Homosexual Family Member Essay Example

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” This quote from Lilo & Stitch reigns true for some families. For others, the situation is completely different. Relational satisfaction is based on many factors, both inside the family and outside. In the article “Perceptions of Communication With Gay and Lesbian Family Members: Predictors of Relational Satisfaction and Implications for Outgroup Attitudes,” Jordan Soliz, Elizabeth Ribarsky, Meredith Marko Harrigan, and Stacy Tye-Williams assessed familial relationships between a homosexual member and a heterosexual member. They did so by looking at the heterosexual family member’s perspective. Because family is the “most important sources of social interaction and support” (Soliz et al, 2010, p. 78), it is important to study communication patterns between members and assess why these patterns exist. With media sources focusing more on the families who have strained or non-existent relationships with homosexual members, it is easy to think all similar relationships would have the same strain or non-existence. However, there are actually more loving and supportive families than there are those portrayed by media outlets.

As mentioned before, the article focused on relationships between homosexual and heterosexual family members. The researchers centered the study on predictors of relational satisfaction and what contributed to how one felt about homosexuality. Because perspectives were taken from heterosexual family members, the study took an intergroup perspective. Family is one of the most important social intergroups as members are “thought to share a collective identity” (Soliz et al., 2010, p. 80). The higher the level of intergroup identity, the higher the level of accommodative communication. The study also examined the attitudes toward homosexuality, in general, and how they are influenced by family communication. Divergent social group identifications also influence family relationships, which can shift a personal relationship to more of an intergroup relationship. Six hypotheses predicted the associations, positive or negative, between intergroup anxiety and relational satisfaction, and topic avoidance, self-disclosure, respectful accommodation, and salience.

To study hypotheses, participants were non-parent, heterosexual family members that were legally or biologically related to a homosexual family member. The researchers collected data via online surveys through either an e-mail announcement or in undergraduate courses. A seven-point Likert-type scale measured: attitudes toward homosexuality (pre-disclosure), intergroup anxiety, accommodative behaviors, relational satisfaction, salience of sexual identity, attitudes toward homosexuality (present), and topics of conversation (avoidance).

Most of the completed research investigating the interaction dynamics between individuals with different sexual identities has focused on contact between strangers or friends. The researchers of this study felt the interactions between family members of different sexual identities needed examining as family is becoming a critical context for communication research. This study is designed to understand how family members are influenced by the outside world and their family’s communication habits.

Each hypothesis, except one, was fully or partially supported. Before knowing the sexual identity of a family member, negative attitudes toward homosexuality result in higher intergroup anxiety and lower relational satisfaction. Avoidance of discussing homosexuality reduced self-disclosure, but with self-disclosure, respectful accommodation increased. A major conclusion was avoidance of topic discussion led to decreased relational satisfaction and increased intergroup anxiety. Self-disclosure does not increase intergroup anxiety, but does not have a significant impact on relational satisfaction. With present attitudes, respectful accommodation increased relational satisfaction and decreased intergroup anxiety. The effect of salience was not significant in predicting relational satisfaction or intergroup anxiety. In a summary, disclosing of sexual identity helps relationships, whereas avoiding the topic altogether hurts relationships.

Soliz et al. notes, “Family context is not immune to the perceptual and behavioral consequences of group categorization present in society” (2010, p. 88). Each intergroup a person is part of can influence how he or she views controversial topics, such as homosexuality. Because of this, there is no way to know whether someone’s views are based on how they were raised, if they are influenced by another group of people, or if they have decided their opinions for themselves.

They also state believe there are “multiple directions for future inquiry on family communication dynamics” (Soliz et al., 2010, p. 89). This study only tested seven factors on non-parent family members. Future research could explain how parents react toward the disclosure of their child’s sexual identity or what other contributors there are that influence those reactions.

A final statement, “Pre-disclosure attitudes were far less positive than post-disclosure attitudes” (Soliz et al., 2010, p. 90), goes against what media sources portray as normal. While negative attitudes toward homosexuality are common, they tend to shift to positive attitudes when a family member is involved. If this type of reaction were presented as the norm - like it is, there would be far less pressure for those of a non-heterosexual identity to remain silent.


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