Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT)

Department

Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Advisor

Shelley Green

Committee Member

Douglas Flemons

Committee Member

Martha Marquez

Abstract

Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) are disclosing their sexual identity--or coming out--at progressively younger ages, making it more important than ever for the general population to understand, tolerate, and accept diversity in sexual identity. This study was designed to fill the gap in the existing literature about how the coming out process affects LGB young people's families of origin. Three LGB young people participated in the study, along with a member of each of their families. The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with each of the participants, as well as a conjoint interview with each of the three families.

The findings of this interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study illustrate the many ways in which a young person's coming out reverberates within the family system, offering a relational understanding of the coming out experience. The results of the study emphasize the process-oriented nature of coming out and the means by which that process is influenced by and influences family relationships and overall family dynamics. Centered on the various ways in which LGB young people prepare to disclose their sexual orientation to their families and how their family members adjust to the disclosure, the study offers a historically and culturally situated overview of the coming out experience in the family. Based on the results of the present study, the researcher offers suggestions for future studies on this subject and presents the implications of the study for LGB young people, their families, and family therapists.

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