Parental supports for and barriers to gender and sexuality diverse (GSD) inclusive education: Developing a multidimensional attitudinal scale

Year: 2019

Author: Ullman, Jacqueline, Hobby, Lucy, Ferfolja, Tania

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Scope of the Study

Australian schools are conservative, heteronormative spaces where teachers fear broaching gender and sexuality diversity (hereafter GSD) for fear of parental/carer (hereafter parents) backlash (Smith et al., 2011). While policy directives vary slightly between states/territories, educators are often advised to include GSD topics only if they sense such inclusions would be aligned with their school community ethos. As no national dataset exists, this ARC-funded research (Ferfolja, Ullman and Goldstein; 2018-2020) sought to survey parents of K-12 students attending government schools to gather data on their attitudes towards GSD-inclusive education.

Since no established and validated measure of parental support for and barriers to GSD inclusivity in schooling has been published, the research team developed a new multidimensional measure. Pilot testing enabled the validation of this measure prior to its employment in their national survey (Tarrant, 2014) such that the most valid, reliable, and succinct version of the scale was released.

Aims of the Research

This research intends to inform curriculum, policy development, and classroom approaches in relation to GSD inclusion. The development of a new instrument to multi-dimensionally measure parental support for and barriers to GSD inclusivity and the validation of such a measure prior to the national survey was necessary to ensure that the body of data collected was a robust platform from which educational knowledge, curriculum, and policy developments could be informed.

Research Design

Parent participants meeting the recruitment specifications for the pilot phase of the research (e.g. parenting a child attending primary or secondary school) were recruited via the online crowdsourcing platform, Prolific. Emerging research (e.g., Palan & Schitter, 2018) has supported the use of Prolific as an accurate, high quality, and cost effective alternative for participant recruitment.


Analysis of the pilot data revealed eight discrete factors, each with excellent reliability estimates (Hills, 2011). Support factors included supporting student wellbeing, GSD issues as personally relevant, and a rights/equity orientation. Barriers included religious attitudes, ideas of youth suggestibility and concerns about the age-appropriateness of GSD topics. The underlying factor structure of the instrumentation was validated using Exploratory Structural Equation Modelling (Marsh, Morin, Parker, & Kaur, 2014), with standard goodness-of-fit indices (Marsh, Hau, & Wen, 2004) used to assess model fit. Factorial invariance testing (Marsh, et al., 2009.) was used to establish stability of the factor structure across critical sub-groups within the sample (e.g. gender, religiosity, age), with findings showing strong measurement invariance.