Purpose: To examine perceived stigma, coping, disclosure, and self-esteem among adolescents with lesbian mothers.
Method: Interviews were conducted with 76 adolescents ages 11-18 years. Standardized measures of self-esteem and coping skills were used. A measure of stigma was adapted for this study and a measure of disclosure was developed. The relationship between perceived stigma and self-esteem was examined. General coping skills and level of disclosure about the adolescents' mothers' sexual orientation were assessed as potential moderators of the relationship between perceived stigma and self-esteem.
Results: Adolescents who perceived more stigma had lower self-esteem in five of seven self-esteem areas, compared to those who perceived less stigma. In addition, coping skills moderated the effect of stigma on self-esteem in three self-esteem areas. However, only one subtype of coping skills, that of decision-making coping, was found to moderate the relationship of perceived stigma and self-esteem in such a way that adolescents using more decision-making coping had higher self-esteem in the face of high perceived stigma. For social support coping, in the face of high perceived stigma, the adolescents with more effective coping skills had lower self-esteem. In the face of high perceived stigma, adolescents who disclosed more about their mother's sexual orientation had higher self-esteem in the subscale of close friendship than those who disclosed less.
Conclusions: Results suggest that stigma is related to self-esteem among the adolescent children of lesbian mothers. The results indicate that this relationship is moderated by coping skills. These results have implications for intervention and prevention of stigmatization by the establishment of effective coping skills as well as through educational efforts to eradicate stigmatizing attitudes.