Research on the experiences of children raised in gay/lesbian parent families (GPLFs) has shown that the children often feel exposed and/or threatened by the societal heteronormativity they are faced with (Lubbe, 2007; Lubbe & Kruger, 2012). It has also been found that GPLFs often have to work hard and diligently to create a comfortable familiarity, or sense of belonging, within the society in which they live in (Breshears, 2011). Nevertheless, these findings do not disprove GPLFs assertions that they are happy and are functioning effectively in society. Many psychological and sociological family studies have either ignored the family s bonding with society or dealt with it only in general terms (Cigoli & Scabini, 2006), while there is also scant literature in this regard relating to modern-day society, especially to South African populations and GLPFs specifically.
The aim of this study was to explore the protective factors that facilitate resilience in South African GPLFs living in a predominantly heteronormative society. On the assumption that GPLFs experience challenges relating to living in a heteronormative society, the objective was to understand how (and if) the families interactions with society influence each other reciprocally.
This study was embedded in a qualitative research approach and was guided by an intrinsic case study design. Accordingly, the lives of ten families were explored, using unstructured interviews, electronic interviews, visuals and other supportive data. In order to construct a resilience framework that highlights the factors that promote resilience in GLPFs, thematic content analysis and a thematic infusion process were conducted against a background of bio-ecological systems theory.
The results indicate that there are both risk and protective factors on the micro-, meso-, exo-, and macro-systemic levels. Subsequently, a resilience wheel was drafted using the protective factors as a framework against which resilience in South African GLPFs can be interpreted and understood. The following protective factors were identified as promoting resilience:
? Micro level. Participants reflected a strong sense of self-determination in their personal ok-ness and intentional out-ness. They built resilience through avoidance, disclosure and personal beliefs. Meso level. Participants reflected a strong sense of family coherence, which was seen in the relationship among the family members and the subsequent family identity. They built resilience through open and honest communication styles, as well as preparational, recreational and bonding rituals.
? Exo level. Participants reflected a strong sense of belonging which was seen in the complexity of their social identity. They built resilience through their relationships with health care services and the school, their occupational profile and the support of extended family members.
? Macro level. Participants reflected a strong awareness of society s limited exposure to GLPFs and therefore experienced a constant awareness of difference. However, they were also aware that they were being supported by the Constitution in developing resilience, because if it were not for their difference , GLPFs would not have had protective laws in place to guide their negotiations with society in a non-discriminatory manner.
? Chrono level. Participants reflected the hope that unbiased treatment would be available to them in the future, accordingly, building resilience on their belief in social justice. Such social justice would be reflected the transformation of a heteronormative-family discourse in society to one that accommodates diversity in family structure.
In summary, this study sheds light on GLPFs by expanding knowledge on the issue of their resilience, taking into account the broader political and social issues. The knowledge generated by this study can further be applied to contexts in which studies are conducted on diverse and minority family forms in society.