Parental Negativity Toward Offspring’s Minority Sexual Orientation Disclosures: An Inclusive Fitness Perspective

Danielle J. DelPriore, Olivia Ronan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Adolescents and young adults who disclose a minority sexual orientation (“come out” as gay, lesbian, or bisexual) to their parents often are met with varied negative reactions. The current work builds on a growing literature aimed at understanding the myriad causes of negative parental reactions to these disclosures. Specifically, this work evaluates a hypothesis derived from evolutionary psychological logic: that variation in parental responses to offspring’s sexual orientation disclosures is driven, in part, by perceived costs to parents’ inclusive fitness (i.e., implicit or explicit concerns related to the reproductive success of genetic relatives). Across three studies (total N = 493), we examined whether daughters’ and sons’ perceptions of parents’ negative reactions to their sexual orientation disclosures systematically co-varied with inclusive fitness concerns, as indexed by parent gender, sexual orientation, and offspring number. This perspective received partial support among daughters, who reported more negative reactions from their mothers (vs. fathers), particularly in response to lesbian (vs. bisexual) disclosures. Reactions to sons’ disclosures did not vary across parent gender, sexual orientation, or offspring number. Taken together, this work provides preliminary evidence that perceived fitness costs may lead mothers to respond negatively to their daughters’ lesbian orientation disclosures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2181-2203
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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