Date of Award

Fall 2007

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

David B Pillemer


Gay and lesbian young adults (N = 53) were interviewed in detail about coming out for the first time to each of their parents. Participants also completed an extensive battery of psychological measures, including event centrality related to disclosure to their mother and father, parental attachment, attitudes toward homosexuality, relationship satisfaction, anxiety, and depression. Analyses of memory content and structure (complexity, coherence, descriptiveness) were conducted, and the relation between memory qualities and well-being were analyzed. Hypotheses related to disclosure to parents and peers were largely supported. The majority of participants first disclosed their sexual orientation to a friend. More participants came out to their mother than to their father, and when disclosure was made to both parents, mothers were more likely to be told prior to fathers. Mothers were most often told using direct methods, such as a face-to-face conversation, whereas fathers were more likely to be informed using indirect methods, such as in a letter or via another person. Mothers also tended to first inquire about their sons' sexuality, which ultimately led to their disclosure; mothers inquired about sexual orientation less with their daughters. Related to psychosocial well-being, individuals with more positive attitudes toward homosexuality were more satisfied with romantic relationships and less anxious. More positive relationships with parents were associated with a secure homosexual identity and less anxiety. In contrast, highly central and negative or mixed feelings about coming out to mothers were associated with a less secure homosexual identity. There were only scattered and unexpected findings related to narrative complexity, descriptiveness, and coherence. Grade level and reading ease were related to attachment; positive relationships with parents were associated with more simplistic coming out narratives. Individuals with more descriptive narratives, as measured by the proportion of adjective, adverbs, and modifiers, were more depressed. Lastly, participants with highly central and negative coming out experiences with fathers produced more coherent narratives. Findings are discussed in relation to the autobiographical memory, sexuality, attachment, and clinical literatures. Future directions and conclusions are also presented.