Silhouette of family

Research will study family relations impact on mental health of young LGBQ

The OU is co-investigator on a new research project to examine the impact of family relationships on the mental health of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ).

Open University Professor Jacqui Gabb, Chair of Sociology and Intimacy, is co-investigator with Dr Elizabeth McDermott, a senior lecturer in Health and Medicine at the University of Lancaster.

Professor Gabb said: “Global research consistently demonstrates that young people who identify as LGBQ are at a much higher risk of poor mental health than their heterosexual counterparts.

Research suggests that a key risk factor associated with poor mental health in youth populations is conflict with the family about sexual orientation.

However, she says little research has focused on how the family environment of LGBQ young people influences their mental health with, to date, no UK research examining the impact of family relationships on LGBQ youth mental health and wellbeing.

A pilot project has been funded by a Seed award for the study among LGBQ youth (aged 16-25 years) and family members, leading to the design and development of a larger award. The project will generate robust evidence on how family relationships foster, maintain or adversely impact the mental health and wellbeing of LGBQ youth, and this evidence will be used to develop family-based interventions to improve LGBQ youth mental health and wellbeing. The Seed award (part of the Wellcome Trust) selected ten research projects for funding from an initial pool of 200 applications. It identified sexuality and health as an exciting and as yet under-examined area of research.

The research design focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer youth. This currently excludes trans participants due to the parameters of the funding and because it is a pilot project.

Professor Gabb explained: “The decision to keep the research sample tightly defined to LGBQ participants is because this is a small scale pilot study that needs to focus on the specificity of experience and the methods that may be used to research this subject with this group. This acknowledges and draws upon our research experience which clearly indicates that trans youth experience may be similar to that of LGBQ youth in many ways, but it  is often distinctive too.

The purpose of this initial project is to design a large grant proposal on LGBTQ youth and mental health that will be developed in dialogue with key NGOs during the pilot research over the coming year.

For more information on the underpinning project, see:

BBC documentary

The project builds upon the research project, ‘Queer Futures’, completed by Dr McDermott. This national study investigated the self-harm and suicide of LGBTQ youth

Professor Jacqui Gabb has extensive global research experience in investigating family and couple relationships across a broad and inclusive spectrum and is also a consultant academic on the BBC’s upcoming documentary, looking back on the 50 years since the law banning homosexuality was overturned called Prejudice and Pride: The People’s History of LGBTQ Britain due for broadcast this month.

The Seed research grant is £71,531.00.