Parental Acceptance Influences Illegal Drug Use Among LGB Teens
Research has consistently found that LGB teenagers are more likely to engage in a variety of risky behaviors, including early or unprotected sex, illegal drug use and attempted suicide. LGB teens who face harassment at school are at even greater risk for these behaviors, as well as disordered eating.
The 2010 study from researchers at the University of Texas and the University of Arkansas looked at two possible sources of social support that could reduce the prevalence of health risk behaviors in this population. The first was the availability of community support in the form of queer youth groups, while the second was parental acceptance of a teen’s sexual orientation.
Using data from a nationwide survey, the researchers looked at a group of 1,906 LGB teens between the ages of 12 and 17. A total of 1,040 teens identified themselves as gay, 206 identified themselves as lesbian and 660 identified themselves as bisexual.
Of these 1,906 young people, 20 percent reported engaging in illegal drug use at least once during the past 30 days. A further analysis of the 20 percent found that 18 percent of gay adolescents engaged in illegal substance use, compared to 24 percent of lesbian adolescents and 22 percent of bisexual adolescents.
Teens Out to Parents Report Positive Reaction
In addition to measuring rates of illegal drug use, the survey also examined levels of social stress, family support and community involvement. Showing consistent results with previous research, this study found that the majority of LGB teens showed indicators of significant social stress. Over half—58 percent—said that they believed their sexual orientation was going to be an obstacle during the course of their lives. An even higher number—63 percent—said they had considered suicide.
A total of 64 percent of the LBG youths in the study were not out to either of their parents. However, 92 percent of the youths who were out to their mothers reported a positive response, while 94 percent of those who were out to their fathers reported a positive response.
Only 16 percent of the adolescents in the study had attended a queer youth group, and 40 percent said that they felt like a part of the LGBTQ community. Lesbian teens were the most likely to have attended a youth group (29 percent) as well as the most likely to feel like part of the LGBTQ community (56 percent). In contrast, only 30 percent of bisexual teens said that they felt like part of the LGBTQ community.
Positive Response to Coming Out Reduces Drug Use
After analyzing the relationships between illegal drug use, community involvement and family support, the researchers found that teens who were involved in queer youth groups were actually more likely to use drugs than teens who were not involved with a youth group. The degree to which teens felt involved in the LGBTQ community did not have a statistically significant impact on whether they used illegal drugs.
In contrast, a positive response after coming out to a parent was associated with lower rates of illegal drug use. In particular, teens whose mothers responded positively to the teens’ coming out were 39 percent less likely to use illegal substances than teens who experienced a negative reaction from their mothers or fathers, or teens who were not out to their parents.