Coming out during adolescence: Perceived parents’ reactions and internalized sexual stigma

From Journal of Health Psychology

The coming out (CO) process is an important transition in lesbian and gay (LG) identity development. Revealing to others promotes self-integration and personal empowerment, and is a sign of self- and social acceptance CO may be most growthful when it takes place in the context of strong social support and is met with positive family responses. Indeed, social support and family acceptance have also been shown to protect them from negative health outcomes. This study aims first to identify individual factors that can affect how parents react to their child’s disclosure and the differences between mothers’ and fathers’ responses, as perceived by their daughter and sons. Then the paper examines how the family system and the adolescents’ methods to face stressful situations influence the LG adolescents’ internalized sexual stigma (ISS) levels.


Disclosing sexual orientation to parents is a challenging developmental task for lesbian and gay adolescents. The aim of the study is to investigate parental negative reaction to coming out, which is associated with high levels of internalized sexual stigma and psychological problems. Participants’ perceptions of their parents’ reactions, age at coming out, gender, parental political orientation and religiosity, family functioning, and internalized sexual stigma were assessed in 150 Italian homosexual adolescents. Findings confirm that negative parental reactions are connected to poor family functioning and strong beliefs in traditional values. Path analysis results identified that negative reaction to coming out mediates the effect between a more rigid family functioning and internalized sexual stigma. Implications for clinical and social fields are discussed.


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Article details
Roberto Baiocco, Lilybeth Fontanesi, Federica Santamaria, Salvatore Ioverno, Emma Baumgartner, and Fiorenzo Laghi
Coming out during adolescence: Perceived parents’ reactions and internalized sexual stigma
J Health Psychol 1359105314564019, first published on December 23, 2014 doi:10.1177/1359105314564019



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