study of gay youth, their families
Study funded by The California Endowment will explore sexual orientation in white, Latino families
SAN FRANCISCO, June 19, 2002 -- Researchers at San Francisco State University have received a three-year, $876,965 grant to conduct the first-ever study of physical and mental health outcomes of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who disclose their sexual orientation to family members during adolescence.
Funded by The California Endowment, the state's largest health foundation, the study is also the first to comprehensively explore sexual orientation in Latino families.
Earlier studies of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth have shown higher rates of suicide, substance use, risky sexual behaviors, victimization, depression, chronic stress and pregnancy than their heterosexual peers. However, little attention has been focused on the youths' families and their responses after the youths "come out."
Caitlin Ryan, director of policy studies at the SFSU Institute on Sexuality, Inequality and Health, and Rafael Díaz, SFSU professor of human sexuality studies and ethnic studies, will work closely with Northern California community agencies such as the Gay Straight Alliance Network and Adolescent Health Working Group to study white and Latino teen-agers and their families.
"Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are coming out in high school and middle school while they're still dependent on their parents and families, yet we have little information to help enhance family support or to understand why some teens thrive while others struggle," Ryan said. "The California Endowment's commitment to underserved groups and multicultural care will help us understand these complex dynamics and develop critically needed training materials for providers."
Díaz's previous research of Latino gay men indicated that family acceptance is the most critical factor in reducing risk for HIV infection.
"Supporting families to welcome and accept their child's gay identity is one of the most important HIV prevention strategies we can offer," he said.
In addition, Díaz found that family acceptance is critical to promoting "resiliency," or the ability of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth to survive and thrive despite the many challenges and struggles they encounter.
Ryan, who has studied gay and lesbian health and mental health issues since the 1970s, said that attention to family reactions is more critical than ever because more lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are "coming out" at younger ages, which significantly increases the possibility of being victimized at home and in public, and gay and bisexual youth are at high risk for HIV infection.
"This project draws directly from the experiences and perspectives of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, their families and the service providers who are trying to help them," said Barbara Webster, program officer at The California Endowment. "The important result will be guidelines for delivering quality culturally competent care to these vulnerable and underserved youth within the all-important context of their families."
The study's results will be used to develop training materials and assessment tools for health and mental health providers and school practitioners, as well as a guide for health providers on family care and support for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth and a resource directory for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth.
Ryan and Diaz will start their research in July.
One of the largest campuses in the California State University system, SFSU was founded in 1899 and today is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public, urban university.
The California Endowment was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment has regional offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well-being of the people of California. For more information, visit its Web site.
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