The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a measure to assess the area and intensity of parents' concerns about having gay or lesbian children. A dearth of research exists that examines effects of gay or lesbian stigmas from the perspective of heterosexual parents. Stigma not only affects those who maintain membership in marginalized groups, but also those who are affiliated with individuals who are direct targets of stigmatization. Consequently, parents of gays or lesbians experience unique psychological consequences related to the stigma of homosexuality.
Two samples were drawn from 430 chapters of the Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gay individuals' organization, yielding 361 responses to the internet based survey. The COPLAG is a 55-item instrument designed to measure parents' concerns about having gay or lesbian children. The scale required a onetime administration, with no repeated measures.
A Principal components analysis determined the number of factors underlying the construct, and included a scree plot for visual confirmation of factors accounting for item variance. After factor retention decisions, orthogonal rotation was used to improve the fit between items and their factors. Reliability analyses of subscales determined Cronbach's alphas.
Standard criteria determined factorability of the COPLAG. Correlations of each item were above .3. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy was .89, and Bartlett's test of sphericity was significant (×2 (1485) = 8274.92, p <.05). Diagonals of the anti-image correlation matrix were all above .5. PCA was used to identify and compute composite parental concern scores for the underlying factors.
Twenty-two items were eliminated because they did not contribute to a simple factor structure. PCA of the remaining items using varimax rotation resulted in eight factors explaining 66% of the variance. The final solution was found within the first three factors which accounted for 42% of the variance.
Factor 1 (Wellbeing) was about parents' concern for their children's psychological and physical well-being. Factor 2 (Parent Ego) pertained to what others in society think of the parent for having gay or lesbian children. Factor 3 (Love Loss) related to fear of being rejected by loved ones.
Internal consistency of each of the subscales was examined using Cronbach's alpha. Wellbeing (10 items) had a .91 alpha. Parent Ego (7 items) had an alpha of .88, and Love Loss (4 items) had an alpha of .89.
Conclusions and Implications:
The COPLAG asked PFLAG parents to respond retrospectively to when they first learned that their children were gay or lesbian. In addition to future studies with a broader audience, additional studies might repeat the concern items from a current perspective allowing for comparisons between their initial and current concerns.
Knowing the type and intensity of parents' concerns can assist practitioners in developing more effective and targeted interventions to alleviate stress placed on the family system. Additionally, if parents' primary concern areas are known, gays and lesbians revealing their sexual orientations to their parents for the first time can focus their conversations on these greater concerns.