Some parents with a lesbian, gay or bisexual child report just as much struggle to adjust two years after the fact as they did when they first learned of their child's sexual orientation, according to a recent survey. That has nothing to do with caring for their child, most do, but it informs how to make the adjustment easier for everyone involved.

"Two years is a very long time in the life of a child who is faced with the stress of a disapproving or rejecting parent,"says David Huebner, PhD, MPH, associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. 

Disapproving or adopting negative behaviors can put LGB youth at risk of serious mental health problems and 26 percent of the 1,200 parents of LGB youth ages 10 to 25 surveyed had only learned their son or daughter identified as LGB in the past month.

The methodology was shaky, they asked parents who visited a website with LGB resources to fill out a questionnaire, so validation of the results will require more than a snapshot in time and with a much larger pool representative of the pubic. If 26 percent only learned last month then 26 percent may learn next, so they are important to understand also.

Huebner and colleagues asked parents "How hard is it for you, knowing that your son or daughter is gay, lesbian or bisexual?" Parents responded using a five-point scale of magnitude that ranged from not at all hard to extremely hard.

The researchers found:

  • Parents who had learned about their child’s sexual orientation two years ago reported struggling just as much as parents who had been told very recently;
  • African American and Latino parents reported greater trouble adjusting compared to white parents;
  • Parents of older youth said they had greater levels of difficulty compared to parents of younger children;
  • Fathers and mothers reported similar levels of difficulty as did parents of boys and girls.
Most experienced a developmental course with most gradually adjusting over a longer period. Parents who had known for five years or longer reported having the least amount of trouble. Parents who have trouble accepting the news may worry that their child might face a more difficult life, which may include bullying or harassment. Others had long imagined a traditional heterosexual future for their child