On GLBTQ teens

I heard about this study in the current issue of Pediatrics on NPR the other night, and I just got around to reading it. I think it's a good study, though I have some qualms with how it's reported.

In a nutshell, the study demonstrates a relationship between degree of parental rejection for adolescent gay, lesbian, bisexual or otherwise "queer" (a term that I still find personally objectionable, though I understand the various arguments for its use) teens and risk for such adverse outcomes as depression, suicidal tendency, substance abuse and high-risk sexual behavior. They quantified parental rejection as low, moderate and high levels of rejection. Unsurprisingly, those adolescents that experienced the highest levels of parental rejection had the highest associated risk for the outcomes measured. What is more interesting is that the risk leaps pretty dramatically between the moderate and high rejection groups. In other words, while it's not great to experience any rejection, if parents were able to keep their objections limited, they were much less likely to increase the risk that their kids would have the problems listed.

My quibble with the study is that the questionnaire they used to collect the measurements had 51 items for assessing parental rejection. Because I heard the first author interviewed on All Things Considered, I know that one of the items was parental attempt to change the adolescent's orientation. But they don't make the actual survey available, so I don't know what any of the rest of them were. And that makes it a little difficult to fully accept the validity of the findings, because it strikes me that all markers of rejection are not created equal. Being forced into so-called "reparative therapy" to be "cured," for example, isn't the same thing as being beaten up or thrown out on the streets. (That being said, the former is horrible, and ineffective, and should be abandoned in its entirety; it is, unfortunately, still practiced.) I would have liked to see exactly what they measured.

All in all, however, I think it's a good study. It highlights the importance for pediatricians to provide good counsel to LGBTQ teens and their families, and demonstrates the long-term harm that familial homophobia can have. I am glad to see that studies like this are being done, and that attitudes are changing.

On a side note, there is a temptation with blogging to barf all of one's personal details onto the Internet in pursuit of a more interesting post, and in hope for increased readership. As a gay man (and a pediatrician), there is certainly a temptation to do so now. However, while some bloggers have managed to do the "barfing all of my personal issues" writing to great effect (and I'm a big fan of one of them), it's not my style, and I will make every effort to avoid it. This should relieve both the Better Half, and my wonderful parents.

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