Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert L. Betz

Second Advisor

Dr. James Michael Croteau

Third Advisor

Dr. James L. Lowe


The relationship between lesbian perception of parental support and disclosure of sexual orientation was examined in the study. From the 200 questionnaires prepared for distribution, a purposive sample of 180 (90%) lesbian-identified adults returned data for analysis. The participants completed a questionnaire addressing demographics and lesbian life-experiences. Three self-report inventories, the Perceived Social Support-Family Scale (PSS-Fa) (Procidano & Heller, 1983), the Silencing the Self Scale (STSS) (Jack, 1991), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961), were also administered.

Data gathering procedures used in the study resulted in a sample which was largely white, well educated, and not economically advantaged. The sample was similar to other samples identified in previous lesbian research studies. Thus, generalizations from the results were limited to lesbian-identified adults with similar demographic characteristics.

Data were analyzed by chi square and t-test statistics with ^ = .05 set as the significance level. Statistically significant differences were found for participants who reported perceptions of poor parental support and who did or did not disclose their sexual orientation to parent(s). Participants who reported perceptions of mother's and father's attitude toward homosexuality as homophobic significantly reported perceptions of poor parental support. Findings related to self-silencing included significant silencing behavior associated with negative perceptions of parental support and when mothers were perceived as homophobic. No significant differences were found between self-silencing behavior and the perception of father's attitude toward homosexuality and also decisions to disclose, or to not disclose, sexual orientation to parents. A qualitative analysis of written responses was organized into self- versus other-oriented thematic sets, and a summary was included in the results section.

These findings add to a growing body of knowledge of how perceptions of positive support and affirmative attitude toward homosexuality influence the decision to disclose sexual orientation. The findings may also provide additional insight for lesbians to mutually engage in and maintain growth producing parental relationships. Recommendations for future research on issues related to disclosure of sexual orientation and parental support were provided.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access