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Divorce and Changes in Family Structure

Parental support is essential to the healthy development of rainbow kids. Changes in family composition pose special risks for them.

 

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Parental support positively impacts adolescent development and can counteract the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences, to which rainbow youth are disproportionately exposed [1]. Important forms of support include emotional care, ensuring physical safety, and validating personal experiences [1]. When discussing ways to provide and care for children, it is important that we differentiate various types of involvement and resources.

Rainbow teens who perceive their guardians to be supportive of their sexual and gender identities have better psychosocial health and behavior outcomes than those without supportive caretakers [1]. This is of great importance, as LGBTQ+ youth generally receive lower levels of social support and general health care than their straight and cisgender peers [1]. Parental knowledge and acceptance of sexual minority identities is shown to reduce low self-esteem and depression [2].

 

In a national study of LGBTQ youth ages 8-18, 26% of the young people surveyed ranked non-accepting families as the most important problem in their lives [3]. In a 2009 study of LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system, 90% of the respondents “identified lack of parental support as a ‘very serious’ or ‘somewhat serious’ problem.” [3] Children greatly depend on adults to assist them with guidance in regard to interpersonal, romantic, school, and work experiences [4]. Youth who have insecure attachments to their guardian or caretakers will struggle in these areas, and rainbow youth even more so given the stigma attached to their identities. 

Poor family functioning and family conflict create hostile home environments that impede adolescent development [5]. Family dynamics are defined as ways in which members of a family system interact with and support one another combined with their own individual preferences and goals [6].  Degrees of support exist on a spectrum. For example, a parent might be accepting of their child’s disclosure of gay or gender non-conforming identity within the family, but not allow the child to wear their choice of clothing to school or date people who align with their sexual orientation [1].

One should not tell a child that they are “too young” to have thoughts about their gender or sexuality, but one can recommend limits on how they express it publicly until the child feels confirmed in their self-conception.

A lack of total affirmation might stem from parents’ doubts about the validity of their child’s current self-identification or because they doubt their own ability to knowledgeably assist them [1]. One should not tell a child that they are “too young” to have thoughts about their gender or sexuality, but one can recommend limits on how they express it publicly until the child feels confirmed in their self-conception.

One study found that among elementary school children, approximately 23% of boys and 39% of girls displayed multiple gender-atypical behaviors [4]. Gender atypical behavior does not in itself constitute a shift in gender or sexual identity, and the majority of children with such behaviors do not go on to become transgender. Continuing to support your child no matter what the social implications of their gender expressions benefit their mental health and relationship with you. Yet, it is important to note that gender-non-conforming children are at increased risk for abuse by caregivers [4]. No matter what a child’s appearance or identification might look like, it is helpful to validate their existence for both the betterment of the parent and the child’s mental health.

Rainbow minors appreciate supportive parents advocating on their behalf in school settings and with extended family as well as protecting them from discrimination in other areas of their life [1]. Having someone to speak up for them is incredibly important for the young. Rainbow teens often cannot advocate for themselves due to their anxiety over disclosing their sexual orientation, not being taken seriously, or meeting a response of verbal or physical violence. Even older teens might not always have the language they need to communicate issues. Adults inherently receive higher levels of respect and regard than teens; they are thus in a better position to initiate difficult conversations both with their children and with potential adversaries or superiors.

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The rise of nontraditional family structures in the United States over the past few decades is a point of concern to some due to the evidence that children who live in non-married families are at higher risk of academic and behavioral deficits [7,8]. However, rainbow youth may also benefit from the normalization of non-gender conforming relationships or modern family structures that challenge the status quo, much as a non-cis heterosexual identity does. Being outside of the norm is something to be celebrated and makes adolescents more comfortable with their own diversity. 

Studies have shown that children benefit the most from parents who can invest in them sufficient levels of money, time, and affection. Caregivers in non-standard family arrangements are unfortunately required to divert these resources elsewhere as a result of stress and material concerns [8]. 

In a nationwide 1989 study, young sexual minority men were found to benefit more from a mother’s knowledge of their sexual identity, and having infrequent contact with fathers was associated with higher self-esteem. For young sexual minority women, positive relationships with mothers, and not fathers, were indicative of higher self-esteem [2]. However, another study found that sexual minority youth, compared to their heterosexual peers or siblings, report less secure attachment to their mothers and in turn receive less support and affection from them [4]. This is an important discrepancy to consider because maternal attachment has been found to mediate depressive symptoms and substance use [4]. 

As of 2005, it was found that nearly 40% of American children live outside of a two-parent married family [8]. Many see this as a problem, but offer conflicting explanations why. There are three theoretical approaches to understanding the disadvantages of unmarried families: structural, evolutionary, and parental selection [8]. A structural approach to understanding these differences explains the inherent constraints and societal expectations associated with unmarried families. Marriage itself has economic and emotional advantages. With more disposable income, families can better prepare for unforeseen events, participate in a larger economy, and maintain employment [8].

These types of structural benefits to marriage are further heightened by the longevity and stability of parents’ relationship. Unmarried parents often dissolve their relationship faster and at higher rates than those in marriages [8]. Emotionally, marriage and longer-term cohabitation have been shown to provide a higher quality of relationships for couples by leading to healthier and stronger attachments and parenting behaviors [8,5]. Single parent families are more prone to suffer structural inequities in access to education and community.

An evolutionary approach emphasizes biological relations and posits that parents are more prone to invest in biological children, as opposed to step- or foster children [8]. This hypothesis proposes that there is little difference between the parenting efficacy of married and unmarried parents due to a parent’s evolutionary inclination to care for their own children; both types of parents will feel matched levels of necessity to care for their child so that their children might carry their lineage to the next generation [8]. However, two parents may be able to provide more care than one. Unfortunately, even the strength of a biological connection between a caregiver and child is often not enough to ward off homophobia and other harmful ideals.

One theory surrounding parental selection asserts that adults who marry are inherently different from those who do not. Research from 2006 and 2007 found that unmarried parents are more likely to be from a racial minority, have lower incomes, less involvement in the labor force, worse mental and physical health, and lower levels of religiosity [8]. Yet research has shown that living with and having a healthy relationship with a mother, whether biological or not, is just as indicative of lower risk behavior as a parent’s marriage status or biological relation [8]. This same principle is demonstrated in the chosen families of rainbow youth. Oftentimes rainbow youth benefit to a greater degree from the support of their chosen family as opposed to their biological one. 

Parents who feel exhausted by parenting and overwhelmed by its demands are likely to have less emotional energy available to provide to their kids [8]. Per parental selection theory, unmarried parents are more likely to have structural disadvantages that drain their available energy. This means that idealized family pastimes like amusement parks and camping trips are not universally available. However, that doesn’t mean that simple activities with your teens like taking a walk, playing a video game, or tossing a frisbee are any less beneficial – for you and them both.

In a nationally representative study, it was found that 65.2% of adolescents within the lowest income group were from single-parent families, and only 6.4% of those in upper-income families were from single-parent homes [7]. Of this sample, 43.1% of families were White, 38.6% Black, and 18.3% Hispanic [7]. In the same nationally representative study, it was found that children in single-parent families were at significantly higher risk for substance use, suicidal thought or tendencies, weapon-related violence, and earlier sexual debut than children in two-parent homes [7]. Children in single-parent homes have the highest rate of consuming cigarettes and alcohol [7]. 

Specifically, for Black and Hispanic children, living in a single-parent home is associated with higher levels of violence and early sexual activity, even independent of income level [7]. One thing to consider for LGBTQ+ children in family structures that are of lower socio-economic status is privacy. If the house that they live in is limited in size, or they share a room with a family member, this can hinder the privacy necessary for proper sexual development.

Single Mothers

One study of the literature surrounding family structure found that mother-only families are expected to have lower levels of investment in childcare and provision than married ones as a result of less income and free time [8]. In single-mother homes, non-resident fathers can share the economic and child-care burden, but non-resident fathers rarely provide contributions equal to that of live-in ones [8]. A non-resident father’s investment depends on employment, income, and responsibilities and attitudes towards children [8]. 

Even in situations where the non-resident father to a mother-only home is doing his best to attend to his children, the father’s involvement is often subject to the mother’s discretion. Depending on the quality of the relationship between both parents, this can erect barriers to parental connections for children [8]. In any relationship, whether both parents remain in the home or not, amicable relations and healthy communication between caregivers in a child’s life are positive.

Conflict between estranged parents is often internalized by a child, especially in their teen years, and can frequently breed resentment towards one or both parents. They may, for instance, blame their non-resident parent for their perceived lack of involvement in their lives, or they blame their live-in parent for allegedly keeping the other parent away. It is the job of both caretakers to preserve, in the healthiest way possible, a child’s relationship with both of them.

A 2003 Fragile Families study found that 20% of children with unmarried parents are born to mothers with no romantic or partner attachments [8]. Mothers who receive financial support from their partner, regardless of family structure, are more capable of providing warm, consistent interaction with their children, from which most children have been found to thrive [8].  

Single Fathers

Fathers and masculine caregivers, specifically heterosexual ones, are known to have more rigid gender expectations and higher levels of opposition to homosexuality, which causes a higher likelihood of tense relationships with non-heterosexual children [2]. The presence of a non-biological mother in the father’s life might diminish his parenting quality [8]. Some single fathers will withhold attention and support to their biological offspring in an effort to appeal to a newly related one [8].

One important effect that fathers might have on their children is the influence of their own model of masculinity on the developing identity of a gay or gender-queer son or daughter [4]. Single fathers will benefit from reflecting on their own relationships with masculinity and avoiding aggressive behaviors that may further alienate sensitive boys from their gender identity, or that may encourage lesbian or gender-queer daughters to adopt negative models of “tough girl” behavior.

Gender identity and sexual orientation are often very fluid and unstable at this age, and not inherently tied to a child’s interests or behavior, so parents should be careful not to attempt to modify their child’s interests with the goal of changing the child’s gender/sexual orientation or even to have their child further assimilate with what they assume is “gay” or “queer.”

In a nationally representative study, 93.6% of children whose parents reported income of $40,000 or more came from 2-parent families [7]. 86.3% of this population was white, 7.2% Black, and 6.4% Hispanic [7]. On average, parental investments are higher in married families than in cohabiting or single-parent ones. Compared to other family structures, married parents are often older, better educated, and higher paid. These combined benefits provide married parents with better physical and mental health [8].

Higher levels of parental education lead to better outcomes for kids, and living in a more affluent neighborhood provides rainbow youth with opportunities to attend schools with LGBTQ+ specific programs, teachers, and policies. Married parents are also in a better position to obtain competent health care for their children. 

Divorced homes

50% of all children in the United States will witness their parents’ divorce. 90% of divorced mothers have custody of their children and 79% of custodial mothers will receive child support [11]. Less than 30% of custodial fathers receive child support [11]. Children of divorced parents are 50% more likely to develop health problems and experience hardships, including injury, asthma, headaches, and speech impediments, than children whose parents remain married or within their current family structure [11].

Lastly, teens in single-parent and blended families are 300% more likely to need psychological help [11]. Rainbow youth struggle disproportionality compared to their heterosexual peers in gaining a competent, safe, and inclusive education. One study found that children who experienced the dissolution of their parents’ marriage when young attained fewer years of education than those whose parents remain married [12]. Additionally, educational outcomes have been found to be more positive for children of intact two-parent families than for children with single mothers [12]. Historically, custody cases side with the mother. 

Aside from educational attainment, kids inherit many things from their parents. When considering parental relationships to a child of divorce, think about the traditions or behaviors that they are parting from after the dissolution of a marriage. Also consider what types of tradition or experience they might be transitioning into as your family structure shifts. Are there potential benefits? If so, how can you maintain these benefits? Remain thoughtful towards the financial pressures of dissolved or changing parental relationships. Reduced economic pressures have been found to provide more adequate maternal and paternal parenting practices and less stress for the family unit [13]. 

 

Stepfamily homes

 

Stepfamilies are defined as a household where a child lives with a biological parent and their new spouse or cohabiting partner. A recent estimate suggests that up to one-third of American children will live in a cohabiting or married stepfamily at some point before age 18 [14]. Most stepfamilies are formed as a consequence of a series of transitions, including the dissolution of a parental relationship or formation of a new relationship for a single parent [14].

These types of family transitions often, although not always, produce stress, as well as mental and physical strain both within and between family members [14]. Children in step or cohabiting families have been found to fare worse than those in nuclear ones [14]. Common causes of this stress include boundary ambiguity, role conflict, social stigma, the absence of normative behaviors and interactions, and shifts in financial resources [14]. Sometimes this stress becomes manifested in children as withdrawal, personality changes, and self-blame [14]. Queer kids might feel, subconsciously or otherwise, that they caused their family’s fracture by coming out.

Although unmarried parents are more likely to be racial minorities and receive a lower income, this does not seem to affect parenting quality. According to a 2008 study, “Cohabiting and married mothers and fathers were statistically indistinguishable on positive engagement, parental aggravation, and instrumental support. These results are contrary to a structural hypothesis, which posited that marriage itself is advantageous to parents, and that cohabiting parents have lower levels of investment because of cohabitation’s ambiguous social norms and legal uncertainty” [8].

Cohabitation with the child and romantic attachment to their other parent had a much greater impact on parental engagement than marital or biological family links. According to the same study, separated fathers who repartnered had lower child engagement scores, while mothers reported that cohabiting step-fathers were more invested in their child than married fathers. Cohabitating parents also experienced lower levels of depression than parents living separately. [8].

Stepsibling relationships

Sibling relationships in such families can be complicated as well. When two parents move into the same home or join a union, their respective biological children live together and become siblings. There is the possibility that two children of recently joined parents will resent one another merely due to the fact that the other child represents their parent’s divorce. Children might also resent their step-siblings due to perceived competition for their parent’s attention as well. However, research also demonstrates a potential for beneficial relationships between step and half-siblings. Regardless of the nature of the non-biological sibling relationship, or partially biological in the case of half-siblings (a common result of step-families or second marriages), the consistency provided by cohabitating with a non-biological sibling provides for positive connection between two or more children [21].

Research suggests that a good relationship between two step-siblings increases the ability of both of them to foster positive romantic relationships later in life [22]. Two cohabiting siblings of opposite genders often recognize more nuance within their gender identity due to the exposure and experience of each other’s behavior [22]. An older sibling of the same gender can provide a positive role model for a younger sibling in negotiating the challenges of adolescent development.

Romantic or sexually intimate behavior between step-siblings can be problematic and cause family conflict. While it is normal for children to experiment with their bodies and sexuality, certain boundaries for acceptable behavior need to be set at the beginning of and throughout the formation of new family structures and sibling relationships. Even if not technically incestuous, such relationships between step-children can create later regret and family break-up. They can even create a criminal record: if a child tells a therapist about something that happened, even many years later, the therapist may be legally required to report it to the police.

Even if you can guarantee your son or daughter that they have your full support, you can not always say the same for everyone else in your life, and people in your life who you are romantically involved with are naturally going to be a part of your child’s life too. If the person you are involved with is blatantly antagonistic to non-normative sexual and gender identities, you may want to consider somebody else as a long-term partner. However, even quite tolerant people can cause teens uneasiness, perhaps by making vulgar jokes or asking prying questions. In fact, this may be their misguided way of showing them (and you) that they are open-minded and comfortable around queer identities.

If your teen appears self-conscious because of such behavior or tells you it is making them uncomfortable, don’t lash out at your partner. Instead, work with them to try to come to an understanding, and meet them where they are at instead of trying to rewire them overnight into the exact person you think they need to be for your sexual or gender-minority child [15].

For step- or cohabiting families, contact with a non-resident parent, competent/effective parenting, and cooperation between biological parents may help to reduce tension [14]. Being able to mitigate the stress experienced by children during these transitions is proven to improve their well-being [14]. If you cannot cultivate a strong relationship between your child and new family members in this scenario, studies have shown that a strong relationship with at least one parent can help to alleviate some of the adverse effects of these family structures [14]. This applies to parents outside of the family home in question as well. In fact, if a child feels as if they have an ally outside of their family unit, this can provide further opportunities for confidential conversations and emotional healing. 

The best outcomes, though, are the result of loving and healthy relationships between two parents in a family dynamic, even in blended families [14]. However, If you are the non-biological parent in question, it is important that you are yourself supportive and emotionally available. Attempting to change a family culture or taking too much authority can be problematic [14].

We must look at neighborhoods, schools, peers, and individual characteristics of teens and how those characteristics interact with the various demographic groups that they are a part of in order to understand specific risk behaviors [7]. Once we have the big picture, we will then be able to develop effective strategies to reduce risks and improve outcomes for children [7]. 

One form of structural support that caregivers can offer rainbow teens is housing stability [10]. Housing stability can include re-inviting a teen back into their nuclear family’s home (in a situation where they might have been told to leave or fled on their own accord) or allowing the teen to move in with a more supportive/compatible family or community member, such as an aunt or uncle, grandparent, or godparent. 

Although parents have legal control over where their minor lives, you must understand that compelling them into doing anything they oppose must be avoided at all costs. Of course, a parental veto may be applied if your son or daughter is clearly endangering their future possibilities, as with heavy drinking, reckless driving, or self-harming behaviors. However, this is a power that must be wielded rarely and only with careful consideration. Force is a deeply flawed substitute for persuasion. 

Consent is key, always, even when not legally required. If a child does not want to maintain their relationship with particular family members due to homophobia or other harmful biases, they should not be forced to do so. Caregivers should support rainbow youth in making decisions about their own relationships and not obligate them to participate in a family structure in which they do not feel respected.

In all work with teens, it is helpful to be relatable. When possible, it is helpful to connect your teen with a queer older mentor or community figure. Most of the time, teens feel more comfortable talking and spending time with someone who looks like and lives like them. Another example of this would be to find movies or TV shows in which the characters are openly gay or trans. Helping to provide your teen with affirming role models, whether they are yourself or someone else, can go a very long way.

The vast majority of sexual minority youth are born to heterosexual parents [4]. It is not uncommon for heterosexual parents to possess implicit or explicit homophobic attitudes and also expect their children to be heterosexual like themselves [4]. Many parents see their teenage children as younger versions of themselves, assuming that they can guide them by simply telling them the advice they believe would have helped them. However, children are different individuals from their parents and need to be treated as distinct people. Specifically, if they are same-sex attracted or trans, you need to be especially careful not to use your experiences as scripture, and remember to listen more than speak. 

Your teenager’s decisions and identity are entirely autonomous and up to their own discretion. Making any attempt to dictate their behavior as it relates to sexual or gender orientation, even with positive intentions, will have negative consequences for both their development and your relationship. Showing children that their caregiver is willing to explore the rainbow community alongside them has the potential to be life-changing for both involved.

Similarly, most transgender and/or gender non-conforming youth are born to cisgender and/or gender-conforming parents who might hold similar negative attitudes [4]. Signals of disapproval ruin opportunities to learn about and discuss their behavior. In order to help provide them with more insight and safety, you must first know how they think, what they do, and whom they see without breaking their trust or being intrusive. Some researchers have called this “walking the safety tightrope” [5]. The easiest way to access this information is by establishing a trustworthy and mutually respectful relationship with a child and subsequently initiating inquiring conversations.

Emerging contemporary evidence illuminates the importance and prevalence of “chosen families” for rainbow youth [2]. If you yourself cannot provide the support and feedback that your child needs, either due to ability or access, respecting the adults and older teens that they choose to confide in and seek for support will build respect within your relationship. Parents, guardians, and caregivers should never force a relationship onto a child. Research has also suggested that parental support, alongside friends, teachers, and classmates, are all integral to coping with negative experiences for LGBTQ+ youth [2]. As a parent, you can help to strengthen all of these connections for your teenager by providing adequate resources, incentive, and support. For example, giving them rides to friends’ houses where they feel safe and supported or helping them afford a new dress or blazer that makes them feel better in themselves.

Consider how you plan to respond or have responded to your teenager’s sexuality. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that a parent or guardian’s initial reaction to identity disclosure has a great effect on the child’s healthy development [2]. Helping to foster positive relationships within their educational experiences will benefit your child, regardless of family structure [2]. School is a great place for all youths to make friends, but this is only possible if they feel safe. A study from 2011 found that disclosure of sexual identity to friends produces even more benefit than coming out to parents [2].

Finally, be careful of implementing too many restrictions on your child’s behavior. One LGBTQ+ youth in foster care quoted her caregiver saying, “Well, you can be gay but not date anyone… Or you can be trans but not transition, just wait till you’re 18 and then do that.” [15] When you choose to accept a child, you are accepting them in their entirety. 

In one study, LGBTQ+ children emphasized the importance of having discussions about uncomfortable or sensitive topics. By initiating these discussions, parents and caregivers can provide a positive example of healthy communication and respect. Few people look forward to awkward conversations like these, so if you’d like some helpful tips for breaking the ice, check out some of these links: https://www.moms.com/talk-teenagers-about-sensitive-topics/,    https://www.commonsensemedia.org/articles/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-difficult-subjects,    https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/communicating-relationships/tough-topics/difficult-conversations-with-teens.

 

Advocate for your child

 

Rainbow youth themselves have stressed the importance of caregivers advocating for them, their care, and their safety in a variety of ways [18]. Some examples include talking to the school to ensure their safety, working with a social worker to ensure they are receiving appropriate and competent physical/mental health care, and educating yourself in the legal and medical processes that might be involved with gender transitions such as name changes [18]. 

Certain people have more time and resources than others to be available in this capacity, but it is an incredibly important concept to keep in mind as a caregiver. As one queer teen put it: “I think it’s important…to be non-judgmental. And it’s really important also not to associate a gender with certain behaviors. That the emphasis on positive types of actions and behaviors, as a human being, is what is important for the youth to develop into…” [18]

Finding a mentor for your child

In a conservative estimate calculated by HART Research Associates in 2014 85% of at-risk LGBTQ youth ages 8-18 have never had a structured mentorship and 34% had never had a mentor of any kind [3]. Mentorship is broadly defined as “a relationship over a prolonged period of time between two or more people where an older, caring, more experienced individual provides help to the younger person as they go through life” [3]. Mentors can certainly be caregivers and parents, but sometimes this is not an option. Some youth mentoring programs to look into include Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), 4-H, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). 

Youth mentorship programs aim to reduce risk factors for children that parents or caregivers might not have the time or ability to attend to. Individual risk factors include mitigating antisocial behavior, emotionality, low intelligence, and hyperactivity [3]. Family factors include preventing and responding to caregiver maltreatment, family violence, dysfunctional family structure, divorce, and parental substance abuse or psychopathy (mental illness) [3]. Peer factors include helping to bolster peer friendships and buffering potential peer rejection [3]. School and community factors include helping to improve academic performance, preventing drop out or skipping, heightening academic aspirations, and lowering access to drugs or weapons [3]. Lastly, on a broader level, mentorship (regardless of where it comes from) helps to strengthen helping, sharing, and other cooperative behaviors; emotional engagement, healthy beliefs, social reinforcement, and opportunities for community involvement [3].

When asked to rank the most important issues in their lives LGTBQ+ youths placed school and bullying problems, financial pressures, and employment all in the top 10 [3]. These are all issues that could be addressed with the presence of an engaged mentor. Teens benefit more from accessible role models in their everyday life than from inaccessible role models, such as musicians or social media influencers [3]. 

Yet, achieving relationships with accessible role models is often difficult. LGBT youth are known to underutilize supportive services compared to their heterosexual peers, due to stigma, lack of financial resources, and lack of adult support [3]. Moreover, many gay adults hesitate to become involved with teens for fear of being accused of “pedophilia” or “grooming.” Even though the majority of sexual abuse against prepubescent children is committed either within the family or by close friends of the family, the “stranger danger” panic has unfortunately made it more difficult for kids to find older mentors outside of the family.

Sibling relationships are among the longest and most influential in any human’s life. Evidence shows that siblings are integral pieces of the LGBTQ ally community. One study from 2003 found that of over 2,000 LGBT individuals, 38% of the sample had first disclosed their sexual orientation identity to a brother or sister [6].

Not only can siblings be supportive of the experiences of different identity groups, but positive sibling relationships are associated with heightened social functioning, self-esteem, and cognitive development [6]. 85-90% of people have siblings including step, half, adoptive, and biological [6]. Along with positive contributions to mental development, researchers have found that siblings act as protective barriers to stressful situations and experiences both within and outside of the family structure [6]. Sibling protections also apply to experiences of homophobia or victimization and even increase rainbow siblings’ self-acceptance [6]. These benefits of siblings have also been found in relationships between foster children, but when children are moved around between foster families, forming close bonds may be very difficult [6]. 

Siblings of similar age will often participate in a process of “disidentification” where a teenager values being different from their sibling [6]. Studies have found that this often produces positive outcomes, with each sibling being able to claim their own domain and recognition of identity [6]. This can give rainbow children with a straight sibling the opportunity to celebrate their differences and appreciate the things that make them themselves. Even among twins, individuation is developmentally important and sexual orientation is not always the same: 34% of identical twins and 70% of fraternal twin pairs in which one is gay or lesbian feature a different identity for the other.

Not all siblings are predisposed to support their LGBTQ+ relative [6]. Studies have found that siblings are more supportive of their rainbow brother or sister if they have had previous contact with LGBT individuals, greater knowledge of the community, or a more liberal ideology [6]. Some studies have included circumstances where two siblings were both LGBTQ+, or identified as a sexual minority. These studies found that for parents, having a second child come out can provide an opportunity to improve their response and support of their respective children [6]. 

There have been multiple hypotheses drawn regarding sibling birth order. One study from 2014 found that older siblings tend to project dominating behavior toward their younger siblings. Yet, if the two siblings in question have an emotional attachment to one another, the older child is more likely to initiate cooperative activity and support their sibling [6]. Another relatively famous hypothesis is that of Ray Blanchard and Anthony Bogaert referred to as the fraternal birth order effect or FBOE [17]. Blanchard and Bogaert’s scientific study indicated that with each son to whom a woman gives birth, the likelihood of that son being homosexual increases by about 33%. Thus, the youngest of multiple brothers would be the most likely to identify as gay. However, this evidence should not be used to predict or anticipate the sexual orientation or gender identity of any child.

If a sexual or gender-minority child finds their home to be undesirable, unsafe, or a hindrance to their mental and physical health, there is a chance they will voluntarily leave (5). Rainbow youth are disproportionately represented in the homeless youth population. Sexual minority youth make up anywhere from 20% to 45% of the homeless population, and 28% of LGBTQ+ have experienced homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives [9,26]. According to research by The Trevor Project, 55% of all LGBTQ+ runaways left home because of mistreatment or potential mistreatment based on their identities [26]. Some other factors at play that may interact negatively with family relationships are a child’s experience with depression, which rainbow youth are significantly more prone to experience. 

Youth experiencing homelessness are likely to report having left home in response to parental conflicts, being “kicked out,” abuse (physical, verbal, sexual, or other), parental neglect (sometimes attributed to mental health problems), or parental substance abuse [10]. Oftentimes youth leave home out of a hope to develop financial independence [10]. This provides the opportunity to purchase things that help them to fulfill their lifestyle preference: clothes, make-up, reading materials, etc. In order to keep your teenager close to you while giving them opportunities for independence, help them find some safe and legal sources of income. Oftentimes, giving a child more control can put them in a position to cultivate more self-preservation strategies and feel more confident in themselves as an individual. 

Some youth who choose to leave home or are experiencing homelessness for another reason might find refuge in other potentially vulnerable housing situations like couch surfing or staying with extended family members [10]. Not having secure housing puts rainbow youth at higher risk for health inequities. For example, sometimes financial independence comes at the cost of participating in illegal activity, such as survival sex work in exchange for money or other vital necessities including, but not limited to, short-term housing and food [10]. Survival sex work puts LGBTQ+ youth at higher risk for HIV and encounters with the criminal justice system [19]. Other methods to achieve financial independence include selling drugs or other illegal contraband, putting them at risk of abusing these substances themselves. This also increases the chances that they will come into contact with the criminal justice system. Early conflict with the law increases a teen’s chances of future victimization and limits their upward mobility [20].

One preventative measure for rainbow youth who think of leaving their home is family therapy, which has shown promising results treating issues with family functioning, substance abuse, and toxic family environments [10]. Unfortunately, family therapy is not available to all individuals or families. For those who do not have the means to attend, afford, or access mental health services, Psychologytoday.com has articles with outlines for conflict resolution discussions that can provide the structure needed to have the hard conversations. See some recommendations below: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rediscovering-love/201301/intimate-conflict-debriefing-disabling-your-disagreements and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/marriage-and-family-therapy.

Additionally, many religious organizations offer free individual and family counseling sessions, even for non-members. However, many LGBTQ+ young people and their parents are understandably hesitant to seek solace in a religious environment. Luckily, gay and trans-affirming churches are more common than you may have thought. To find one in your area, here is a locating program offered by GayChurch.org: https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/

There are nearly 438,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States [14]. Almost 46,000 youth in the foster care system are 16 or older and every year about 20,000 youth “age out” of the foster care system [14]. One study showed that although 3-8% of youth in the United States identified as LGBTQ+, they accounted for 15-19% of the child welfare service population [18]. Other research has found even larger discrepancies. For example, a 17-state survey conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a philanthropy for underprivileged children, found that 24% of youth being served by foster care identified as LGBTQ+ [25]. A study using a national probability sample found that the proportion of LGBTQ youth in foster care and unstable housing is 2.3 to 2.7 times larger “than would be expected based on estimates of LGBTQ youth in national adolescent populations” [9]. Compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBTQ youth in unstable housing report lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, less school safety, poorer school climate, more fights in school, and more victimization [9]. 

Youth in foster care live in various foster placements (foster homes, group homes, and congregate care) often as a product of maltreatment within or rejection by their original family structure [14]. One study of LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care in New York City found that 78% were removed or ran away from their foster care placements because of anti-LGBTQ violence or harassment [18]. As a foster parent of a rainbow child, it is important to understand that even if youth are accepted for their identity, most foster parents and care providers need to acquire knowledge or training to provide adequate care and support [18]. LGBTQ+ youth have been found to enter foster care on average at an older age than straight youth: 12 years versus 11 years old, and they have more placements on average as well [24]. This leads to less fulfilling and supportive experiences within the system.

Often youth in the foster care system suffer from their lack of stable family, school, and community networks [14]. School and community networks are particularly important for rainbow youth. GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliance) and other LGBTQ+ allied community organizations have been proven to improve the mental and physical health of sexual and gender-minority youth.

It is not uncommon for youth who “age out” of the system after the age of 18 to be disadvantaged as they enter adulthood for many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons for this difficult transition is having not been legally reunified with their family of origin, adopted, or placed under permanent guardianship, and thus having weak networks of financial and emotional support [14].

Even after a young person has made it through their developmental period as an adolescent, connections and support made during their adolescence benefit young people throughout the rest of their lives. Lack of these relationships and connections leads to greater homelessness, unemployment, criminal justice system involvement, and mental health challenges (all of which affect rainbow youth already disproportionately) [14]. 

Rainbow youth in foster care have been found to struggle more than their straight peers in building solid connections within their foster care placements. Some of this might be explained by the findings that LGBTQ+ youth are often placed in discriminatory or unprepared foster families and group homes, in the care of intolerant organizations or individuals, or in highly restrictive placements that hinder their ability to live an affirming life [18,24]. 

     Rainbow youth in foster care are more likely to become homeless after aging out than their straight peers, possibly because they receive fewer permanency options than foster youth who are straight [18]. Furthermore, LGBTQ+ youth in foster care are 11.2% more likely to report that they had little to no control over their lives in foster care and 6.8% more likely to report having heard staff or other people refer to them as “hard to place” [24].

Child welfare services are intended to supplement and compensate for the losses that a child experiences by not being able to connect with a family unit by connecting them to comprehensive resources [14]. This connection is more difficult to make for LGBTQ+ foster children who experience stigmatization and fear of particular institutions more than their straight counterparts. For example, while case workers within the foster care system will attempt to strengthen or rebuild the relationship between a foster child and their existing family, homophobia and transphobia may not be easily mended by social workers. Sexual minority youth in foster care see and visit their birth families less [24].

Network-based social support for young people in foster care is limited by the circumstances that led to the initial foster placement [14]. It is important to remember that rainbow youth in foster care might be more hesitant to connect with new caregivers due to fears of continued rejection and doubt that these relationships will last, particularly if they have been in multiple placements [18]. One study using interviews with various foster children reported that youth develop a strong self of self-reliance once placed in foster care [14]. Being able to make decisions for oneself as an LGBTQ+ teen can be incredibly validating.

Foster children who are lucky enough to be placed in a foster home that is stable and supportive report a greater ability to develop close friendships and may find more support and certainty in the process of “reinventing” themselves at a new school [14]. Depending on the nature of a foster child’s experience at their prior school, the opportunity to start over can be incredibly beneficial. Foster children with access to such networks report longer-term, positive relationships with caseworkers, service providers, and foster parents [14]. 

On the other side of the same coin, youth who are not able to create and maintain these connections may suffer for it [14]. It is common for youth who struggle with making community connections to spend the majority of their experience in the child welfare system living in group homes [14]. Group homes (including residential treatment, semi-secure group homes, and homeless shelters) are not ideal for rainbow youth due to the larger possibility of verbal and physical abuse by other children, discrimination, and lower levels of supervision by caseworkers [14]. They can also be environments rife with the potential for sexual abuse.

Research shows that creating connections between foster children and non-parental adults helps to bolster structural resources for the child and also aid in increasing support for children post-foster care [14]. A few important things to consider when assessing the most effective way to support a rainbow foster child are family-based networks and how self-reliant the child is due to prior lived experiences [14]. Helping a child reinvent themselves at their new school, assuming their foster placement entails a transfer, can be a fresh slate and of great benefit for rainbow children.   

Foster parents and case workers can help to connect rainbow youth to supportive and inclusive communities. The more communities that a youth experiences the more opportunity they have to participate in youth advisory boards, church groups, school sports and clubs and recreational activities [14]. The more people a young person meets, the more likely they will connect with someone similar to themselves. 

One study, derived from interviews with foster children, about 50% of whom were LGBTQ+, articulated three main goals to support relationship and community connections for children within the system:

 

  1. “Promote youth-led decision-making and self-advocacy around desired services and supports [14]”
  2. “Develop youth skills and opportunities to invest in supportive informal connections with peers, adults, and community groups [14]”
  3. “Use network assessment tools to better understand youth support network capacity and to identify and address individual unmet needs [14]”

“Connect” is a parenting program for foster caregivers that has helped to provide important information to facilitate healthy social development, and healthy relationships, and prevent high-risk behaviors. See the website here: http://connectattachmentprograms.org/research/foster-parents/.

[1] Hidalgo, M. A., Chen, D., Garofalo, R., & Forbes, C. (2017). Perceived Parental Attitudes of Gender Expansiveness: Development and Preliminary Factor Structure of a Self-Report Youth Questionnaire. Transgender Health, 2(1), 180–187. https://doi.org/10.1089/trgh.2017.0036

[2] Watson, R. J., Grossman, A. H., & Russell, S. T. (2019). Sources of Social Support and Mental Health Among LGB Youth. Youth & Society, 51(1), 30–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X16660110

[3] Mallory, C., Sears, B., Hasenbush, A., & Susman, A. (2014). Ensuring access to mentoring programs for LGBTQ youth. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/566c7f0c2399a3bdabb57553/t/566caf2d841abafcc8e7fdf2/1449963309086/TWI-Access-to-Mentoring-Programs.pdf

[4] Katz-Wise, S. L., Rosario, M., & Tsappis, M. (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and family acceptance. Pediatric Clinics, 63(6), 1011-1025. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2016.07.005

[5] Bounds, D. T., Otwell, C. H., Melendez, A., Karnik, N. S., & Julion, W. A. (2020). Adapting a family intervention to reduce risk factors for sexual exploitation. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 14(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-020-00314-w

[6] Gamboni, C. M. (2019). The impact and implications of two or more children identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) within the family system (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Iowa). https://doi.org/10.17077/etd.la10-nfo9

[7] Blum, R. W., Beuhring, T., Shew, M. L., Bearinger, L. H., Sieving, R. E., & Resnick, M. D. (2000). The effects of race/ethnicity, income, and family structure on adolescent risk behaviors. American Journal of Public Health, 90(12), 1879. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446419/

[8] Gibson‐Davis, C. M. (2008). Family structure effects on maternal and paternal parenting in low‐income families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(2), 452-465.

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00493.x

[9] Baams, L., Wilson, B. D., & Russell, S. T. (2019). LGBTQ youth in unstable housing and foster care. Pediatrics, 143(3). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-4211

[10] Wang, J. Z., Mott, S., Magwood, O., Mathew, C., Mclellan, A., Kpade, V., … & Andermann, A. (2019). The impact of interventions for youth experiencing homelessness on housing, mental health, substance use, and family cohesion: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7856-0.

[11] Owenby Law, P.A. (2018, October 11). Statistics: Children & Divorce. https://www.owenbylaw.com/blog/2018/october/statistics-children-divorce/

[12] Kalmijn, M. (2015). Family disruption and intergenerational reproduction: Comparing the influences of married parents, divorced parents, and stepparents. Demography, 52(3), 811-833. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0388-z

[13] Choi, J. K., Palmer, R. J., & Pyun, H. S. (2014). Three measures of non‐resident fathers’ involvement, maternal parenting and child development in low‐income single‐mother families. Child & Family Social Work, 19(3), 282-291. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12000

[14] Jensen, T. M., Shafer, K., & Holmes, E. K. (2017). Transitioning to stepfamily life: The influence of closeness with biological parents and stepparents on children’s stress. Child & Family Social Work, 22(1), 275-286. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12237

[15] Salazar, A. M., McCowan, K. J., Cole, J. J., Skinner, M. L., Noell, B. R., Colito, J. M., … & Barkan, S. E. (2018). Developing relationship-building tools for foster families caring for teens who are LGBTQ2S. Child Welfare, 96(2), 75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5978427/

[16] Fiddian-Green, A., Gubrium, A. C., & Peterson, J. C. (2017). Puerto Rican Latina youth coming out to talk about sexuality and identity. Health Communication, 32(9), 1093-1103. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1214215

[17] Balthazart, J. (2018). Fraternal birth order effect on sexual orientation explained. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(2), 234-236. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719534115

[18] Blakeslee, J. E., & Best, J. I. (2019). Understanding support network capacity during the transition from foster care: Youth-identified barriers, facilitators, and enhancement strategies. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 220-230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.11.049

[19] Marshall, B. D., Shannon, K., Kerr, T., Zhang, R., & Wood, E. (2010). Survival sex work and increased HIV risk among sexual minority street-involved youth. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (1999), 53(5), 661. https://doi.org/10.1097/qai.0b013e3181c300d7

[20] Lambda Legal. (n.d.). Working With Homeless LGBTQ Youth. https://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/article/youth-homeless

[21] Gyuris, P., Kozma, L., Kisander, Z., Láng, A., Ferencz, T., & Kocsor, F. (2020). Sibling relations in patchwork families: co-residence is more influential than genetic relatedness. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 993. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00993

[22] Doughty, S. E., McHale, S. M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2015). Sibling experiences as predictors of romantic relationship qualities in adolescence. Journal of Family Issues, 36(5), 589-608. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513×13495397

[23] Whitam, F. L., Diamond, M., & Martin, J. (1993). Homosexual orientation in twins: A report on 61 pairs and three triplet sets. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22(3), 187-206. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf01541765

[24] Sandfort, T. G. (2019). Experiences and well-being of sexual and gender diverse youth in foster care in New York City: disproportionality and disparities. Annie E. Casey Foundation. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/acs/pdf/about/2020/WellBeingStudyLGBTQ.pdf

[25] Rosa, A. (2021, February 25). What Happens to Some L.G.B.T.Q. Teens When Their Parents Reject Them. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/nyregion/nyc-lgbtq-foster-care.html?searchResultPosition=1

‌[26] The Trevor Project. (2022, February 3). Homelessness and Housing Instability Among LGBTQ Youth. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/research-briefs/homelessness-and-housing-instability-among-lgbtq-youth-feb-2022/

 

The rise of nontraditional family structures in the United States over the past few decades is a point of concern to some due to the evidence that children who live in non-married families are at higher risk of academic and behavioral deficits [7,8]. However, rainbow youth may also benefit from the normalization of non-gender conforming relationships or modern family structures that challenge the status quo, much as a non-cis heterosexual identity does. Being outside of the norm is something to be celebrated and makes adolescents more comfortable with their own diversity. 

Studies have shown that children benefit the most from parents who can invest in them sufficient levels of money, time, and affection. Caregivers in non-standard family arrangements are unfortunately required to divert these resources elsewhere as a result of stress and material concerns [8]. 

In a nationwide 1989 study, young sexual minority men were found to benefit more from a mother’s knowledge of their sexual identity, and having infrequent contact with fathers was associated with higher self-esteem. For young sexual minority women, positive relationships with mothers, and not fathers, were indicative of higher self-esteem [2]. However, another study found that sexual minority youth, compared to their heterosexual peers or siblings, report less secure attachment to their mothers and in turn receive less support and affection from them [4]. This is an important discrepancy to consider because maternal attachment has been found to mediate depressive symptoms and substance use [4]. 

As of 2005, it was found that nearly 40% of American children live outside of a two-parent married family [8]. Many see this as a problem, but offer conflicting explanations why. There are three theoretical approaches to understanding the disadvantages of unmarried families: structural, evolutionary, and parental selection [8]. A structural approach to understanding these differences explains the inherent constraints and societal expectations associated with unmarried families. Marriage itself has economic and emotional advantages. With more disposable income, families can better prepare for unforeseen events, participate in a larger economy, and maintain employment [8].

These types of structural benefits to marriage are further heightened by the longevity and stability of parents’ relationship. Unmarried parents often dissolve their relationship faster and at higher rates than those in marriages [8]. Emotionally, marriage and longer-term cohabitation have been shown to provide a higher quality of relationships for couples by leading to healthier and stronger attachments and parenting behaviors [8,5]. Single parent families are more prone to suffer structural inequities in access to education and community.

An evolutionary approach emphasizes biological relations and posits that parents are more prone to invest in biological children, as opposed to step- or foster children [8]. This hypothesis proposes that there is little difference between the parenting efficacy of married and unmarried parents due to a parent’s evolutionary inclination to care for their own children; both types of parents will feel matched levels of necessity to care for their child so that their children might carry their lineage to the next generation [8]. However, two parents may be able to provide more care than one. Unfortunately, even the strength of a biological connection between a caregiver and child is often not enough to ward off homophobia and other harmful ideals.

One theory surrounding parental selection asserts that adults who marry are inherently different from those who do not. Research from 2006 and 2007 found that unmarried parents are more likely to be from a racial minority, have lower incomes, less involvement in the labor force, worse mental and physical health, and lower levels of religiosity [8]. Yet research has shown that living with and having a healthy relationship with a mother, whether biological or not, is just as indicative of lower risk behavior as a parent’s marriage status or biological relation [8]. This same principle is demonstrated in the chosen families of rainbow youth. Oftentimes rainbow youth benefit to a greater degree from the support of their chosen family as opposed to their biological one. 

Parents who feel exhausted by parenting and overwhelmed by its demands are likely to have less emotional energy available to provide to their kids [8]. Per parental selection theory, unmarried parents are more likely to have structural disadvantages that drain their available energy. This means that idealized family pastimes like amusement parks and camping trips are not universally available. However, that doesn’t mean that simple activities with your teens like taking a walk, playing a video game, or tossing a frisbee are any less beneficial – for you and them both.

In a nationally representative study, it was found that 65.2% of adolescents within the lowest income group were from single-parent families, and only 6.4% of those in upper-income families were from single-parent homes [7]. Of this sample, 43.1% of families were White, 38.6% Black, and 18.3% Hispanic [7]. In the same nationally representative study, it was found that children in single-parent families were at significantly higher risk for substance use, suicidal thought or tendencies, weapon-related violence, and earlier sexual debut than children in two-parent homes [7]. Children in single-parent homes have the highest rate of consuming cigarettes and alcohol [7]. 

Specifically, for Black and Hispanic children, living in a single-parent home is associated with higher levels of violence and early sexual activity, even independent of income level [7]. One thing to consider for LGBTQ+ children in family structures that are of lower socio-economic status is privacy. If the house that they live in is limited in size, or they share a room with a family member, this can hinder the privacy necessary for proper sexual development.

Single Mothers

One study of the literature surrounding family structure found that mother-only families are expected to have lower levels of investment in childcare and provision than married ones as a result of less income and free time [8]. In single-mother homes, non-resident fathers can share the economic and child-care burden, but non-resident fathers rarely provide contributions equal to that of live-in ones [8]. A non-resident father’s investment depends on employment, income, and responsibilities and attitudes towards children [8]. 

Even in situations where the non-resident father to a mother-only home is doing his best to attend to his children, the father’s involvement is often subject to the mother’s discretion. Depending on the quality of the relationship between both parents, this can erect barriers to parental connections for children [8]. In any relationship, whether both parents remain in the home or not, amicable relations and healthy communication between caregivers in a child’s life are positive.

Conflict between estranged parents is often internalized by a child, especially in their teen years, and can frequently breed resentment towards one or both parents. They may, for instance, blame their non-resident parent for their perceived lack of involvement in their lives, or they blame their live-in parent for allegedly keeping the other parent away. It is the job of both caretakers to preserve, in the healthiest way possible, a child’s relationship with both of them.

A 2003 Fragile Families study found that 20% of children with unmarried parents are born to mothers with no romantic or partner attachments [8]. Mothers who receive financial support from their partner, regardless of family structure, are more capable of providing warm, consistent interaction with their children, from which most children have been found to thrive [8].  

Single Fathers

Fathers and masculine caregivers, specifically heterosexual ones, are known to have more rigid gender expectations and higher levels of opposition to homosexuality, which causes a higher likelihood of tense relationships with non-heterosexual children [2]. The presence of a non-biological mother in the father’s life might diminish his parenting quality [8]. Some single fathers will withhold attention and support to their biological offspring in an effort to appeal to a newly related one [8].

One important effect that fathers might have on their children is the influence of their own model of masculinity on the developing identity of a gay or gender-queer son or daughter [4]. Single fathers will benefit from reflecting on their own relationships with masculinity and avoiding aggressive behaviors that may further alienate sensitive boys from their gender identity, or that may encourage lesbian or gender-queer daughters to adopt negative models of “tough girl” behavior.

Gender identity and sexual orientation are often very fluid and unstable at this age, and not inherently tied to a child’s interests or behavior, so parents should be careful not to attempt to modify their child’s interests with the goal of changing the child’s gender/sexual orientation or even to have their child further assimilate with what they assume is “gay” or “queer.”

In a nationally representative study, 93.6% of children whose parents reported income of $40,000 or more came from 2-parent families [7]. 86.3% of this population was white, 7.2% Black, and 6.4% Hispanic [7]. On average, parental investments are higher in married families than in cohabiting or single-parent ones. Compared to other family structures, married parents are often older, better educated, and higher paid. These combined benefits provide married parents with better physical and mental health [8].

Higher levels of parental education lead to better outcomes for kids, and living in a more affluent neighborhood provides rainbow youth with opportunities to attend schools with LGBTQ+ specific programs, teachers, and policies. Married parents are also in a better position to obtain competent health care for their children. 

Divorced homes

50% of all children in the United States will witness their parents’ divorce. 90% of divorced mothers have custody of their children and 79% of custodial mothers will receive child support [11]. Less than 30% of custodial fathers receive child support [11]. Children of divorced parents are 50% more likely to develop health problems and experience hardships, including injury, asthma, headaches, and speech impediments, than children whose parents remain married or within their current family structure [11].

Lastly, teens in single-parent and blended families are 300% more likely to need psychological help [11]. Rainbow youth struggle disproportionality compared to their heterosexual peers in gaining a competent, safe, and inclusive education. One study found that children who experienced the dissolution of their parents’ marriage when young attained fewer years of education than those whose parents remain married [12]. Additionally, educational outcomes have been found to be more positive for children of intact two-parent families than for children with single mothers [12]. Historically, custody cases side with the mother. 

Aside from educational attainment, kids inherit many things from their parents. When considering parental relationships to a child of divorce, think about the traditions or behaviors that they are parting from after the dissolution of a marriage. Also consider what types of tradition or experience they might be transitioning into as your family structure shifts. Are there potential benefits? If so, how can you maintain these benefits? Remain thoughtful towards the financial pressures of dissolved or changing parental relationships. Reduced economic pressures have been found to provide more adequate maternal and paternal parenting practices and less stress for the family unit [13]. 

Stepfamily homes

 

Stepfamilies are defined as a household where a child lives with a biological parent and their new spouse or cohabiting partner. A recent estimate suggests that up to one-third of American children will live in a cohabiting or married stepfamily at some point before age 18 [14]. Most stepfamilies are formed as a consequence of a series of transitions, including the dissolution of a parental relationship or formation of a new relationship for a single parent [14].

These types of family transitions often, although not always, produce stress, as well as mental and physical strain both within and between family members [14]. Children in step or cohabiting families have been found to fare worse than those in nuclear ones [14]. Common causes of this stress include boundary ambiguity, role conflict, social stigma, the absence of normative behaviors and interactions, and shifts in financial resources [14]. Sometimes this stress becomes manifested in children as withdrawal, personality changes, and self-blame [14]. Queer kids might feel, subconsciously or otherwise, that they caused their family’s fracture by coming out.

Although unmarried parents are more likely to be racial minorities and receive a lower income, this does not seem to affect parenting quality. According to a 2008 study, “Cohabiting and married mothers and fathers were statistically indistinguishable on positive engagement, parental aggravation, and instrumental support. These results are contrary to a structural hypothesis, which posited that marriage itself is advantageous to parents, and that cohabiting parents have lower levels of investment because of cohabitation’s ambiguous social norms and legal uncertainty” [8].

Cohabitation with the child and romantic attachment to their other parent had a much greater impact on parental engagement than marital or biological family links. According to the same study, separated fathers who repartnered had lower child engagement scores, while mothers reported that cohabiting step-fathers were more invested in their child than married fathers. Cohabitating parents also experienced lower levels of depression than parents living separately. [8].

Stepsibling relationships

Sibling relationships in such families can be complicated as well. When two parents move into the same home or join a union, their respective biological children live together and become siblings. There is the possibility that two children of recently joined parents will resent one another merely due to the fact that the other child represents their parent’s divorce. Children might also resent their step-siblings due to perceived competition for their parent’s attention as well. However, research also demonstrates a potential for beneficial relationships between step and half-siblings. Regardless of the nature of the non-biological sibling relationship, or partially biological in the case of half-siblings (a common result of step-families or second marriages), the consistency provided by cohabitating with a non-biological sibling provides for positive connection between two or more children [21].

Research suggests that a good relationship between two step-siblings increases the ability of both of them to foster positive romantic relationships later in life [22]. Two cohabiting siblings of opposite genders often recognize more nuance within their gender identity due to the exposure and experience of each other’s behavior [22]. An older sibling of the same gender can provide a positive role model for a younger sibling in negotiating the challenges of adolescent development.

Romantic or sexually intimate behavior between step-siblings can be problematic and cause family conflict. While it is normal for children to experiment with their bodies and sexuality, certain boundaries for acceptable behavior need to be set at the beginning of and throughout the formation of new family structures and sibling relationships. Even if not technically incestuous, such relationships between step-children can create later regret and family break-up. They can even create a criminal record: if a child tells a therapist about something that happened, even many years later, the therapist may be legally required to report it to the police.

Even if you can guarantee your son or daughter that they have your full support, you can not always say the same for everyone else in your life, and people in your life who you are romantically involved with are naturally going to be a part of your child’s life too. If the person you are involved with is blatantly antagonistic to non-normative sexual and gender identities, you may want to consider somebody else as a long-term partner. However, even quite tolerant people can cause teens uneasiness, perhaps by making vulgar jokes or asking prying questions. In fact, this may be their misguided way of showing them (and you) that they are open-minded and comfortable around queer identities.

If your teen appears self-conscious because of such behavior or tells you it is making them uncomfortable, don’t lash out at your partner. Instead, work with them to try to come to an understanding, and meet them where they are at instead of trying to rewire them overnight into the exact person you think they need to be for your sexual or gender-minority child [15].

For step- or cohabiting families, contact with a non-resident parent, competent/effective parenting, and cooperation between biological parents may help to reduce tension [14]. Being able to mitigate the stress experienced by children during these transitions is proven to improve their well-being [14]. If you cannot cultivate a strong relationship between your child and new family members in this scenario, studies have shown that a strong relationship with at least one parent can help to alleviate some of the adverse effects of these family structures [14]. This applies to parents outside of the family home in question as well. In fact, if a child feels as if they have an ally outside of their family unit, this can provide further opportunities for confidential conversations and emotional healing. 

The best outcomes, though, are the result of loving and healthy relationships between two parents in a family dynamic, even in blended families [14]. However, If you are the non-biological parent in question, it is important that you are yourself supportive and emotionally available. Attempting to change a family culture or taking too much authority can be problematic [14].

We must look at neighborhoods, schools, peers, and individual characteristics of teens and how those characteristics interact with the various demographic groups that they are a part of in order to understand specific risk behaviors [7]. Once we have the big picture, we will then be able to develop effective strategies to reduce risks and improve outcomes for children [7]. 

One form of structural support that caregivers can offer rainbow teens is housing stability [10]. Housing stability can include re-inviting a teen back into their nuclear family’s home (in a situation where they might have been told to leave or fled on their own accord) or allowing the teen to move in with a more supportive/compatible family or community member, such as an aunt or uncle, grandparent, or godparent. 

Although parents have legal control over where their minor lives, you must understand that compelling them into doing anything they oppose must be avoided at all costs. Of course, a parental veto may be applied if your son or daughter is clearly endangering their future possibilities, as with heavy drinking, reckless driving, or self-harming behaviors. However, this is a power that must be wielded rarely and only with careful consideration. Force is a deeply flawed substitute for persuasion. 

Consent is key, always, even when not legally required. If a child does not want to maintain their relationship with particular family members due to homophobia or other harmful biases, they should not be forced to do so. Caregivers should support rainbow youth in making decisions about their own relationships and not obligate them to participate in a family structure in which they do not feel respected.

In all work with teens, it is helpful to be relatable. When possible, it is helpful to connect your teen with a queer older mentor or community figure. Most of the time, teens feel more comfortable talking and spending time with someone who looks like and lives like them. Another example of this would be to find movies or TV shows in which the characters are openly gay or trans. Helping to provide your teen with affirming role models, whether they are yourself or someone else, can go a very long way.

The vast majority of sexual minority youth are born to heterosexual parents [4]. It is not uncommon for heterosexual parents to possess implicit or explicit homophobic attitudes and also expect their children to be heterosexual like themselves [4]. Many parents see their teenage children as younger versions of themselves, assuming that they can guide them by simply telling them the advice they believe would have helped them. However, children are different individuals from their parents and need to be treated as distinct people. Specifically, if they are same-sex attracted or trans, you need to be especially careful not to use your experiences as scripture, and remember to listen more than speak. 

Your teenager’s decisions and identity are entirely autonomous and up to their own discretion. Making any attempt to dictate their behavior as it relates to sexual or gender orientation, even with positive intentions, will have negative consequences for both their development and your relationship. Showing children that their caregiver is willing to explore the rainbow community alongside them has the potential to be life-changing for both involved.

Similarly, most transgender and/or gender non-conforming youth are born to cisgender and/or gender-conforming parents who might hold similar negative attitudes [4]. Signals of disapproval ruin opportunities to learn about and discuss their behavior. In order to help provide them with more insight and safety, you must first know how they think, what they do, and whom they see without breaking their trust or being intrusive. Some researchers have called this “walking the safety tightrope” [5]. The easiest way to access this information is by establishing a trustworthy and mutually respectful relationship with a child and subsequently initiating inquiring conversations.

Emerging contemporary evidence illuminates the importance and prevalence of “chosen families” for rainbow youth [2]. If you yourself cannot provide the support and feedback that your child needs, either due to ability or access, respecting the adults and older teens that they choose to confide in and seek for support will build respect within your relationship. Parents, guardians, and caregivers should never force a relationship onto a child. Research has also suggested that parental support, alongside friends, teachers, and classmates, are all integral to coping with negative experiences for LGBTQ+ youth [2]. As a parent, you can help to strengthen all of these connections for your teenager by providing adequate resources, incentive, and support. For example, giving them rides to friends’ houses where they feel safe and supported or helping them afford a new dress or blazer that makes them feel better in themselves.

Consider how you plan to respond or have responded to your teenager’s sexuality. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that a parent or guardian’s initial reaction to identity disclosure has a great effect on the child’s healthy development [2]. Helping to foster positive relationships within their educational experiences will benefit your child, regardless of family structure [2]. School is a great place for all youths to make friends, but this is only possible if they feel safe. A study from 2011 found that disclosure of sexual identity to friends produces even more benefit than coming out to parents [2].

Finally, be careful of implementing too many restrictions on your child’s behavior. One LGBTQ+ youth in foster care quoted her caregiver saying, “Well, you can be gay but not date anyone… Or you can be trans but not transition, just wait till you’re 18 and then do that.” [15] When you choose to accept a child, you are accepting them in their entirety. 

In one study, LGBTQ+ children emphasized the importance of having discussions about uncomfortable or sensitive topics. By initiating these discussions, parents and caregivers can provide a positive example of healthy communication and respect. Few people look forward to awkward conversations like these, so if you’d like some helpful tips for breaking the ice, check out some of these links: https://www.moms.com/talk-teenagers-about-sensitive-topics/,    https://www.commonsensemedia.org/articles/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-difficult-subjects,    https://raisingchildren.net.au/teens/communicating-relationships/tough-topics/difficult-conversations-with-teens.

Advocate for your child

Rainbow youth themselves have stressed the importance of caregivers advocating for them, their care, and their safety in a variety of ways [18]. Some examples include talking to the school to ensure their safety, working with a social worker to ensure they are receiving appropriate and competent physical/mental health care, and educating yourself in the legal and medical processes that might be involved with gender transitions such as name changes [18]. 

Certain people have more time and resources than others to be available in this capacity, but it is an incredibly important concept to keep in mind as a caregiver. As one queer teen put it: “I think it’s important…to be non-judgmental. And it’s really important also not to associate a gender with certain behaviors. That the emphasis on positive types of actions and behaviors, as a human being, is what is important for the youth to develop into…” [18]

Finding a mentor for your child

In a conservative estimate calculated by HART Research Associates in 2014 85% of at-risk LGBTQ youth ages 8-18 have never had a structured mentorship and 34% had never had a mentor of any kind [3]. Mentorship is broadly defined as “a relationship over a prolonged period of time between two or more people where an older, caring, more experienced individual provides help to the younger person as they go through life” [3]. Mentors can certainly be caregivers and parents, but sometimes this is not an option. Some youth mentoring programs to look into include Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), 4-H, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). 

Youth mentorship programs aim to reduce risk factors for children that parents or caregivers might not have the time or ability to attend to. Individual risk factors include mitigating antisocial behavior, emotionality, low intelligence, and hyperactivity [3]. Family factors include preventing and responding to caregiver maltreatment, family violence, dysfunctional family structure, divorce, and parental substance abuse or psychopathy (mental illness) [3]. Peer factors include helping to bolster peer friendships and buffering potential peer rejection [3]. School and community factors include helping to improve academic performance, preventing drop out or skipping, heightening academic aspirations, and lowering access to drugs or weapons [3]. Lastly, on a broader level, mentorship (regardless of where it comes from) helps to strengthen helping, sharing, and other cooperative behaviors; emotional engagement, healthy beliefs, social reinforcement, and opportunities for community involvement [3].

When asked to rank the most important issues in their lives LGTBQ+ youths placed school and bullying problems, financial pressures, and employment all in the top 10 [3]. These are all issues that could be addressed with the presence of an engaged mentor. Teens benefit more from accessible role models in their everyday life than from inaccessible role models, such as musicians or social media influencers [3]. 

Yet, achieving relationships with accessible role models is often difficult. LGBT youth are known to underutilize supportive services compared to their heterosexual peers, due to stigma, lack of financial resources, and lack of adult support [3]. Moreover, many gay adults hesitate to become involved with teens for fear of being accused of “pedophilia” or “grooming.” Even though the majority of sexual abuse against prepubescent children is committed either within the family or by close friends of the family, the “stranger danger” panic has unfortunately made it more difficult for kids to find older mentors outside of the family.

Sibling relationships are among the longest and most influential in any human’s life. Evidence shows that siblings are integral pieces of the LGBTQ ally community. One study from 2003 found that of over 2,000 LGBT individuals, 38% of the sample had first disclosed their sexual orientation identity to a brother or sister [6].

Not only can siblings be supportive of the experiences of different identity groups, but positive sibling relationships are associated with heightened social functioning, self-esteem, and cognitive development [6]. 85-90% of people have siblings including step, half, adoptive, and biological [6]. Along with positive contributions to mental development, researchers have found that siblings act as protective barriers to stressful situations and experiences both within and outside of the family structure [6]. Sibling protections also apply to experiences of homophobia or victimization and even increase rainbow siblings’ self-acceptance [6]. These benefits of siblings have also been found in relationships between foster children, but when children are moved around between foster families, forming close bonds may be very difficult [6]. 

Siblings of similar age will often participate in a process of “disidentification” where a teenager values being different from their sibling [6]. Studies have found that this often produces positive outcomes, with each sibling being able to claim their own domain and recognition of identity [6]. This can give rainbow children with a straight sibling the opportunity to celebrate their differences and appreciate the things that make them themselves. Even among twins, individuation is developmentally important and sexual orientation is not always the same: 34% of identical twins and 70% of fraternal twin pairs in which one is gay or lesbian feature a different identity for the other.

Not all siblings are predisposed to support their LGBTQ+ relative [6]. Studies have found that siblings are more supportive of their rainbow brother or sister if they have had previous contact with LGBT individuals, greater knowledge of the community, or a more liberal ideology [6]. Some studies have included circumstances where two siblings were both LGBTQ+, or identified as a sexual minority. These studies found that for parents, having a second child come out can provide an opportunity to improve their response and support of their respective children [6]. 

There have been multiple hypotheses drawn regarding sibling birth order. One study from 2014 found that older siblings tend to project dominating behavior toward their younger siblings. Yet, if the two siblings in question have an emotional attachment to one another, the older child is more likely to initiate cooperative activity and support their sibling [6]. Another relatively famous hypothesis is that of Ray Blanchard and Anthony Bogaert referred to as the fraternal birth order effect or FBOE [17]. Blanchard and Bogaert’s scientific study indicated that with each son to whom a woman gives birth, the likelihood of that son being homosexual increases by about 33%. Thus, the youngest of multiple brothers would be the most likely to identify as gay. However, this evidence should not be used to predict or anticipate the sexual orientation or gender identity of any child.

If a sexual or gender-minority child finds their home to be undesirable, unsafe, or a hindrance to their mental and physical health, there is a chance they will voluntarily leave (5). Rainbow youth are disproportionately represented in the homeless youth population. Sexual minority youth make up anywhere from 20% to 45% of the homeless population, and 28% of LGBTQ+ have experienced homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives [9,26]. According to research by The Trevor Project, 55% of all LGBTQ+ runaways left home because of mistreatment or potential mistreatment based on their identities [26]. Some other factors at play that may interact negatively with family relationships are a child’s experience with depression, which rainbow youth are significantly more prone to experience. 

Youth experiencing homelessness are likely to report having left home in response to parental conflicts, being “kicked out,” abuse (physical, verbal, sexual, or other), parental neglect (sometimes attributed to mental health problems), or parental substance abuse [10]. Oftentimes youth leave home out of a hope to develop financial independence [10]. This provides the opportunity to purchase things that help them to fulfill their lifestyle preference: clothes, make-up, reading materials, etc. In order to keep your teenager close to you while giving them opportunities for independence, help them find some safe and legal sources of income. Oftentimes, giving a child more control can put them in a position to cultivate more self-preservation strategies and feel more confident in themselves as an individual. 

Some youth who choose to leave home or are experiencing homelessness for another reason might find refuge in other potentially vulnerable housing situations like couch surfing or staying with extended family members [10]. Not having secure housing puts rainbow youth at higher risk for health inequities. For example, sometimes financial independence comes at the cost of participating in illegal activity, such as survival sex work in exchange for money or other vital necessities including, but not limited to, short-term housing and food [10]. Survival sex work puts LGBTQ+ youth at higher risk for HIV and encounters with the criminal justice system [19]. Other methods to achieve financial independence include selling drugs or other illegal contraband, putting them at risk of abusing these substances themselves. This also increases the chances that they will come into contact with the criminal justice system. Early conflict with the law increases a teen’s chances of future victimization and limits their upward mobility [20].

One preventative measure for rainbow youth who think of leaving their home is family therapy, which has shown promising results treating issues with family functioning, substance abuse, and toxic family environments [10]. Unfortunately, family therapy is not available to all individuals or families. For those who do not have the means to attend, afford, or access mental health services, Psychologytoday.com has articles with outlines for conflict resolution discussions that can provide the structure needed to have the hard conversations. See some recommendations below: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rediscovering-love/201301/intimate-conflict-debriefing-disabling-your-disagreements and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/marriage-and-family-therapy.

Additionally, many religious organizations offer free individual and family counseling sessions, even for non-members. However, many LGBTQ+ young people and their parents are understandably hesitant to seek solace in a religious environment. Luckily, gay and trans affirming churches are more common then you may have thought. To find one in your area, here is a locating program offered by GayChurch.org: https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/

There are nearly 438,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States [14]. Almost 46,000 youth in the foster care system are 16 or older and every year about 20,000 youth “age out” of the foster care system [14]. One study showed that although 3-8% of youth in the United States identified as LGBTQ+, they accounted for 15-19% of the child welfare service population [18]. Other research has found even larger discrepancies. For example, a 17-state wide survey conducted by the Annie E. Casey foundation, a philanthropy for underprivileged children, found that 24% of youth being served by foster care identified as LGBTQ+ [25]. A study using a national probability sample found that the proportion of LGBTQ youth in foster care and unstable housing is 2.3 to 2.7 times larger “than would be expected based on estimates of LGBTQ youth in national adolescent populations” [9]. Compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBTQ youth in unstable housing report lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, less school safety, poorer school climate, more fights in school, and more victimization [9]. 

Youth in foster care live in various foster placements (foster homes, group homes, and congregate care) often as a product of maltreatment within or rejection by their original family structure [14]. One study of LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care in New York City found that 78% were removed or ran away from their foster care placements because of anti-LGBTQ violence or harassment [18]. As a foster parent of a rainbow child, it is important to understand that even if youth are accepted for their identity, most foster parents and care providers need to acquire knowledge or training to provide adequate care and support [18]. LGBTQ+ youth have been found to enter foster care on average at an older age than straight youth: 12 years versus 11 years old, and they have more placements on average as well [24]. This leads to less fulfilling and supportive experiences within the system.

Often youth in the foster care system suffer from their lack of stable family, school, and community networks [14]. School and community networks are particularly important for rainbow youth. GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliance) and other LGBTQ+ allied community organizations have been proven to improve the mental and physical health of sexual and gender-minority youth.

It is not uncommon for youth who “age out” of the system after the age of 18 to be disadvantaged as they enter adulthood for many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons for this difficult transition is having not been legally reunified with their family of origin, adopted, or placed under permanent guardianship, and thus having weak networks of financial and emotional support [14].

Even after a young person has made it through their developmental period as an adolescent, connections and support made during their adolescence benefit young people throughout the rest of their lives. Lack of these relationships and connections leads to greater homelessness, unemployment, criminal justice system involvement, and mental health challenges (all of which affect rainbow youth are already disproportionately) [14]. 

Rainbow youth in foster care have been found to struggle more than their straight peers in building solid connections within their foster care placements. Some of this might be explained by the findings that LGBTQ+ youth are often placed in discriminatory or unprepared foster families and group homes, in the care of intolerant organizations or individuals, or highly restrictive placements that hinder their ability to live an affirming life [18,24]. 

     Rainbow youth in foster care are more likely to become homeless after aging out than their straight peers, possibly because they receive fewer permanency options than foster youth who are straight [18]. Furthermore, LGBTQ+ youth in foster care are 11.2% more likely to report that they had little to no control over their lives in foster care and 6.8% more likely to report having heard staff or other people refer to them as “hard to place” [24].

Child welfare services are intended to supplement and compensate for the losses that a child experiences by not being able to connect with a family unit by connecting them to comprehensive resources [14]. This connection is more difficult to make for LGBTQ+ foster children who experience stigmatization and fear of particular institutions more than their straight counterparts. For example, while case workers within the foster care system will attempt to strengthen or rebuild the relationship between a foster child and their existing family, homophobia and transphobia may not be easily mended by social workers. Sexual minority youth in foster care see and visit their birth families less [24].

Network-based social support for young people in foster care is limited by the circumstances that led to the initial foster placement [14]. It is important to remember that rainbow youth in foster care might be more hesitant to connect with new caregivers due to fears of continued rejection and doubt that these relationships will last, particularly if they have been in multiple placements [18]. One study using interviews with various foster children reported that youth develop a strong self of self-reliance once placed in foster care [14]. Being able to make decisions for oneself as an LGBTQ+ teen can be incredibly validating.

Foster children who are lucky enough to be placed in a foster home that is stable and supportive report a greater ability to develop close friendships and may find more support and certainty in the process of “reinventing” themselves at a new school [14]. Depending on the nature of a foster child’s experience at their prior school, the opportunity to start over can be incredibly beneficial. Foster children with access to such networks report longer-term, positive relationships with caseworkers, service providers, and foster parents [14]. 

On the other side of the same coin, youth who are not able to create and maintain these connections may suffer for it [14]. It is common for youth who struggle with making community connections to spend the majority of their experience in the child welfare system living in group homes [14]. Group homes (including residential treatment, semi-secure group homes, and homeless shelters) are not ideal for rainbow youth due to the larger possibility of verbal and physical abuse by other children, discrimination, and lower levels of supervision by caseworkers [14]. They can also be environments rife with the potential for sexual abuse.

Research shows that creating connections between foster children and non-parental adults helps to bolster structural resources for the child and also aid in increasing support for children post-foster care [14]. A few important things to consider when assessing the most effective way to support a rainbow foster child are family-based networks and how self-reliant the child is due to prior lived experiences [14]. Helping a child reinvent themselves at their new school, assuming their foster placement entails a transfer, can be a fresh slate and of great benefit for rainbow children.   

Foster parents and case workers can help to connect rainbow youth to supportive and inclusive communities. The more communities that a youth experiences the more opportunity they have to participate in youth advisory boards, church groups, school sports and clubs and recreational activities [14]. The more people a young person meets, the more likelihood they will connect with someone similar to themselves. 

One study, derived from interviews with foster children, about 50% of whom were LGBTQ+, articulated three main goals to support relationship and community connections for children within the system:

 

  1. “Promote youth-led decision-making and self-advocacy around desired services and supports [14]”
  2. “Develop youth skills and opportunities to invest in supportive informal connections with peers, adults, and community groups [14]”
  3. “Use network assessment tools to better understand youth support network capacity and to identify and address individual unmet needs [14]”

“Connect” is a parenting program for foster caregivers that has helped to provide important information to facilitate healthy social development and relationships and to prevent high-risk behaviors. See the website here: http://connectattachmentprograms.org/research/foster-parents/.

[1] Hidalgo, M. A., Chen, D., Garofalo, R., & Forbes, C. (2017). Perceived Parental Attitudes of Gender Expansiveness: Development and Preliminary Factor Structure of a Self-Report Youth Questionnaire. Transgender Health, 2(1), 180–187. https://doi.org/10.1089/trgh.2017.0036

[2] Watson, R. J., Grossman, A. H., & Russell, S. T. (2019). Sources of Social Support and Mental Health Among LGB Youth. Youth & Society, 51(1), 30–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X16660110

[3] Mallory, C., Sears, B., Hasenbush, A., & Susman, A. (2014). Ensuring access to mentoring programs for LGBTQ youth. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/566c7f0c2399a3bdabb57553/t/566caf2d841abafcc8e7fdf2/1449963309086/TWI-Access-to-Mentoring-Programs.pdf

[4] Katz-Wise, S. L., Rosario, M., & Tsappis, M. (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and family acceptance. Pediatric Clinics, 63(6), 1011-1025. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2016.07.005

[5] Bounds, D. T., Otwell, C. H., Melendez, A., Karnik, N. S., & Julion, W. A. (2020). Adapting a family intervention to reduce risk factors for sexual exploitation. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 14(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-020-00314-w

[6] Gamboni, C. M. (2019). The impact and implications of two or more children identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) within the family system (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Iowa). https://doi.org/10.17077/etd.la10-nfo9

[7] Blum, R. W., Beuhring, T., Shew, M. L., Bearinger, L. H., Sieving, R. E., & Resnick, M. D. (2000). The effects of race/ethnicity, income, and family structure on adolescent risk behaviors. American Journal of Public Health, 90(12), 1879. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446419/

[8] Gibson‐Davis, C. M. (2008). Family structure effects on maternal and paternal parenting in low‐income families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(2), 452-465.

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00493.x

[9] Baams, L., Wilson, B. D., & Russell, S. T. (2019). LGBTQ youth in unstable housing and foster care. Pediatrics, 143(3). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-4211

[10] Wang, J. Z., Mott, S., Magwood, O., Mathew, C., Mclellan, A., Kpade, V., … & Andermann, A. (2019). The impact of interventions for youth experiencing homelessness on housing, mental health, substance use, and family cohesion: a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7856-0.

[11] Owenby Law, P.A. (2018, October 11). Statistics: Children & Divorce. https://www.owenbylaw.com/blog/2018/october/statistics-children-divorce/

[12] Kalmijn, M. (2015). Family disruption and intergenerational reproduction: Comparing the influences of married parents, divorced parents, and stepparents. Demography, 52(3), 811-833. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0388-z

[13] Choi, J. K., Palmer, R. J., & Pyun, H. S. (2014). Three measures of non‐resident fathers’ involvement, maternal parenting and child development in low‐income single‐mother families. Child & Family Social Work, 19(3), 282-291. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12000

[14] Jensen, T. M., Shafer, K., & Holmes, E. K. (2017). Transitioning to stepfamily life: The influence of closeness with biological parents and stepparents on children’s stress. Child & Family Social Work, 22(1), 275-286. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12237

[15] Salazar, A. M., McCowan, K. J., Cole, J. J., Skinner, M. L., Noell, B. R., Colito, J. M., … & Barkan, S. E. (2018). Developing relationship-building tools for foster families caring for teens who are LGBTQ2S. Child Welfare, 96(2), 75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5978427/

[16] Fiddian-Green, A., Gubrium, A. C., & Peterson, J. C. (2017). Puerto Rican Latina youth coming out to talk about sexuality and identity. Health Communication, 32(9), 1093-1103. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1214215

[17] Balthazart, J. (2018). Fraternal birth order effect on sexual orientation explained. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(2), 234-236. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719534115

[18] Blakeslee, J. E., & Best, J. I. (2019). Understanding support network capacity during the transition from foster care: Youth-identified barriers, facilitators, and enhancement strategies. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 220-230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.11.049

[19] Marshall, B. D., Shannon, K., Kerr, T., Zhang, R., & Wood, E. (2010). Survival sex work and increased HIV risk among sexual minority street-involved youth. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (1999), 53(5), 661. https://doi.org/10.1097/qai.0b013e3181c300d7

[20] Lambda Legal. (n.d.). Working With Homeless LGBTQ Youth. https://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/article/youth-homeless

[21] Gyuris, P., Kozma, L., Kisander, Z., Láng, A., Ferencz, T., & Kocsor, F. (2020). Sibling relations in patchwork families: co-residence is more influential than genetic relatedness. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 993. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00993

[22] Doughty, S. E., McHale, S. M., & Feinberg, M. E. (2015). Sibling experiences as predictors of romantic relationship qualities in adolescence. Journal of Family Issues, 36(5), 589-608. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513×13495397

[23] Whitam, F. L., Diamond, M., & Martin, J. (1993). Homosexual orientation in twins: A report on 61 pairs and three triplet sets. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22(3), 187-206. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf01541765

[24] Sandfort, T. G. (2019). Experiences and well-being of sexual and gender diverse youth in foster care in New York City: disproportionality and disparities. Annie E. Casey Foundation. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/acs/pdf/about/2020/WellBeingStudyLGBTQ.pdf

[25] Rosa, A. (2021, February 25). What Happens to Some L.G.B.T.Q. Teens When Their Parents Reject Them. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/nyregion/nyc-lgbtq-foster-care.html?searchResultPosition=1

‌[26] The Trevor Project. (2022, February 3). Homelessness and Housing Instability Among LGBTQ Youth. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/research-briefs/homelessness-and-housing-instability-among-lgbtq-youth-feb-2022/

 

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