Episode 33 - Dr. Caitlin Ryan: Reducing Risk and Promoting Well-Being for LGBT Youth: The Critical Role of Family Support

Monday, November 16, 2009, 10:01:40 AM

Image of Dr. Caitlin Ryan

Dr. Caitlin Ryan discusses her work on the Family Acceptance Project, the first major study of LGBT youth and their families. Findings from the project will be used to develop training and assessment materials for human service providers working with LGBT youth and families and to develop a new model for family-related care to improve health and mental health outcomes for all LGBT adolescents.

Download MP3 (41.4 MB)

Audio Transcript PDF document.

Listener Reviews

7 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
Average Listener Review

Average Rating: 4.4 stars (7 listener reviews )

Share your thoughts with others

Create Your Own Review

Average Rating: 4stars  support = success, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

By Jessica Quick :

This podcast touches upon many important topics when it comes to LGBT family acceptance. Dr. Ryan explains that while parents might just be showing signs of being concerned it can often lead to their children feeling rejected and unloved. Dr. Ryan brings up Matthew Shepard who was murdered for being gay and Gwen Araujo who was murdered for being transgender. These are scary stories to most parents. One of the most important topics Dr. Ryan discusses is the increased likelihood of LGBT youth dealing with depression and/or suicide. When parents are informed of these heightened risks they are more likely to come to terms with reality and start showing support and acceptance. Some parents can have a hard time accepting that they have a child that is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender but typically they still want what is best for their child. Dr. Ryan acknowledges that morals and religion can influence parents thinking but also discusses that many churches have support groups and can actually help the family in terms of support. Any child whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender has a better chance at succeeding in life with the love and acceptance of their loved ones. Lets try and remember how much a little support can do.

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  an important paradigm shift..., Saturday, March 19, 2011

By Anonymous :

The most important idea presented by Dr Ryan here is the need for a shift in the paradigm social workers and other providers use in helping LGBT youth. In the past, they have focused on the individual youth and have largely ignored the family, which, they assumed, would be non-supportive or worse. From her research, Dr. Ryan has concluded that this approach is no longer justified. Given the basic need for all people, youth especially, to feel a sense of belonging, it makes perfect sense to include family. While there is significant progress with support groups and safe places for LGBT youth, this paradigm shift toward family-related approaches is very important to decrease rejection and increase support by families for these youth. Rejection can lead to dire consequences.
Dr. Ryan points out that LGBT youth may identify themselves as early as age 10. This means that it is important for families to be educated from the beginning to learn how to think about and interact with their LGBT children in ways that nurture and support. Parents should be honest about their own feelings, but should also make sure that the children feel loved. This will open up important dialogue in the family.
Another important focus for education is out-of-home and foster care. Dr. Ryan calls for more education for these workers on how to best respond to LGBT youth in custodial care. I work with youth in a residential treatment facility, and that work includes work with Gay and Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS.) I have seen many cases where youth have been rejected by their biological families and/or abused due to their identification as LGBT. Education on how to help is essential.
The web site of The Family Acceptance Project, the program Dr. Ryan heads, is Although it is not mentioned in the podcast, it is a valuable resource for following up on the ideas Dr. Ryan presents in the interview. Professionals and families will find much that is useful.

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  risk and well-being of lgbt youth, Saturday, January 29, 2011

By Matthew Orlando :

I found this interview to be full of information that is critical for families and practitioners alike. As stated by Dr. Ryan, GLBT individuals make up all different aspects of our society, and due to the norm of discouraging sexual orientation and gender variance, GLBT youth are at great risk for physical, mental, and other health concerns. I think that her use of historical context of homosexuality and views regarding it in America, as well as examples of individuals she has met and/or worked with were very effective in conveying the importance of this issue to listeners. I found it very interesting to hear that the majority of research that had been performed in the past was regarding risk, due to the high need to advocate for young people. Now, however, it has been realized that the emphasis needs to be placed on recognizing rejecting behaviors of families and communities, as well as their strengths. In doing this, it can help avoid the negative effects that rejecting behaviors have had on GLBT youth, including drug and alcohol abuse, as well as other unsafe health practices. Dr. Ryan's discussion had the most impact on me when she discussed how children internalize things at a young age, so normalizing things such as differences among sexualities and genders with them as early as possible is best and most effective. Her discussion was very professional and compassionate, and was full of information that really aided in my understanding of the importance of her research, as well as future research in the area of GLBT youth.

Flag This


Average Rating: 4stars  thoughtful pod cast, provides useful recommendations , Sunday, February 07, 2010

By Katie Diebold :

Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a pioneer in the field of LGBT health, discusses the need to develop interventions for a historically under-served and under-researched population. In this pod cast, her most current project the Family Acceptance Project is discussed.

The Family Acceptance Projects sought to discover the various acceptance and rejection behaviors among families of LGBT youth and the ways in which these behaviors impact their well being. The study found that families engage in a variety of acceptance and rejection behaviors, which were constant across cultures. Rejection behaviors contributed to higher risk of depression, AIDS, other sexuality transmitted diseases and drug alcohol abuse among LGBT youth. Dr. Caitlin Ryan suggests that family members often engage in these negative behaviors out of concern for the well being of their child. Unfortunately, LGBT youth tend to view these negative behaviors as rejection rather than acts of intended protection.

This pod cast is highly recommended due to the useful and thoughtful recommendations that Dr. Caitlin Ryan provides for working with LGBT youth and their families. She also examines the ways in which heteronormativity is seriously limiting, which is an important consideration for social workers. As families play an important role, Dr. Caitlin Ryan proposes that their unique needs should be addressed. LGBT families need to be aware of the ways in which their behaviors impact their LGBT child. Dr. Caitlin Ryan recommends that families should be aware of these issues prior to “come outing,” suggesting that notions of heteronormativity need to be interrupted for the sake of prevention. Families also need tools for coping with having an LGBT child, which should be provided by the social work community. Dr. Caitlin Ryan’s recommendation for the development and implementation of interventions with LGBT families reveled important points for further research and study, which makes this a very useful pod cast.

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  podcast review - fantastic podcast, very interesting!, Friday, February 05, 2010

By Todd Ray :

Dr. Caitlin Ryan is a clinical social worker who has been working in the area of LGBT health and mental health since the 70s and HIV/AIDS since the early 80s. Dr. Ryan discusses the research conducted within the past decade concerning LGBT youth. In great detail Dr. Ryan discusses the complex family systems of LGBT youth and the relationships between parents and LGBT children. She talks about how family members of LGBT youth play a pivotal role in their mental health. For example, whether or not the family accepts the LGBT youth or renounces the youth could have an impact on their wellbeing.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan also discusses how until recently LGBT youth was a much underrepresented population when it came to research, especially surrounding mental health and how families contribute to the mental health of LGBT youth. However, more and more programs are being developed to help educate families about the importance of accepting youth for who they are. This reminds me a lot of the organization PFLAG, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. An organization aimed at helping family and friends cope, come to terms with, and accept LGBT individuals in their lives, and finally to help advocate and support these LGBT individuals.

I thought Dr. Caitlin Ryan’s discussion was great. It led me to want to learn more about her work, especially surrounding the Family Acceptance Project. I am happy to see that extensive research is being done in this area. As a member of the LGBT community I can honestly say that I’ve came in contact with many individuals who suffer from mental health problems regarding their sexual orientation in relation to how their families responded to their “coming out”.

I would recommend this podcast to other individuals interested in hearing more about current research being done in regards to LGBT Youth. Hopefully this research will inspire more research to be done in the future!

Flag This


Average Rating: 5stars  new practices from a practicing expert, Saturday, January 23, 2010

By Alexis Luttrell :

Dr. Caitlin Ryan is an expert in the field who has been involved in the forefront of past initiatives beginning with the start of the AIDs epidemic, and can now attest to where the future is going for LGBT youth. In the past seven years, Dr. Ryan allows the listener to understand that there has been groundbreaking research involving LGBT youth, a population often underserved, understudied, and under resourced. She describes in detail her initiatives to understand the relationship between how families express their rejection or acceptance of their LGBT child and how these behaviors affect the health and mental health of their child as an adult. She discusses that through extensive research, there is an understanding that rejecting behaviors parents often engage in to protect their child out of love are often harmful, in turn increasing rates of suicide, depression, HIV contraception, and drug use. Current initiatives are trying to connect these outcomes with parental behaviors, empower families to support their LGBT child, educate parents and provide them with new skills, self-assessment, and support networks. Dr. Ryan is turning this crucial information into tools that people can use and reproduce by developing new evidence based interventions. This podcast was excellent in allowing the listener to recognize Dr. Ryan’s attempts to change a paradigm in order to make it preferable to engage families at the level of prevention and how to become part of this change as well. Her research addresses a systems level perspective that professionals have hesitated to use with this population; however it seems as though today this perspective is needed to address the growing needs and concerns of this population and to be most helpful and effective in serving them. Her information was very helpful and overall, I would recommend this podcast to anyone who: seeks to learn more, has growing children, and is currently or who is going to be helping these youth.

Flag This


Average Rating: 3stars  lgbt, Thursday, December 10, 2009

By Ming Chen :

Although there is an increasing amount of information about the risks and challenges facing LGB youth (with very little information about transgender youth), we know little about their strengths and resiliency, including the strengths of families in supporting their children's health and well-being. Even though the family is the primary support for children and youth, and family involvement helps reduce adolescent risk, there have been no previous studies of how families affect their LGBT children’s risk and resiliency. Prior to this study, little information was available to show how families respond to an adolescent's coming out and how family and caregiver reactions affect adolescent health, mental health and development for LGBT young people.
Attention to family reactions is critical since increasingly, youth are coming out at younger ages which significantly increases risk for victimization and abuse in family, school and community settings, and provides opportunities for helping to support and strengthen families. Victimization has long-term consequences for health and development, and impacts families as well as the targeted individuals. Early intervention can help families and caregivers build on strengths and use evidence-based materials to understand the impact of acceptance and rejection on their child’s well-being.

Flag This

DISCLAIMER: The content shared by the presenter(s) and/or interviewer(s) of each podcast is their own and not necessarily representative of any views, research, or practice from the UB School of Social Work or the inSocialWork® podcast series.