Purpose: Health disparities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth compared to their heterosexual peers have been well-documented, and identifying protective and resilience-promoting factors for LGBTQ youth is a priority. While family acceptance is a known protective factor, the role of religion as a protective factor for LGBTQ youth is debated given the non-affirming beliefs embedded in some religions. In this study, we sought to explore the role of religious affiliation with family acceptance and mental health outcomes in LGBTQ youth. Methods: We utilized data from the LGBTQ National Teen Survey, an online survey regarding the experiences of LGBTQ teens in the United States. Key variables included 1) religion of origin, 2) family acceptance regarding LGBTQ status, and 3) mean depression scores. ANOVA, Pearson’s correlations, and multiple linear regression models were conducted, including an interaction term to test for differences in the primary association across religious groups. Results: The analytic sample included 9,261 youth who were “out” to at least one family member (mean age = 15.6 years). The largest categories for religion of origin included atheist/agnostic/no religion (30.4%), Catholic (21.5%), and Protestant (40.7%). The remainder of the participants identified as Orthodox Christian (0.9%), Muslim (0.6%), Jewish (3.0%), or Buddhist/Hindu (1.0%). Gender identity was diverse: 59.5% of the sample identified as cisgender, and 40.5% identified as trans or non-binary. The mean family acceptance was 2.37 on a scale of 0-4, with 4 indicating the highest level of family acceptance; religion of birth was strongly associated with degree of family acceptance (p<0.05, Figure 1). Mean depression score was 13.38 on a scale of 0-30, with 30 indicating the highest level of depression; religion of birth was also strongly associated with mean depression score (p<0.05, Figure 2). LGBTQ family acceptance was strongly inversely associated with depressive scores, even when adjusting for potential confounders (Beta = -2.76, p<0.001). The interaction of family acceptance by religion was non-significant, indicating that this association was similar for youth in all religious groups. Findings were unchanged when adjusting for demographic covariates such as gender identity or race. Conclusions: Our research supports existing literature showing that family acceptance is a strong protective factor for LGBTQ youth, regardless of religion of origin. This study adds to the literature by including a large number of youth under 18, particularly in respect to its inclusion of large numbers of trans / non-binary youth and youth of color. This study uniquely describes the role of religion as it relates to family acceptance, with findings that confirm that family acceptance continues to be a robust protective factor for LGBTQ youth.

Figure 1

Family Acceptance by Religion.

Figure 1

Family Acceptance by Religion.

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Figure 2

Depression Means by Religion.

Figure 2

Depression Means by Religion.

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