PULLMAN, Wash. – LGBT Latinx adolescents experiencing depressive symptoms may seek parental support differently than their non-LGBT Latinx peers, according to research from Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

Lead author and Assistant Professor at Murrow College, Traci Gillig, along with a team of researchers at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, found that LGBT Latinx teens experiencing more depressive symptoms were more likely to seek parental support than non-LGBT Latinx teens, according to their research, “Depressive symptoms and parental support-seeking in Latinx adolescents: Analyzing variation based on LGBT identity”.

The term “Latinx” is a genderneutral label inclusive of transgender and nonbinary people for Latino/a individuals. This study is among the earliest to examine the intersection of LGBT and Latinx identity among young people, specifically looking at support-seeking among LGBT Latinx teens, compared to their non-LGBT peers.

Previous large-scale survey research found that many LGBT Latinx youth in the U.S. have experienced harassment or assault at school due to their sexual orientation, gender expression, and/or race. Adolescents who experienced both LGBT-based and race/ethnicity-based victimization experienced the highest levels of depression.Gillig and her team examined parental support-seeking over time in the context of depressive symptoms, which may emerge from such stressors.

In this study, researchers analyzed survey data from four schools in the El Monte High School District in Greater Los Angeles. Surveys were conducted as part of a broader project examining the effects of friendships on adolescent substance use.

Researchers found that the relationship between parental support-seeking and depressive symptoms was significantly moderated by LGBT identity. Parental support-seeking tended to correspond with lower levels of depressive symptoms for non-LGBT youth, while the opposite tended to occur for LGBT youth.

These findings suggest that LGBT youth may be more inclined to cope with depressive symptoms by communicating with their parents, in contrast to their non-LGBT peers, who tend to withdraw from parental support-seeking.

While more parental support-seeking corresponded with more depressive symptoms for LGBT Latinx teens, this could suggest that their support-seeking efforts were not yielding effective support, meaning their parents may not have known how to provide appropriate support in the moment. This could be a result of parents not understanding their child’s experiences as an LGBT Latinx person or possibly disagreeing with their LGBT identity, which may challenge traditional cultural norms, according to Gillig and team.

Since research on this topic is limited, further work is needed to understand LGBT Latinxyouth’s motivations for seeking parental support, as well as their experience with parental communication in response to support-seeking attempts.