Minority Stress and Parenting: A Study of Stress and Resilience Among Parents in Same-Sex Relationships

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-0016-3569
Sumontha, Jason, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Patterson, Charlotte, Psychology, University of Virginia

Same-sex parents in the United States live in a society that stigmatizes their intimate relationships. As a result, they may experience chronic stressors (e.g., rejection, stigma, and discrimination) as a product of their socially marginalized positions. It has been shown that such stressors are negatively associated with same-sex couples’ appraisal of their relationship quality and psychological well-being. Critical questions remain, however, regarding minority stress and its association with parenting by same-sex couples. At present, no studies have examined how experiences with discrimination and stigma may affect parents’ reports of their coparenting or parenting behaviors among sexual minority parents in the U.S.

The current study used the minority stress and family stress models to examine links between stressors that are embedded in the social position of sexual minority people (i.e., minority stress) and parenting experiences among parents in same-sex relationships. The first aim of the study was to investigate whether minority stressors were associated with parents’ reports of their coparenting and parenting practices. The second aim was to determine the extent to which associations between minority stress and parents’ reports of their coparenting and parenting practices were mediated through parents’ depressive symptoms and relationship quality. Lastly, the third and final aim of the study was to test whether social support moderated associations between stress and parenting.

The final sample consisted of 162 cisgender women and 24 cisgender men in same-sex relationships. Data from eligible parents were gathered using an online survey. Due to sample limitations, only data from sexual minority mothers were analyzed in the following analyses. As expected, internalized negative beliefs about one’s sexual orientation were significantly associated with less positive coparenting alliance. However, no evidence was found for other sources of minority stress—pressure to conceal one’s same-sex relationship and expectations of public rejection were not associated with either coparenting alliance or parenting behaviors. The association between minority stress and parenting outcomes was not found to be mediated by relationship quality or depressive symptoms. Relationship quality significantly moderated the association between depressive symptoms and coparenting alliance. Specifically, the association between depressive symptoms and coparenting was not significant for mothers with stronger relationship quality, but was significant for mothers who reported worse relationship quality.

Taken together, these results contribute to our growing knowledge of sexual minority parents. First, they suggest that minority stress may have a significant association with coparenting alliance that is differentiated by the type of stress and that is separate from other contributing factors such as mental health and interparental relationship quality—after accounting for depressive symptoms and relationship quality, internalized homonegativity continued to explain a significant amount of variance in coparenting alliance. Second, these results provide further evidence that parenting among LGBTQ mothers is affected by processes germane to a multitude of different families (i.e., relationship quality and depressive symptoms). It is also noteworthy that these associations were significant despite the majority of mothers reporting relatively high levels of socioeconomic status and social support. These findings may help clinicians to adapt evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral interventions to better serve the needs of same-sex parenting couples.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
minority stress, parenting, sexual minority parents, lesbian mothers, LGBTQ parents, relationship quality, depressive symptoms, social support, protective factors, resilience
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