Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Sharon G. Horne

Committee Member

Sara K. Bridges

Committee Member

Corinna A. Ethington

Committee Member

Heidi M. Levitt


Often only one parent in a same-sex relationship is permitted to have legal parenting rights to the children, even when they have planned the children together. Prohibiting parents from being legally recognized as parents to their children is an issue that is unique to same-sex couples. Based on sexual minority stress theory, I hypothesized that same-sex parents without legal rights would report more sexual minority stress (i.e., less disclosure of sexual orientation and experience significantly more stigma consciousness, internalized homophobia, and discrimination) and more parental stress (including family worry and the need for parental justification) than same-sex parents with legal rights, and that this effect would be above and beyond the contribution of social support, and the effects of age, gender, education, and number of children in the home. This study was conducted via an online survey with 418 participants, 75% of which were female and 85% were Caucasian. Non-legal status predicted greater worry about legal family issues and discrimination, but did not predict general worry about family issues. Additionally, same-sex parents who reported greater social support reported less parenting stress and sexual minority stress than did parents with less social support. Legal parenting status was not a significant unique predictor for parental stress, parental justification, internalized homophobia, stigma consciousness, or experiences of harassment and discrimination. However, social support was a significant positive predictor for both parental and sexual minority stress but not a significant predictor of worry about legal family issues and discrimination. In comparison to same-sex parents with legal rights, same-sex parents without legal rights may carry greater worry and concern about the lack of legal rights and the discrimination they may encounter, and social support does not appear to predict less worry. However, the results suggest that same-sex parents, with and without legal rights, overall appear to have low parental and minority stress. Implications for same-sex couples, families, and social policy are discussed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.