Parent-Initiated Sexual Orientation Change Efforts With LGBT Adolescents: Implications for Young Adult Mental Health and Adjustment

J Homosex. 2020;67(2):159-173. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2018.1538407. Epub 2018 Nov 7.


Studies of adults who experienced sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) have documented a range of health risks. To date, there is little research on SOCE among adolescents and no known studies of parents' role related to SOCE with adolescents. In a cross-sectional study of 245 LGBT White and Latino young adults (ages 21-25), we measured parent-initiated SOCE during adolescence and its relationship to mental health and adjustment in young adulthood. Measures include being sent to therapists and religious leaders for conversion interventions as well as parental/caregiver efforts to change their child's sexual orientation during adolescence. Attempts by parents/caregivers and being sent to therapists and religious leaders for conversion interventions were associated with depression, suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts, less educational attainment, and less weekly income. Associations between SOCE, health, and adjustment were much stronger and more frequent for those reporting both attempts by parents and being sent to therapists and religious leaders, underscoring the need for parental education and guidance.

Keywords: LGBT youth; Sexual orientation; conversion therapy; depression; reparative therapy; sexual orientation change efforts; suicidality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Parents* / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Young Adult