Parental Rejection After Coming Out: Detachment, Shame, and the Reparative Power of Romantic Love
Identity development is a fragile process for any youth, but this fragility may be entangled with greater complexity for young men who have sex with men (YMSM), particularly if confronted by rejection from those “closest to home”: their parents. While parental rejection to coming out may contribute to a range of maladaptive effects, the present work aims to distill the underlying mechanisms of such effects, specifically by exploring the intersection of self-disclosure and emotional intimacy. Drawing from a sample of YMSM age 18 to 24 (N = 364), we found that the link between YMSM’s emotional detachment from their fathers in response to their coming out and the experience of shame surrounding their sexuality was indirectly and serially mediated by YMSM’s positive associations with emotional bonding needs and intimacy with their romantic partner. Findings provide initial support for the reparative potential of romantic bonding and intimacy to heal identity-based shame from parental rejection and detachment, which would otherwise be a source of self-devaluation of YMSM’s identity.