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Rejection of Gay Teens Linked to Later Troubles
Date:12/29/2008

Suicide attempts, drug use higher among those whose families don't accept them

MONDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Gay young adults whose families rejected them when they were younger are more likely to have histories of unprotected sex, illegal drug use and suicide attempts, new research suggests.

The findings don't prove that a family's negative reaction to a child's sexuality directly causes problems later in life. But it's clear that "there's a connection between how families treat gay and lesbian children and their mental and physical health," said Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker at San Francisco State University and lead author of a study released in the January issue of Pediatrics.

In recent decades, studies have found evidence that gay, lesbian and bisexual children are more likely to suffer from a variety of ills, including depression and suicide. Researchers attribute the problems to social stigma around homosexuality, but there has been a gap regarding the role of families' reactions to children's sexuality, Ryan said.

In the new study, researchers first talked to 49 white and Latino families in California to determine how they reacted to children who weren't heterosexual so they would know what to watch for when they started the main research.

In terms of rejection, "we saw that in so many cases, families and caregivers thought what they were doing would help their children have a better life, fit in, belong and be accepted by others," Ryan said. "They'd try to change their gender identity, forbid them from spending time with a gay friend, not let them have access to information about what it's like to be a gay, lesbian or bisexual person."

In some cases, parents wouldn't stand up for their children when they had problems at school, Ryan said. "Their parents would say, 'Of course that's going to happen to you.' They'll blame the victim."

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