You just found out that your child is lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). Now what? One reaction that parents may have is to outwardly reject their child because of his or her sexual orientation. A few examples of rejecting behavior include not allowing the child to participate in family gatherings, preventing him from having gay friends, or blaming him when he is victimized or harassed by peers because of his sexual orientation. A recent study from the Family Acceptance Project™ at San Francisco State University finds that many health and mental health problems in adulthood are linked to the rejection LGB individuals experience from their families as youth (Ryan, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2009). 

What are the Consequences of Family Rejection?

  • In general, family rejection during adolescence is linked to higher rates of health and mental health problems in young adults, including suicidal thoughts, actual suicide attempts, high levels of depression, illegal drug use, substance use and abuse, and sexual risk taking behaviors.
  • The number of rejecting behaviors that young people experience from family members related to their LGB identity is crucial to health. As the level of family rejection increases, the LGB young person’s risk for serious negative health problems also increases.
  • Compared to LGB young people who experience little to no family rejection during adolescence, those who report high levels of family rejection were at high risk for negative health problems as young adults. They were:
    • More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.
    • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression.
    • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs.
    • More than 3 times as likely to have unprotected sex.
  • The negative health problems experienced by youth whose families reject them restrict their life chances and opportunities.

What Can Family Members Do To Prevent Problems for LGB Youth?

Family members can seek support, education, and resources to help them better understand their child or relative’s LGB identity. Research from the Family Acceptance Project™ shows that family rejection significantly affects an LGB young person’s health and well-being. In follow up work, researchers found that even a little change in increasing parental support for LGB youth appears to have a clear impact on decreasing their risk.

Where Can Parents Find Information and Support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) Youth?

Several national and local organizations exist across the United States to help family members support their LGBT children and relatives.

Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) PFLAG is a national (and international) organization that provides education, support, and resources for parents, family members, and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. There are more than 500 PFLAG chapters across the United States and in several other countries.

PFLAG for Families of Color and Allies (New York City) Provides education, information, and support specific to families of color.

Family Acceptance Project™ Research-based education and services for ethnically diverse families with LGBT children, youth, and young people. The Project provides family education materials and develops provider training and interventions to help increase family support for LGBT children.

API Family Pride (Fremont, CA) API is a support organization for Asian and Pacific Islander families with LGB family members. API provides education, information, and support to family members.   Gender Spectrum Education and Training Gender Spectrum provides education and support to families with gender-variant children, including a national support conference for parents and children.   Transgender Youth Family Allies National support group for parents and family members of transgender youth.

About the Family Acceptance Project

The research findings presented above are part of a larger research, education, and intervention project. The Family Acceptance Project™ ( was developed to strengthen families and help them provide support for LGBT youth; develop appropriate interventions, programs, and policies to reduce risk and promote well-being among LGBT young people; and train providers to improve the quality of services and care they receive. The research was funded by the California Endowment, a health foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.

Information presented here is based on the following article:

Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in White and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics, 123, 346-352.