Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tend to have less frequent contact with and live geographically farther away from their brothers and sisters, according to new research from Australia. The findings, which appear in the Journal of Marriage and Family, suggest that sexual stigma can harm family relationships.
“We know that people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) tend to experience poorer outcomes across life domains than heterosexual people,” said study author Francisco (Paco) Perales, an associate professor at The University of Queensland.
“The dominant explanation for this is that these individuals receive lower levels of social support from their family and the broader community. This is because non-heterosexuality remains a stigmatised and not fully accepted social status. While we know this is the case for parent-child relationships, in this study, we used a large-scale social survey to examine whether or not adult LGB people had also less close relationships with their siblings.”
For their study, the researchers analyzed data from 13,252 individuals who participated in the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, a nationally representative longitudinal study. In 2012, the study collected information on the participants’ sexual identity and sibling relations.
Individuals who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual tended to report less frequent face-to-face contact with their siblings compared to heterosexual individuals. They also reported less contact via telephone, letter, email, or other form of electronic communication and tended to live a farther distance away from their siblings.
“We found that, compared with heterosexual people, LGB people had less frequent contact with and lived geographically farther from their siblings — particularly male LGB people. These findings suggest that barriers to socioeconomic inclusion experienced by individuals from sexual minorities begin within the nuclear family,” Perales told PsyPost.
The study controlled for a number of variables, including gender, age, education, partnership status, and sibling type (full, half, adoptive, etc.) But like all research, the study includes some limitations.
“We need similar studies examining the sibling relations of individuals from other minority gender-identity and sexual-orientation groups (e.g., gender nonbinary, transgender, and pansexual individuals). We also need studies that can ascertain how the more distant sibling relations observed for LGB than people come to be,” Perales said.
The study, “Sexual Orientation, Geographic Proximity, and Contact Frequency Between Adult Siblings“, was authored by Francisco Perales and Stefanie Plage.