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Parenting LGBT Children: Reproducing Gender and Stigmatized Parenting Reactions

Description of research project:

While much research has been done on the wellbeing and “coming out” stories of LGBT individuals, little is known about their parents. This study analyzes 60 interviews with parents of LGBT individuals from 25 states. Participants were recruited from PFLAG, the largest and oldest organization for parents of LGBT children. What started as simple curiosity about their reactions turned into a search for the source of their anxieties: the self-imposed expectations of what “good parenting” means. The research focuses on the themes in parents’ narratives, and why their children’s gender and sexuality is important to their own parental identity.

This project analyzes parents of LGBT children both as a case of stigmatized parenting behaviors and as a case of disruption to family and gender reproduction, which has implications for those who choose not to have children, the development of alternative family structures, and gender conformity broadly.

Having already presented some early findings at several PFLAG chapters, I am invested in how my research can benefit society by changing the discourse on stigmatized parenting behavior. These findings push back against the exclusive focus on children’s well being. I argue that parents’ well being also suffers in their struggle to affirm their children, with reactions polarized to silence parents who exhibit stigmatized behavior. I offer a much needed and often neglected perspective, by turning attention to the difficulty of parents’ experiences, which is tied so deeply to reproduction of gender and family norms.

Description of work that will be assigned to research assistants:

Research assistants will be asked to assist in transcribing the data as well as preliminary coding and research memos. They will be instrumental as this project moves into the stages of analysis and will get hands-on training and insight into how qualitative research develops and how academic papers are prepared. I am also beginning to design a survey for the same 60 participants and there is room for assistance there as well. There will also be opportunities to explore and summarize relevant literature.

Supervising Faculty Member
Elizabeth A. Armstrong

Graduate Student
Taylor L. Field

Contact information
tfield@umich.edu

Average hours of work per week
6-12
Range of credit hours students can earn
2-4

Number of positions available
2