Parent-child Relationships and Sexual Minority Youth: Implications for Adult Alcohol Abuse

Jessica N. Fish, Beth S. Russell, Ryan J. Watson, Stephen T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Sexual minority (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and same-sex attracted) youth and adults report elevated rates of alcohol use and abuse relative to their heterosexual peers; these differences are strongest for sexual minority girls and women. Although preliminary evidence suggests that unsupportive parenting and maladaptive parent-child relationship qualities are associated with concurrent substance use among sexual minority youth, questions remain about the long-term implications of these early familial experiences on drinking behaviors among sexual minority youth and adults. Nationally-representative prospective data (n = 14,800; 53.1% female; Wave 1 Mean age = 15.61; Wave 4 Mean age = 28.51) were used to test the longitudinal association between parent-child relationships and parental autonomy granting between the ages of 13–18, and sexual-orientation-related disparities in alcohol abuse during adulthood. The findings showed that adolescent same-sex attraction was associated with alcohol abuse during adulthood for sexual minority women and that deficits in parent-child relationship quality statistically mediated this association. No sexual orientation differences in alcohol abuse were found among men. The findings suggest that the quality of relationships with parents in early adolescence has long-lasting impact on sexual minority women’s vulnerability for alcohol abuse. Early interventions that bolster supportive parent-child relationship qualities may have enduring consequences for sexual minority women’s alcohol use across the life course.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2034-2046
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Alcohol abuse
  • LGB youth
  • Longitudinal
  • Parental support
  • Parenting
  • Sexual minority youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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