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For LGBTQ Youth Parental Support is Important

Author: Society for Research in Child Development
Author Contact:
Published: 6th Mar 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: LGBT Adolescents Publications

Summary: A new study looks at parental social support and psychological control of depressive symptoms for LGBTQ youth in the United States.


Parental Support

Perceived Parental Social Support and Psychological Control Predict Depressive Symptoms for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning Youth in the United States - Child Development.

Parental support has been defined as "parental behaviors toward the child, such as praising, encouraging and giving physical affection, which indicate to the child that he or she is accepted and loved." In practice, parents with high parental support will demonstrate caring and warmth, willingness to provide advice, and open discussions with their children. Existing narratives show that children with low parental support often display negative emotions, cannot cope with stress, and more often engage in substance use.

Main Document

Depression is more widespread among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) youth than heterosexual, cisgender youth, making parental support more important for these adolescents.

A new study released in Child Development by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin looks at parental social support and psychological control about depressive symptoms for LGBTQ youth in the United States.

Psychological control attempts to intrude into the psychological and emotional development of the child (e.g., thinking processes, self-expression, emotions, and attachment to parents). Although adolescence can be a sensitive period for stress exposure, it also provides opportunities to provide the support that may prevent or help mental health symptoms, making parenting practices an important factor in the mental health of all adolescents.

Previous research on LGBTQ youth and their parents has focused on acceptance and rejection specific to LGBTQ identity rather than general parenting practices that are known to shape adolescent development.

"Our research showed that those who felt greater social support from parents tended to have fewer depressive symptoms, whereas those who reported greater psychological control from parents had more depressive symptoms," as explained by Amy McCurdy, a postdoctoral scholar at The University of Texas at Austin. "For youth whose parents did not know their LGBTQ identities, having a combination of high psychological control and high social support from parents was linked with greater depressive symptoms."

The current study analyzes data from the first two waves of a longitudinal study of sexual and gender minority youth, which was designed to investigate risk factors for suicide. Data were collected in four consecutive periods, beginning in November 2011 and every nine months following the preceding collection. Participants were recruited from community-based organizations and college groups in three Northeast, West Coast, and Southwest United States cities. Participants aged 15-21 years old who self-identified as LGBTQ were eligible. The sample included:

The principal investigators received a federal certificate of confidentiality that allowed youth to participate without requiring parental consent due to concerns that requiring parental approval would put some youth at risk of exposing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Youths under 18 met with a youth advocate to receive more information about the study to ensure informed consent. After the initial screening, eligible participants contacted site coordinators to confirm an appointment to complete a survey packet. Participants completed the survey packet at the selected study site, which took 40 - 80 minutes to complete. Participants also received a cash incentive in exchange for their participation.

Researchers examined youth's reports on the following:

The research shows that general parenting practices matter for the well-being of LGBTQ youth.

The study also shows that psychological control is a significant predictor of youth depressive symptoms, yet psychological control is seldom studied among LGBTQ youth. The findings also highlight the complexity of parenting experiences for LGBTQ youth, particularly those who may not be out to their parents. This research was inconsistent with a previous study conducted in Israel which found that the significant main effect of parental acceptance on youth depressive symptoms vanished when parental psychological control was entered into the model. Unlike a previous study conducted with LGBTQ youth in Israel, parental support and psychological control simultaneously predicted youth depressive symptoms - the influence of one did not overpower the influence of the other.

"Research on parental acceptance and rejection has produced important initiatives that improve the well-being of sexual and gender minority youth," said McCurdy. "Advancing understandings of the associations between parenting practices and youth well-being offers the possibility for insights regarding risk and resilience mechanisms and ultimately support positive mental health outcomes for sexual and gender minority youth during adolescence."

The authors acknowledge several limitations in their research, including reliance on self-reported data, the generalizability of the sampling frame, and timeframe differences in key study measures. A deeper understanding of parenting practices is also needed in future research to inform efforts to identify and intervene in mechanisms of risk for sexual and gender minority youth.

This work was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. Summarized from Child Development, Perceived parental social support and psychological control predict depressive symptoms for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning youth in the United States by McCurdy A.L. and Russell S.T. (The University of Texas at Austin).

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For LGBTQ Youth Parental Support is Important | Society for Research in Child Development ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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• (APA): Society for Research in Child Development. (2023, March 6). For LGBTQ Youth Parental Support is Important. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from

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