Sexual minority women: Exploring familial relationship development after coming out at home

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Linda Stone Fish


Sexual minority, Women, Familial relationship, Coming out

Subject Categories

Counseling Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality


Studies indicate the age at which queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and other non-heterosexual, nontraditionally gendered) people are coming out is getting younger. Thus family therapists will likely be working with more families that are dealing with the coming out process. In the interest of preserving families, family therapists need to be aware of the complexities and challenges of the process of youth coming out so they may be empowered to help these families. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore young people's experiences in their families when they came out while still living at home. Due to the small amount of literature focusing on queer females, this study focused on the experiences of sexual minority females. Ten participants (18-21 years old) provided retrospective accounts of their experiences as youth through in-depth semi-structured interviews. The process of coming out to family members and the effects on parent-child and sibling relationships were examined from daughters' perspectives. Results indicated that parents had a variety of negative, positive, and neutral reactions upon their daughters' disclosures. In general, parental reactions improved over time and many daughters reported improved relationships with their parents. The reactions of siblings and effects on sibling relationships varied widely. In general, better quality of both parental and sibling relationships indicated more positive outcomes. The current research most often replicated and expanded upon past studies and less often contradicted past research findings. Implications for clinicians working with queer youth and their families are discussed as well as suggested directions for future research.


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