A new study finds that many homophobic people had authoritarian parents.
I had that story in mind when I read about a new psychological study by the University of Rochester about homophobia. Besides reinforcing the theory that homophobia can grow out of repressed same-sex desires, the study found that parents who give "low autonomy support" (translated from jargon, strict ones who cramp their kids' styles) are more likely to raise a homophobic child. One of the ways parents exhibit "low autonomy support" is by teaching their kid that "their love and affection is dependent on the child enacting specific behaviors and espousing sanctioned beliefs." The paper gives a spirited defense of "live and let live" parenting; according to the paper, autonomy support "is an essential component of nurturing relationships and promotes personal integrity, well-being, and positive functioning." In other words, if you end up with a homophobic kid, you've likely failed them in all kinds of ways that have nothing to do with whether she hates gays and lesbians.
This all sounds logical, yet I'm skeptical of studies that inwardly blame parents, Freud-style, for bigoted behaviors. That parent wasn't raised in a bubble, either. This pattern is connected to learned cultural politics—the desire to control and dictate the morals to which people should adhere, and punish those who don't. It's often bred in stringent religious institutions, too. The message seems simple: If we don't want homophobic kids—or a homophobic country—we have to commit to the idea of an open-minded, anti-authoritarian society. That includes steering clear of people's bedrooms, including our kids'.
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