First Advisor

Softas-Nall, Basilia

Second Advisor

Hess, Robyn S.

Document Type


Date Created



This study explored the experiences of families with lesbian mothers and elementary school-aged children residing in metropolitan areas of the United States. This phenomenology aimed to transcend comparative and binary research to include the voices of sexual minorities and children. Eight whole-family interviews were conducted in alignment with the study’s systemic-constructivist approach. A number of themes emerged from the data that were generally consistent with prior research. Mothers were intentional about the communities in which they surrounded themselves, the process of having children, and having discussions with children about potential discrimination. Participants saw themselves as advocates and were typically out within their communities, garnering generally positive or neutral reactions from others. Families also identified assumptions others had made about them and assumptions they had made about others. Children identified their perceptions of gender roles, and mothers struggled with their beliefs that their children should have male and female influence. Mothers noted the salience of their identity as mothers as opposed to sexual orientation in their day-to-day life. Finally, families experienced a dialectical tension between wanting to be perceived as normal yet finding uniqueness in difference. Suggestions for counseling psychologists include cautioning against making assumptions of sameness or difference and helping families identify and deconstruct internalized oppressive beliefs. It is recommended that future research include a movement away from comparisons and socially constructed binaries and toward a complex understanding of the diversity of all families so psychologists may be knowledgeable and effective therapists and advocates.


Children, Elementary, Families, Lesbian, LGBTQ, Qualitative


343 pages

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