Study: Anti-LGBT Family Policies Affect Mental Health

New findings indicate that gay and bisexual men living in states where adoption and marriage rights are restricted suffer from higher rates of psychological distress.

BY Alex J Davidson

November 27 2013 3:00 PM ET

Young gay and bisexual men who live in states where they are not allowed to adopt children or get married experience psychological distress from such policies, according to new research.

José Bauermeister, the John G. Searle Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education and director of the University of Michigan Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities found that, increasingly, anti-LGBT discrimination affects how and what people dream of in their futures. 

"This study is the first to examine how young gay and bisexual men's hopes about the future — in this case, their dreams about becoming fathers — may fail to be a protective factor towards their psychological health if they live in states where LGBT discriminatory policies are in place," Bauermeister said.

Currently 16 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, while 21 states and D.C. allow same-sex couples to jointly petition to adopt a child. 

Bauermeister and colleagues examined the impact of statewide bans on fatherhood aspirations. Their observational study generated complete responses from 1,487 men from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

They found that in states that did not have bans on same-sex marriage or restrictions on adoption, men who anticipated being parents in the future had lower depressive symptoms and higher self-esteem. In states with bans, men with fatherhood aspirations reported higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem.

The negative effects of the policies against LGBT individuals were found for both same-sex joint parenting bans, those that involve a couple adopting a child from its biological parents or one who is in state custody, and second-parent adoption bans, in which a person seeks to adopt the child of a partner.

Bauermeister’s study was published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, in an article called "How Statewide LGB Policies Go From 'Under Our Skin' to 'Into Our Hearts': Fatherhood Aspirations and Psychological Well-Being Among Emerging Adult Sexual Minority Men.”

Contact reporter Alex Davidson on Twitter at twitter.com/adwildcat

Tags: Parenting

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