Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Sharon Scales Rostosky

Second Advisor

Dr. Ellen D. B. Riggle


Acceptance by a parental figure is one of the most important protective factors for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) youth and young adults (e.g., Ryan, 2009, 2010). Lack of parental acceptance may lead to a disruption in parent-child relationships and may increase risk for maladaptive behaviors and poorer psychosocial outcomes in LGBTQ youth (e.g., Bouris et al., 2010). Researchers have called for more inclusive samples and methods to better understand the experiences of families from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds (e.g., Heatherington & Lavner 2008). Specific to Latinas/os, cultural factors and theoretically informed interventions that facilitate parental acceptance need systematic investigation (e.g., Ryan, 2009, 2010).

The purpose of this study was threefold: (a) examine the cultural strengths and challenges that influence Cuban-American and Puerto Rican parental figures’ journey toward accepting their LGBTQ child; (b) explore how these parental figures reach acceptance; and (c) assess for the impact of an expressive writing (EW) exercise on the affect of these parental figures. Interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory (IPART) and family stress theory were used as a frame for the analysis of the process of acceptance toward one’s LGBTQ child in this sample of Cuban-American and Puerto Rican parental figures. Thirty participants completed a writing intervention after the initial prescreening. The writing intervention asked participants to write a letter about their journey toward accepting their LGBTQ child, including the aspects of their heritage, cultural beliefs, and values that facilitated this process.

Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2013) guided the research design and analysis. The following themes helped parental figures accept their child: (a) family (support, maintaining family unity); (b) interactions with LGBTQ people; (c) resisting and embracing Latina/o gender norms (caballerismo, marianismo); (d) cultural dissonance; and (e) immigration and the American dream. In addition, the following themes described the process of how these parental figures navigated acceptance toward their child: (a) noticing and attempting to change gender atypical behaviors and/or presentation; (b) initial reactions (negative reactions, immediate acceptance); (c) adjusting to the child’s LGBTQ identity; (d) seeking out resources about LGBTQ identity; (e) increasing awareness of LGBTQ oppression; (f) reframing religious and/or spiritual values and beliefs and working through religious and/or spiritual conflict; (g) coping and reframing machismo; (h) balancing family dynamics; (i) highlighting the positive identities in one’s child; (j) learning lessons from one’s child; and (k) benefitting from acceptance. Pre and post affect ratings using the writing intervention illustrated that Cuban-American parental figures were significantly happier and less anxious after writing their acceptance narrative. Although not statistically significant, Puerto Rican parental figures reported increased happiness and decreased anxiousness after writing their acceptance narrative. Implications for psychological practice with Latina/o parents who recently learned about their child’s LGBTQ identity will be discussed.

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