Date of Award

Fall 12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Barbara Herlihy, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Roxane Dufrene, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Zarus Watson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Paul Trudeau, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to explore the concerns of parents upon learning about their children’s gay or lesbian sexual orientation from the conceptual framework of attachment theory. Personal and contextual factors such as parents’ attachment anxiety and avoidance, parent and child gender, length of time since disclosure, and parents’ prior interpersonal contact with gay and lesbian person(s) were examined to see how they influence parents’ concerns. Members of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) support groups were electronically surveyed using the Experiences in Close Relationships - Short Form (ECR-S; Wei, Russell, Mallinckrodt & Vogel, 2007) and the Concerns of Parents of Lesbians (COPLAG; Conley, 2011b). A total of 296 parents met the criteria to be considered participants.

The results of this study indicated that parental concerns are correlated with attachment anxiety, but not attachment avoidance. There were significant differences in concern levels between parents who reported high levels of interpersonal contact with gay or lesbian people and those who reported low levels. Parents’ concerns were significantly higher for gay sons than for lesbian daughters. Amount of time since disclosure was not found to be a significant factor in parental concerns; however, attachment anxiety and amount of time since disclosure were negatively correlated. Additionally, parents who were aware of their child’s sexual orientation for more than five years reported lower levels of attachment anxiety than parents who were aware of their child’s gay or lesbian sexual orientation for less than five years. Although parent gender was a variable in this study, too few fathers participated, precluding analyses using parent gender. Overall, the results indicate that parents’ concerns about having gay and lesbian children are influenced by both intrapsychic and contextual factors.


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