rose wrote.
“We can, however, speculate. LGBT youth are coming out at earlier ages now than in the past.
“For example, parents of a tween who comes out might be more upset than if they had an adult child in their 20s or 30s who comes out.”
Rose suggested that the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Canada in 2005 had led many to assume LGBTIQ people now had equal rights.
“Our research, however, shows that these equal rights have not trickled down to LGBTQ+ youth, whether at school or within their families,” she wrote.
Rose noted that the increased visibility of diverse sexualities in the media could be a “two-edged sword”, providing young people with positive role models but potentially leading parents to worry more about their children.
She recommended tailored parenting programs to help parents accept their children.
PFLAG+ is the largest community support organisation for families and friends of LGBTIQ people, with branches around the world, including Australia.
According to PFLAG+, on average, every extended family has a queer member, with research suggesting around 10% of young people are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.