Discrimination, Internalized Homonegativity, and Attitudes Toward Children of Same-Sex Parents: Can Secure Attachment Buffer Against Stigma Internalization?
by Brandon Brown & Lisa Rosenthal
What is the issue?
There are growing numbers of same-sex couples in the United States, including growing numbers of same-sex couples that are having children. While attitudes have generally improved over time, stigma toward same-sex couples and children of these couples is still a challenge that these families face. Individuals who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) experience discrimination in their daily lives, which can become internalized, resulting in negative feelings toward the self due to societal stigma (or internalized homonegativity). And, that internalized homonegativity in turn, can potentially impact same-sex couples’ decisions about whether to have children and their parenting styles if they do have children.
What was the purpose of this investigation?
The goal of this study was to test associations among experiences of discrimination, internalized homonegativity, and attitudes toward children of same-sex parents among individuals in same-sex relationships. Also, this study aimed to test whether secure attachment – sense of security, comfort, and confidence in relationships thought to be based in childhood experiences with caregivers – could be a buffer or protective factor against possible negative consequences of stigma and discrimination for these individuals in same-sex relationships. Dr. Leora Trub, Ella Quinlan (a graduate of the Pace University MA Psychology program), Dr. Tyrel Starks, and Dr. Lisa Rosenthal explored these questions using survey data collected with 209 adults living in the U.S. who were in a committed same-sex relationship for at least three months.
What were the results?
Among participants who had low or average levels of secure attachment, more experiences of discrimination were associated with greater internalized homonegativity, which in turn was associated with more negative attitudes toward children of same-sex parents. However, among participants who had high levels of secure attachment, more experiences of discrimination were not associated with internalized homonegativity or attitudes toward children of same-sex parents.
What are the implications?
These findings support that for individuals in same-sex relationships, discrimination may lead to internalized stigma, which in turn may lead to negative attitudes toward children of same-sex parents. However, high levels of secure attachment may be a buffer that protects individuals in same-sex relationships from internalizing stigma as a response to experiences of discrimination, therefore also protecting their attitudes toward children of same-sex parents. This suggests that societal stigma toward LGB individuals and same-sex couples and families needs to be further reduced, including through continued activism. Also, addressing attachment in clinical settings with LGB individuals as well as same-sex couples and families may be a useful strategy to support them.
Trub, L., Quinlan, E., Starks, T. J., & Rosenthal, L. (2017). Discrimination, internalized homonegativity, and attitudes toward children of same-sex parents: Can secure attachment buffer against stigma internalization? Family Process, 56, 701-715.
Check out Dr. Lisa Rosenthal's guest blog on Dr. Kim Case's page about a new course she will be teaching at Pace in Fall 2017: