What does the scholarly research say about the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents?
Overview: We identified 79 scholarly studies that met our criteria for adding to knowledge about the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents. Of those studies, 75 concluded that children of gay or lesbian parents fare no worse than other children. While many of the sample sizes were small, and some studies lacked a control group, researchers regard such studies as providing the best available knowledge about child adjustment, and do not view large, representative samples as essential. We identified four studies concluding that children of gay or lesbian parents face added disadvantages. Since all four took their samples from children who endured family break-ups, a cohort known to face added risks, these studies have been criticized by many scholars as unreliable assessments of the wellbeing of LGB-headed households. Taken together, this research forms an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm children.
Evaluating Studies that Conclude Gay Parenting Raises Risks: With regard to the four outlier studies, all share the same flaw. At most a handful of the children who were studied were actually raised by same-sex parents; the rest came from families in which opposite-sex parents raised their children for a period of time, but in which, often, one or more parent(s) subsequently came out as gay or lesbian and left the family or had a same-sex relationship. The result was a family that endured added stress and often disruption or family breakup. Including such children among those labeled as having been “raised by same-sex parents” is so misleading as to be inaccurate, since these children were generally raised by opposite-sex families and only later, after a family disruption, did they live in households with one or more gay parent(s), and only rarely did two parents of the same sex, in a stable, long-term relationship, actually raise the children together. Authors of these outlier studies argue that, nevertheless, such configurations often represent families with gay or lesbian parents, and hence it is reasonable to count them as indicators of what happens when children live with one or more gay parent(s).
Evaluating Studies that Find No Differences Resulting from Having a Gay Parent: Some critics of the LGB parenting research object to the small, non-random sampling methods known as “convenience sampling” that researchers in the field often use to gather their data. Yet within the field, convenience sampling is not considered a methodological flaw, but simply a limitation to generalizability. Within sociology and especially psychology, small, qualitative and longitudinal studies are considered to have certain advantages over probability studies: Such data can allow investigators to notice and analyze subtleties and texture in child development over time that large, statistical studies often miss. It is important to note, moreover, that some of the research that finds no differences among children with same-sex parents does use large, representative data. A 2010 study by Stanford researcher Michael Rosenfeld used census data to examine the school advancement of 3,500 children with same-sex parents, finding no significant differences between households headed by same-sex and opposite-sex parents when controlling for family background. Another study drew on nationally representative, longitudinal data using a sampling pool of over 20,000 children, of which 158 lived in a same-sex parent household. Controlling for family disruptions, those children showed no significant differences from their peers in school outcomes.
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Below are 75 studies concluding that children of gay or lesbian parents fare no worse than other children. Click here to jump to the 4 studies concluding that children of gay or lesbian parents face added disadvantages.
Adams, J., & Light, R. (2015). Scientific consensus, the law, and same sex parenting outcomes. Social Science Research, 53, 300-310.
While the US Supreme Court was considering two related cases involving the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, one major question informing that decision was whether scientific research had achieved consensus regarding how children of same-sex couples fare. Determining the extent of consensus has become a key aspect of how social science evidence and testimony is accepted by the courts. Here, we show how a method of analyzing temporal patterns in citation networks can be used to assess the state of social scientific literature as a means to inform just such a question. Patterns of clustering within these citation networks reveal whether and when consensus arises within a scientific field. We find that the literature on outcomes for children of same-sex parents is marked by scientific consensus that they experience “no differences” compared to children from other parental configurations.
Allen and Burrell, 1996
Allen, M., & Burrell, N. (1996). Comparing the impact of homosexual and heterosexual parents on children: meta-analysis of existing research. Journal of Homosexuality, 32(2), 19-35.
Courts determine custody and visitation on the basis of the ‘‘best interests of the child.’’ Current judicial rulings in some jurisdictions reflect a bias against awarding custody or granting visitation rights to homosexual parents, favoring the heterosexual parent or heterosexual relative of the child(ren). Should the sexual orientation of the parent play a part in the determination of custody or visitation in order to protect the child? This meta-analysis summa- rizes the available quantitative literature comparing the impact of heterosexual and homosexual parents, using a variety of measures, on the child(ren). The analyses examine parenting practices, the emotional well-being of the child, and the sexual orientation of the child. The results demonstrate no differences on any measures between the heterosexual and homosexual parents regarding parenting styles, emotional adjustment, and sexual orientation of the child(ren). In other words, the data fail to support the continuation of a bias against homosexual parents by any court.
Anderssen, Amlie, & Ytteroy, 2002
Anderssen, N., Amlie, C., & Ytteroy, E. A. (2002). Outcomes for children with lesbian or gay parents. A review of studies from 1978 to 2000. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43(4), 335-351.
Twenty-three empirical studies published between 1978 and 2000 on nonclinical children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers were reviewed (one Belgian/Dutch, one Danish, three British, and 18 North American). Twenty reported on offspring of lesbian mothers, and three on offspring of gay fathers. The studies encompassed a total of 615 offspring (age range 1.5-44 years) of lesbian mothers or gay fathers and 387 controls, who were assessed by psychological tests, questionnaires or interviews. Seven types of outcomes were found to be typical: emotional functioning, sexual preference, stigmatization, gender role behavior, behavioral adjustment, gender identity, and cognitive functioning. Children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers did not systematically differ from other children on any of the outcomes. The studies indicate that children raised by lesbian women do not experience adverse outcomes compared with other children. The same holds for children raised by gay men, but more studies should be done.
Baiocco et al., 2015
Baiocco, R., Santamaria, F., Ioverno, S., Fontanesi, L., Baumgartner, E., Laghi, F., Lingiardi V. (2015). Lesbian mother families and gay father families in Italy: family functioning, dyadic satisfaction, and child well-being. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 12(3), 202-212.
The literature underlines that lesbian mother and gay father families are similar to those with heterosexual parents, regarding family functioning, dyadic satisfaction, and child development. This paper compares 40 same-sex families and 40 heterosexual parents in the Italian context. In Italy, it is impossible for same-sex couples or single lesbians and gay men to adopt a child, become married, or enter civil partnerships. The participants were administered self-reports, in order to investigate the dyadic relationships, family functioning, and emotional and social adjustment of their children. Lesbian and gay parents reported higher levels of dyadic adjustment, flexibility, and communication in their family than heterosexual parents. Data from the present study demonstrated that children raised by lesbian and gay parents showed a similar level of emotion regulation and psychological well-being than children raised by heterosexual parents. In Italy, negative attitudes towards same-sex families persist, and educational programs should be developed to deconstruct stereotypes regarding gay and lesbian parent families. These results have important implications in both clinical and social fields.
Bailey, Bobrow, Wolfe, & Mikach, 1995
Bailey, J., Bobrow, D., Wolfe, M., & Mikach, S. (1995). Sexual orientation of adult sons of gay fathers. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 124-129.
The sexual development of children of gay and lesbian parents is interesting for both scientific and social reasons. The present study is the largest to date to focus on the sexual orientation of adult sons of gay men. From advertisements in gay publications, 55 gay or bisexual men were recruited who reported on 82 sons at least 17 yrs of age. More than 90% of sons whose sexual orientations could be rated were heterosexual. Furthermore, gay and heterosexual sons did not differ on potentially relevant variables such as the length of time they had lived with their fathers. Results suggest that any environmental influence of gay fathers on their sons’ sexual orientation is not large.
Biblarz and Stacey, 2010
Biblarz, T. J., & Stacey, J. (2010). How does the gender of parents matter? Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(1), 3-22.
Claims that children need both a mother and father presume that women and men parent differently in ways crucial to development but generally rely on studies that conflate gender with other family structure variables. We analyze findings from studies with designs that mitigate these problems by comparing two-parent families with same or different sex coparents and single-mother and single-father families. Strengths typically associated with married mother-father families appear to the same extent in families with 2 mothers and potentially in those with 2 fathers. Average differences favor women over men, but parenting skills are not dichotomous or exclusive. The gender of parents correlates in novel ways with parent-child relationships but has minor significance for children’s psychological and social success.
Bos, H. M. W. (2010). Planned gay father families in kinship arrangements. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 31(4), 356–371.
The current study examined whether there are differences between gay father families (n = 36) and heterosexual families (n = 36) on father-child relationship, fathers’ experiences of parental stress and children’s wellbeing. The gay fathers in this study all became parents while in same-sex relationships. They donated sperm to lesbian couples and then shared the child-rearing with them in kinship arrangements. It was also examined whether aspects that are related specifically to gay fathers (i.e., experiences of rejection, having to defend their family situation, with whom the children live, and conflicts with the children’s mothers) are also related to the father- child relationship, parental stress and children’s wellbeing. Data were collected by means of questionnaires filled in by the fathers. No significant differences between the family types were found on emotional involvement and parental concern in the father-child relationship, parental burden (as an aspect of parental stress) or the children’s wellbeing. However, gay fathers felt less competent in their child-rearing role than heterosexual fathers. For gay fathers especially, experiences of rejection and the feeling that they have to defend their situation were significantly related to father-child relationship, parental stress and children’s wellbeing.
Bos et al., 2016
Bos, H. M. W., Knox, J. R., van Rijn-van Gelderen, L., Gartrell, N. K. (2016). Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes: Findings from the National Survey of Children’s Health. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 37(3), 179–187.
Objective: Using the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health data set, we compared spouse/partner relationships and parent-child relationships (family relationships), parenting stress, and children’s general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior, and learning behavior (child outcomes) in households of same-sex (female) versus different-sex continuously coupled parents with biological offspring. We assessed whether associations among family relationships, parenting stress, and child outcomes were different in the 2 household types. Methods: Parental and child characteristics were matched for 95 female same-sex parent and 95 different-sex parent households with children 6 to 17 years old. One parent per household was interviewed by telephone. Multivariate analyses of variance and multiple linear regressions were conducted. Results: No differences were observed between household types on family relationships or any child outcomes. Same-sex parent households scored higher on parenting stress (95% confidence interval = 2.03–2.30) than different-sex parent households (95% confidence interval = 1.76–2.03), p = .006. No significant interactions between household type and family relationships or household type and parenting stress were found for any child outcomes. Conclusion: Children with female same-sex parents and different-sex parents demonstrated no differences in outcomes, despite female same-sex parents reporting more parenting stress. Future studies may reveal the sources of this parenting stress.
Bos and Sandfort, 2010
Bos, H. M. W., & Sandfort, T. G. M. (2010). Children’s gender identity in lesbian and heterosexual two-parent families. Sex Roles, 62(1-2), 114-126
This study compared gender identity, anticipated future heterosexual romantic involvement, and psychosocial adjustment of children in lesbian and heterosexual families; it was furthermore assessed whether associations between these aspects differed between family types. Data were obtained in the Netherlands from children in 63 lesbian families and 68 heterosexual families. All children were between 8 and 12 years old. Children in lesbian families felt less parental pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, were less likely to experience their own gender as superior and were more likely to be uncertain about future heterosexual romantic involvement. No differences were found on psychosocial adjustment. Gender typicality, gender contentedness and anticipated future heterosexual romantic involvement were significant predictors of psychosocial adjustment in both family types.
Bos, van Balen, & van den Boom, 2005
Bos, H. M. W., van Balen F., & van den Boom, D. C. (2005). Lesbian families and family functioning: an overview. Patient Education and Counseling, 59(3), 263-275.
OBJECTIVES: In the last 30 years a growing body of studies on lesbian parents and the development of children has been published.
METHODS: Four computerized databases were identified studies for inclusion in this review of research on lesbian families, namely PsychInfo, Educational Resources Information Centre (ERIC), Medline, and the Social Sciences Citation Index.
RESULTS: Forty-four empirical studies on lesbian families published between 1978 and 2003 were reviewed. In the research on lesbian families two phases were identified. To begin with, systematic studies on lesbian families focused on lesbian families with children who were born in a previous heterosexual relationship. More recently, studies included lesbian families whose children were born to the lesbian couple (planned lesbian families). In both phases, articles reporting results on children’s development (such as sexual identity, emotional/behavioral development, social relationships and cognitive functioning), and parental functioning (such as mental psychological health and parenting skills). This paper presents and discusses major finding of the reviewed articles.
CONCLUSION: Studies in both phases have emphasized that lesbian and heterosexual families are very much alike. However, it is the stigma of lesbianism that makes the family situation of lesbian families different.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Healthcare workers should be informed about the similarities and differences between lesbian families and heterosexual families, and about the non-traditional family situation of planned lesbian families.
Bos, van Balen, & van den Boom, 2007
Bos, H. M. W., van Balen, F., & van den Boom, D. C. (2007). Child adjustment and parenting in planned lesbian-parent families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(1), 38-48.
One hundred planned lesbian-parent families (i.e., two-mother families in which the child was born to the lesbian relationship) were compared with 100 heterosexual-parent families on child adjustment, parental characteristics, and child rearing. Questionnaires, observations, and a diary of activities were used to collect the data. The results show that especially lesbian social mothers (i.e., nonbiological mothers) differ from heterosexual fathers on parental characteristics (e.g., more parental justification and more satisfaction with the partner as coparent) and child rearing (e.g., more parental concern and less power assertion). Child adjustment is not associated with family type (lesbian-parent families vs. heterosexual- parent families), but is predicted by power assertion, parental concern, and satisfaction with the partner as coparent.
Bos, Gartrell, & van Gelderen, 2013
Bos, H., Gartrell, N., & van Gelderen, L. (2013). Adolescents in lesbian families: DSM-oriented scale scores and stigmatization. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 25(2), 121 – 140.
The present study focused on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-oriented scale scores from Child Behavior Checklists completed by parents of the 17-year-old offspring in the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study. In comparison with the scores of an age-matched normative sample, no significant differences in scores were found. Within the NLLFS sample, adolescents who reported stigmatization scored higher on affective, anxiety, and conduct problems. Although overall psychological functioning of the NLLFS adolescents fell within the healthy range, stigmatization had a negative impact on the well-being of some adolescents.
Bos, van Gelderen, & Gartrell, 2014
Bos, H., van Gelderen, L., & Gartrell, N. (2014). Lesbian and heterosexual two-parent families: adolescent-parent relationship quality and adolescent well-being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23(2), 1-16.
This study compared 51 adolescents from intact two-mother planned lesbian families (all conceived through donor insemination) with 51 adolescents from intact mother–father families on their relationships with their parents (parental control, disclosure to parents, and adolescent–parent relationship quality), psychological adjustment (self-esteem, social anxiety, and conduct problems), and substance usage (consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana/hashish). The adolescents (average age 16 years) were matched on demographic characteristics (age, gender, educational level, country of birth, parental birth country) with a sample from a large school-based survey, and data were collected by means of adolescent self-reports. Analyses indicated that adolescents in both family types had positive relationships with their parents, which were favorably associated with psychological well-being. On the assessments of psychological adjustment and substance use, family type was significantly associated only with self-esteem and conduct problems: Adolescents with lesbian mothers had higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of conduct problems than their counterparts in heterosexual-parent families. Overall, the findings indicate that adolescents from intact two-mother lesbian families are comparable to those in a matched comparison group with intact mother–father families. The few differences found on psychological well-being favored the adolescents in lesbian two-mother families.
Bos, Gartrell, Peyser, & van Balen, 2008
Bos, H. M. W., Gartrell, N. K., Peyser, H., & van Balen, F. (2008). The USA national longitudinal lesbian family study (NLLFS): homophobia, psychological adjustment, and protective factors. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 12(4), 455-471.
The study assessed the influence of protective factors on the psychological adjustment of children who had experienced homophobia and whose mothers were participants in a longitudinal study of planned lesbian families. Data were collected as part of the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study by interviewing the children and having the mothers complete questionnaires. No significant differences were found in the psychological adjustment of children in the present study and their age-matched peers in a U.S.-population sample. Homophobia had a negative impact on the well-being of children who experienced it. Attending schools with LGBT curricula and their mothers’ participation in the lesbian community were found to protect children against the negative influences of homophobia.
Bos, Goldberg, van Gelderen, & Gartrell, 2012
Bos, H. M. W., Goldberg, N. K, van Gelderen, L., & Gartrell, N. (2012). Adolescents of the U.S. National longitudinal lesbian family study: male role models, gender role traits and psychological adjustment. Gender & Society, 26(4), 603 – 638.
This article focuses on the influence of male role models on the lives of adolescents (N = 78) in the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study. Half of the adolescents had male role models; those with and those without male role models had similar scores on the feminine and masculine scales of the Bem Sex Role Inventory, as well as on the trait subscales of the State-Trait Personality Inventory (anxiety, anger, depression, and curiosity) and the Child Behavior Checklist (internalizing, externalizing, and total problem behavior). A positive association was found between feminine gender role traits and curiosity, and a negative correlation between this trait and internalizing problem behavior; these associations were independent of the gender of the adolescents and the presence of male role models. In sum, the absence of male role models did not adversely affect the psychological adjustment of adolescents reared by lesbian mothers.
Brewaeys, Ponjaert, van Hall, & Golombok, 1997
Brewaeys, A., Ponjaert, I., van Hall, E. V., & Golombok, S. (1997). Donor insemination: child development and family functioning in lesbian mother families. Human Reproduction, 12(6), 1349-1359.
Findings are presented of a comparative study investigating the family relationships and the emotional and gender development of children raised in lesbian mother families. A total of 30 lesbian mother families with 4-8 year old children created as a result of donor insemination (DI) were compared with 38 heterosexual families with a DI child and with 30 heterosexual families who had a naturally conceived child. A variety of assessment measures, including a standardized interview and questionnaires from the parents and psychological testing of the child were used to collect the data. The quality of the couples’ relationships and the quality of the mother-child interaction did not differ between lesbian mother families and either of the heterosexual family groups. The quality of the interaction between the social mother and the child in lesbian families was superior to that between the father and the child in both groups of heterosexual families. Childrens’ own perception of their parents was similar in all family types; the social mother in lesbian families was regarded by the child to be as much a ‘parent’ as the father in both types of heterosexual families. With regard to their emotional/behavioural development, boys and girls raised in lesbian mother families were well adjusted and their gender role development did not differ from that of children raised in heterosexual families. These results indicate that child and family development in lesbian mother families is similar to that of heterosexual families.
Brewaeys and van Hall, 1997
Brewaeys, A., & van Hall, E. V. (1997). Lesbian motherhood: the impact on child development and family functioning. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 18(1), 1-16.
The wide variety of lesbian families who became visible during the past 20 years gave rise to important practical and theoretical questions. Up to now society has treated lesbian mothers differently with regard to a number of child-issues. In the past, divorcing lesbian mothers were often denied child custody because of their sexual orientation and the majority of fertility centers still refuse lesbian couples in their donor insemination programs. The present article reviews whether there is any theoretical and empirical evidence for the most widespread assumptions on which such decisions have been based. A number of psychological theories, such as psychoanalytic theory, social and cognitive learning theory and attachment theory are discussed with regard to the two most salient features of lesbian families; the absence of a father and the homosexual orientation of the mother. Meanwhile, there is a growing body of empirical research investigating a variety of aspects of child development, such as gender development, emotional/behavioral adjustment and social competence. Most of these studies involved children of divorced lesbian mothers who spent their early years in a heterosexual household. More recently, however, studies were sporadically carried out among children who were raised from birth in a lesbian relationship. As early childhood experiences are believed to have an important impact on future development, the study of these newly created families provides a challenge for existing psychological theories. Although many important research questions have yet to be addressed, the results of all reviewed studies were unanimous; none of the investigations could identify an adverse effect of lesbian motherhood on child development.
Chan, Raboy, & Patterson, 1998
Chan, R. W., Raboy, B., & Patterson, C. J. (1998). Psychosocial adjustment among children conceived via donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Child Development, 69(2), 443-457.
This study examined the relations among family structure (e.g., number of parents, parental sexual orientation), family process (e.g., parents’ relationship satisfaction, interparental conflict), and the psychological adjustment of children who had been conceived via donor insemination. The 80 participating families, all of whom had conceived children using the resources of a single sperm bank, included 55 families headed by lesbian and 25 families headed by heterosexual parents. Fifty families were headed by couples and 30 by single parents. Participating children averaged 7 years of age. Results showed that children were developing in normal fashion, and that their adjustment was unrelated to structural variables such as parental sexual orientation or the number of parents in the household. These results held true for teacher reports as well as for parent reports. Variables associated with family interactions and processes were, however, significantly related to indices of children’s adjustment. Parents who were experiencing higher levels of parenting stress, higher levels of interparental conflict, and lower levels of love for each other had children who exhibited more behavior problems.
Crouch, Waters, McNair, Power, & Davis, 2014
Crouch, S. R., Waters, E., McNair, R., Power, J., & Davis, E. (2014). Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 14 (635), 1-12.
Background: It has been suggested that children with same-sex attracted parents score well in psychosocial aspects of their health, however questions remain about the impact of stigma on these children. Research to date has focused on lesbian parents and has been limited by small sample sizes. This study aims to describe the physical, mental and social wellbeing of Australian children with same-sex attracted parents, and the impact that stigma has on them.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey, the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, was distributed in 2012 to a convenience sample of 390 parents from Australia who self-identified as same-sex attracted and had children aged 0-17 years. Parent-reported, multidimensional measures of child health and wellbeing and the relationship to perceived stigma were measured.
Results: 315 parents completed the survey (completion rate = 81%) representing 500 children. 80% of children had a female index parent while 18% had a male index parent. Children in same-sex parent families had higher scores on measures of general behavior, general health and family cohesion compared to population normative data (β = 2.93, 95% CI = 0.35 to 5.52, P = .03; β = 5.60, 95% CI = 2.69 to 8.52, P = <.001; and β = 6.01, 95% CI = 2.84 to 9.17, P = Conclusions: Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health. Perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health. Through improved awareness of stigma these findings play an important role in health policy, improving child health outcomes.
Crowl, Ahn, & Baker, 2008
Crowl, A. L., Ahn, S., & Baker, J. (2008). A meta-analysis of developmental outcomes for children of same-sex and heterosexual parents. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 4(3), 385-407.
While there has been a recent upsurge in the number of studies related to children raised by gay and lesbian parents, the literature in this area continues to be small and wrought with limitations. This study presents a meta-analysis of the existing research and focuses on the developmental outcomes and quality of parent-child relationships among children raised by gay and lesbian parents. A total of 19 studies were used for this analysis and included both child and parent outcome measures addressing six areas. Analyses revealed statistically significant effect size differences between groups for one of the six outcomes: parent-child relationship. Results confirm previous studies in this current body of literature, suggesting that children raised by same-sex parents fare equally well to children raised by heterosexual parents. The authors discuss findings with respect to the implications for practitioners in schools.
Erich, Leung, & Kindle, 2005
Erich, S., Leung, P., & Kindle, P. (2005). A comparative analysis of adoptive family functioning with gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parents and their children. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 1 (4), 43-60.
The objectives of this comparative study were to examine adoptive family functioning with a sample of gay, lesbian, and heterosexual adoptive parents and their children. The results suggested that parent sexual orientation is not a significant predictor of adoptive family functioning, adopted child’s behavior, and parent’s perceptions of helpfulness from family support networks. Furthermore, a regression analysis suggested the following variables were associated with higher levels of family functioning: adoptive parents who were previously foster parents and children who had more previous placements prior to adoption. Lower family functioning was associated with children adopted through CPS; with children who had mental health diagnoses, learning disorders, or other handicapping conditions; and with children who were in a higher grade in school. The results of this comparative study of adoptive families support the need for more methodologically rigorous research that includes gay and lesbian adoptive parents along with heterosexual parents.
Erich, Kanenberg, Case, Allen, & Bogdanos, 2009
Erich, S., Kanenberg, H., Case, K., Allen, T., & Bogdanos, T. (2009). An empirical analysis of factors affecting adolescent attachment in adoptive families with homosexual and straight parents. Children and Youth Services Review, 31(3), 398-404.
Data were collected on 154 adoptive families with gay/lesbian and straight adoptive parents (154 parent respondents and 210 adolescent respondents). This study was principally interested in factors affecting adolescent attachment including parent sexual orientation, adolescent and parent life satisfaction, and parent level of relationship satisfaction with their adopted child as well as other key parent, child and adoption characteristics. The results suggest that higher level of adopted adolescent attachment to parents is not related to adoptive parent sexual orientation. Adolescent attachment to parents is related to adolescent life satisfaction; parent level of relationship satisfaction with their adopted child, number of placements prior to adoption, and adolescent’s current age. Adolescent life satisfaction, like level of attachment is an indicator of youth well-being. This variable was found to have a significant relationship with parent level of relationship satisfaction with their adopted child. The results also indicated parent’s level of relationship satisfaction with their adopted child was related to parent life satisfaction. The variable child’s age at adoption was found to have significant relationships with parent life satisfaction, parent’s level of relationship satisfaction with their adopted child, and number of placements prior to adoption. Implications for policy, practice, education and further research are discussed.
Falk, P. J. (1989). Lesbian mothers: Psychosocial assumptions in family law. American Psychologist, 44(6), 941-947.
Discrimination persists in courts’ consideration of lesbian mothers’ petitions for custody of their children. Courts often have assumed that lesbian women are emotionally unstable or unable to assume a maternal role. They also often have assumed that their children are likely to be emotionally harmed, subject to molestation, impaired in gender role development, or themselves homosexual. None of these assumptions is supported by extant research and theory.
Farr, Forssell, & Patterson, 2010
Farr, R. H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families: does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14(3), 164-178.
This study investigated child development and parenting in 106 families headed by 27 lesbian, 29 gay, and 50 heterosexual couples (80% White, M = 42 years) with young adopted children (41% White, M = 3 years). Parents and teachers reported that, on average, children were developing in typical ways. Measures of children’s adjustment, parenting approaches, parenting stress, and couple relationship adjustment were not significantly associated with parental sexual orientation. However, several family process variables—parenting stress, parenting approaches, and couple relationship adjustment—were found to be significantly associated with children’s adjustment, regardless of parental sexual orientation. Implications for understanding the role of gender and sexual orientation in parenting, as well as for legal and policy debates, are discussed.
Farr and Patterson, 2013
Farr, R. H., & Patterson, C. J. (2013). Coparenting among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples: associations with adopted children’s outcomes. Child Development, 84(4), 1226-1240.
Coparenting is associated with child behavior in families with heterosexual parents, but less is known about coparenting among lesbian- and gay-parent families. Associations were studied among self-reported divisions of labor, coparenting observations, and child adjustment (Mage = 3 years) among 104 adoptive families headed by lesbian, gay, or heterosexual couples. Lesbian and gay couples reported sharing child care, whereas heterosexual couples reported specialization (i.e., mothers did more child care than fathers). Observations confirmed this pattern—lesbian and gay parents participated more equally than heterosexual parents during family interaction. Lesbian couples showed the most supportive and least undermining behavior, whereas gay couples showed the least supportive behavior, and heterosexual couples the most undermining behavior. Overall, supportive coparenting was associated with better child adjustment.
Farr, R. H.(2016). Does Parental Sexual Orientation Matter? A Longitudinal Follow-Up of Adoptive Families With School-Age Children. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication.
Controversy continues to surround parenting by lesbian and gay (LG) adults and outcomes for their children. As sexual minority parents increasingly adopt children, longitudinal research about child development, parenting, and family relationships is crucial for informing such debates. In the psychological literature, family systems theory contends that children’s healthy development depends upon healthy family functioning more so than family structure. From the framework of family stress theory, it was expected that longitudinal outcomes for school-age children adopted in infancy could be distinct among those with same-sex versus other-sex parents (N ! 96 families). Similar findings were hypothesized in terms of parent adjustment, couple relationships, and family functioning in comparing same-sex and other-sex parent families. Results indicated that adjustment among children, parents, and couples, as well as family functioning, were not different on the basis of parental sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, or heterosexual) when children were school-age. Rather, children’s behavior problems and family functioning during middle childhood were predicted by earlier child adjustment issues and parenting stress. These findings are consistent with and extend previous literature about families headed by LG parents, particularly those that have adopted children. The results have implications for advancing supportive policies, practices, and laws related to adoption and parenting by sexual minority adults.
Fedewa and Clark, 2009
Fedewa, A. L., & Clark, T. P. (2009). Parent practices and home-school partnerships: a differential effect for children with same-sex coupled parents? Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 5(4), 312-339.
Parents can profoundly influence the long-term academic success of their children. Parental involvement with their children’s schools has consistently been associated with much better long-term academic and social outcomes. Unfortunately, same-sex parents often feel disconnected and unwelcome in schools. In order to extend the research supporting parent practices and strong family-school collaboration, the present study used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) data set to examine the following: (1) How same-sex families compare to heterosexual families with respect to the parental practices of helping and communicating; (2) How home-school partnerships compare across same-sex and heterosexual families; and (3) Whether a strong home-school partnership is more important for the academic achievement and social adjustment of children with same-sex parents given the societal context in which these children are embedded. Results indicated that same-sex and heterosexual parents did not differ with respect to their parent practices or home-school partnerships. Further, home-school partnerships were not differentially important for children with same-sex parents.
Flaks, Ficher, Masterpasqua, & Joseph, 1995
Flaks, D. K., Ficher, I., Masterpasqua, F., & Joseph, G. (1995) Lesbians choosing motherhood: a comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 105-114.
Compared 15 lesbian couples and the 3- to 9-yr-old children born to them through donor insemination with 15 matched, heterosexual-parent families. A variety of assessment measures were used to evaluate the children’s cognitive functioning and behavioral adjustment as well as the parents’ relationship quality and parenting skills. Results revealed no significant differences between the 2 groups of children, who also compared favorably with the standardization samples for the instruments used. In addition, no significant differences were found between dyadic adjustment of lesbian and heterosexual couples. Only in the area of parenting did the 2 groups of couples differ; lesbian couples exhibited more parenting awareness skills than did heterosexual couples. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Fulcher, Chan, Raboy, & Patterson, 2002
Fulcher, M., Chan, R. W., Raboy, B., & Patterson, C. J. (2002). Contact with grandparents among children conceived via donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Parenting, 2(1), 61-76.
Objective. This study compared the networks of extended family and friendship relationships of children conceived via donor insemination with lesbian versus heterosexual parents. Design. Eighty families participated; 55 of the families were headed by lesbians parents and 25 were headed by heterosexual parents. Parents reported their children’s contact with grandparents and other important adults. Results. Most children had regular contact with grandparents, other relatives, and adult nonrelatives outside their immediate households, and there were no differences in this regard as a function of parental sexual orientation. Bother children of lesbian and heterosexual parents had more frequent contact with the parents of their biological mother than with the parents of their father or other mother. Conclusions. Contrary to negative stereotypes, children of lesbian mothers were described as having regular contact with grandparents. Regardless of parental sexual orientation, children were described as being in more frequent contact with grandparents to whom they were biologically linked.
Fulcher, Sutfin, & Patterson, 2008
Fulcher, M., Sutfin, E. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2008) Individual differences in gender development: associations with parental sexual orientation, attitudes, and division of labor. Sex Roles, 58(5/6), 330–341.
Research on children of lesbian parents has suggested that such children are developing well, but questions have been raised about their gender development. In this study, we explored associations among parental sexual orientation, parental gender-related attitudes, parental division of labor, and children’s gender development. Participants were 66 preschool children and their 132 parents from the East Coast of the United States. Thirty-three families were headed by lesbian and 33 by heterosexual couples. Parents who divided paid and unpaid labor more unequally had children whose occupational aspirations were also more traditional. Measures of children’s gender development were generally unrelated to parental sexual orientation. Parents’ attitudes and behaviors were more strongly associated with children’s gender development than was parental sexual orientation.
Gartrell, Bos, & Goldberg, 2011
Gartrell, N. K., Bos, H. M. W., & Goldberg, N. G. (2011). Adolescents of the U.S. National longitudinal lesbian family study: sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and sexual risk exposure. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(6), 1199-1209.
This study assessed Kinsey self-ratings and lifetime sexual experiences of 17-year-olds whose lesbian mothers enrolled before these offspring were born in the longest-running, prospective study of same-sex parented families, with a 93% retention rate to date. Data for the current report were gathered through online questionnaires completed by 78 adolescent offspring (39 girls and 39 boys). The adolescents were asked if they had ever been abused and, if so, to specify by whom and the type of abuse (verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual). They were also asked to specify their sexual identity on the Kinsey scale, between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual. Lifetime sexual behavior was assessed through questions about heterosexual and same-sex contact, age of first sexual experience, contraception use, and pregnancy. The results revealed that there were no reports of physical or sexual victimization by a parent or other caregiver. Regarding sexual orientation, 18.9% of the adolescent girls and 2.7% of the adolescent boys self-rated in the bisexual spectrum, and 0% of girls and 5.4% of boys self-rated as predominantly-to-exclusively homosexual. When compared with age- and gender-matched adolescents of the National Survey of Family Growth, the study offspring were significantly older at the time of their first heterosexual contact, and the daughters of lesbian mothers were significantly more likely to have had same-sex contact. These findings suggest that adolescents reared in lesbian families are less likely than their peers to be victimized by a parent or other caregiver, and that daughters of lesbian mothers are more likely to engage in same-sex behavior and to identify as bisexual.
Gartrell and Bos, 2010
Gartrell, N. K., & Bos, H. M. W. (2010). Us national longitudinal lesbian family study: psychological adjustment of 17-year-old adolescents. Pediatrics, 126(1), 28-36.
Methods: Between 1986 and 1992, 154 prospective lesbian mothers volunteered for a study that was designed to follow planned lesbian families from the index children’s conception until they reached adulthood. Data for the current report were gathered through interviews and questionnaires that were completed by 78 index offspring when they were 10 and 17 years old and through interviews and Child Behavior Checklists that were completed by their mothers at corresponding times. The study is ongoing, with a 93% retention rate to date.
Results: According to their mothers’ reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth. Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated.
Conclusions: Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment. These findings have implications for the clinical care of adolescents and for pediatricians who are consulted on matters that pertain to same-sex parenting.
Gartrell, Bos, Peyser, Deck, & Rodas, 2012
Gartrell, N. K., Bos, H. M. W., Peyser, H., Deck, A., & Rodas, C. (2012). Adolescents with lesbian mothers describe their own lives. Journal of Homosexuality, 59(9), 1211-1229.
Empirical research on the everyday life experiences of adolescents reared by lesbian mothers is limited. The current study gathered self-report descriptive data from 78 adolescents enrolled in the largest, longest-running, prospective longitudinal study of planned lesbian families, with a 93% retention rate to date. Results revealed that the 17-year-old adolescents were academically successful in supportive school environments. They had active social networks and close family bonds. Nearly all considered their mothers good role models. The adolescents rated their overall wellbeing an average of 8.14 on a 10-point-maximum scale. The implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.
Gartrell, Deck, Rodas, Peyser, & Banks, 2005
Gartrell, N. K., Deck, A., Rodas, C., Peyser, H., & Banks, A. (2005). The national lesbian family study: 4. Interviews with the 10-year-old children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75(4), 518-524.
This 4th report from a longitudinal study of U.S. lesbian families presents data from 78 families in which the children were conceived by donor insemination. Results indicate that the prevalence of physical and sexual abuse in these children was lower than national norms. In social and psychological development, the children were comparable to children raised in heterosexual families. Children of unknown donors were indistinguishable from those with known donors in psychological adjustment. In total, 57% of the children were completely out to their peers, and 43% had experienced homophobia. The children demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of diversity and tolerance.
Goldberg, A. E. (2007). (How) does it make a difference? Perspectives of adults with lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(4), 550-562.
Few studies have addressed the experiences or perceptions of adult children of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) parents. In this study, 46 adult children of LGB parents were interviewed, and their perceptions of how growing up with LGB parents influenced them as adults were examined. Qualitative analysis revealed that adults felt that they were more tolerant and open minded and had more flexible ideas about gender and sexuality as a function of growing up with LGB parents. Participants often felt protective of their parents and the gay community, and some went to great efforts to defend them to peers, family members, and society. Some participants struggled with issues of trust in adulthood, which they related to the experience of their parents’ unexpected coming out, as well as to experiences of teasing and bullying. The importance of understanding these findings in the context of societal heterosexism is discussed.
Goldberg and Smith, 2013
Goldberg, A., & Smith, J. (2013). Predictors of psychological adjustment in early placed adopted children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 431-42.
Little research has focused on predictors of psychological adjustment among early placed adopted children. Additionally, the research on adopted children in lesbian or gay parent-families is sparse. The current study examined 40 female same-sex, 35 male same-sex, and 45 different-sex parent families with adopted children, all of whom were placed in their adoptive homes under the age of 18 months. We explored aspects of children’s preadoptive and postadoptive contexts (measured at 3 months postplacement) in relation to children’s externalizing and internalizing symptoms (measured at 2 years postplace- ment; M age = 2.33 years). Findings revealed that lack of parental preparation for the adoption, and parental depressive symptoms, were associated with higher parent-reported levels of both externalizing and internalizing symptoms. Additionally, parents’ relationship conflict was associated with higher levels of parent- and partner-reported internalizing symptoms. Children’s adjustment outcomes did not differ by family type. Our findings point to the importance of considering the adoptive family context (including parent and couple subsystems) in predicting later adjustment in early placed adopted children, in diverse family contexts.
Goldberg, Bos, & Gartrell, 2011
Goldberg, N. G., Bos, H. M. W., & Gartrell, N. K. (2011). Substance use by adolescents of the USA National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study. Journal of Health Psychology, 16(8), 1231-1240.
Although studies show that adolescents with same-sex parents experience homophobic discrimination, little is known about associations between stigmatization and substance use in this population. The 17-year-old offspring of lesbian parents from the largest, longest-running, longitudinal study of same-sex parented families were surveyed about substance use, experiences of homophobic stigmatization, and overall life satisfaction. Compared to matched adolescents from a national probability sample, adolescents with same-sex parents were more likely to report occasional substance use but not more likely to report heavy use. No associations were found between substance use and homophobic stigmatization or life satisfaction.
Golombok, Perry, Burston, Murray, Mooney-Somers, Stevens, & Golding, 2003
Golombok, S., Perry, B., Burston, A., Murray, C., Mooney-Somers, J., Stevens, M., Golding, J. (2003). Children with lesbian parents: A community study. Developmental Psychology, 39(1), 20-33.
Existing research on children with lesbian parents is limited by reliance on volunteer or convenience samples. The present study examined the quality of parent-child relationships and the socioemotional and gender development of a community sample of 7-year-old children with lesbian parents. Families were recruited through the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a geographic population study of 14,000 mothers and their children. Thirty-nine lesbian-mother families, 74 two-parent heterosexual families, and 60 families headed by single heterosexual mothers were compared on standardized interview and questionnaire measures administered to mothers, co-mothers/fathers, children, and teachers. Findings are in line with those of earlier investigations showing positive mother-child relationships and well-adjusted children.
Golombok, Spencer, & Rutter, 1983
Golombok, S., Spencer, A., & Rutter, M. (1983). Children in lesbian and single-parent households: psychosexual and psychiatric appraisal. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 24(4), 551-572.
Thirty-seven school-age children reared in 27 lesbian households were compared with 38 school-age children reared in 27 heterosexual single-parent households, with respect to their psychosexual development and their emotions, behaviour and relationships. Systematic standardized interviews with the mothers and with the children, together with parent and teacher questionnaires, were used to make the psychosexual and psychiatric appraisal. The two groups did not differ in terms of their gender identity, sex role behaviour or sexual orientation. Also, they did not differ on most measures of emotions, behaviour and relationships–although there was some indication of more frequent psychiatric problems in the single-parent group. It was concluded that rearing in a lesbian household per se did not lead to atypical psychosexual development or constitute a psychiatric risk factor.
Golombok and Tasker, 1996
Golombok, S. & Tasker, F. (1996) Do parents influence the sexual orientation of their children? Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families. Developmental Psychology, 32 (1), 3-11.
Findings are presented of a longitudinal study of the sexual orientation of adults who had been raised as children in lesbian families. Twenty-five children of lesbian mothers and a control group of 21 children of heterosexual single mothers were first seen at age 9.5 years on average, and again at age 23.5 years on average. Standardized interviews were used to obtain data on sexual orientation from the young adults in the follow-up study, and on family characteristics and children’s gender role behavior from the mothers and their children in the initial study. Although those from lesbian families were more likely to explore same-sex relationships, particularly if their childhood family environment was characterized by an openness and acceptance of lesbian and gay relationships, the large majority of children who grew up in lesbian families identified as heterosexual.
Golombok, Tasker, & Murray, 1997
Golombok, S., Tasker, F., & Murray, C. (1997). Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(7), 783-791.
The aim of the study was to investigate family functioning and the psychological development of children raised in fatherless families from their first year of life. Thirty lesbian mother families and 42 families headed by a single heterosexual mother were compared with 41 two-parent heterosexual families using standardised interview and questionnaire measures of the quality of parenting and the socioemotional development of the child. The results show that children raised in fatherless families from infancy experienced greater warmth and interaction with their mother, and were more securely attached to her, although they perceived themselves to be less cognitively and physically competent than their peers from father-present families. No differences were identified between families headed by lesbian and single heterosexual mothers, except for greater mother-child interaction in lesbian mother families.
Gottman, J. S. (1989). Children of gay and lesbian parents. Marriage & Family Review, 14(3-4), 177-196.
The purpose of this chapter is to review research literature concerning children of gay and lesbian parents. The review includes studies that compared children of lesbian mothers to children of heterosexual mothers on gender identity, gender role, sexual orientation, and varying aspects of psychological health and adjustment. Experiences and perceptions of children of gay fathers are also reviewed. The author’s study found that adult-aged daughters of lesbian mothers did not significantly differ from adult daughters of heterosexual mothers on gender identity, gender role, sexual orientation, and social adjustment. Clinical and legal implications were drawn, and suggestions for future research were made.
Green, Mandel, Hotvedt, Gray, & Smith, 1986
Green, R., Mandel, J. B., Hotvedt, M. E., Gray, J., & Smith, L. (1986). Lesbian mothers and their children: a comparison with solo parent heterosexual mothers and their children. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 15(2), 167-184.
Two types of single-parent households and their effects on children ages 3-11 years were compared. One type comprised 50 homosexual mothers and their 56 children, and the other was a group of 40 heterosexual mothers and their 48 children. There were 30 daughters and 26 sons of homosexual mothers and 28 daughters and 20 sons of heterosexual mothers. The sexual identity and social relationships of the children were assessed in relation to the sexual orientation of the mothers. The samples consisted of families from rural and urban areas in 10 American states. All have lived without adult males (18 years or older) in the household for a minimum of 2 years (average 4). Families with heterosexual mothers were matched to families with homosexual mothers on age and race of mother; length of mother and child separation from father; educational level and income of mother; and number, age, and sex of children. Data are reported from childrens’ tests designed to provide information on general intelligence, core-morphologic sexual identity, gender-role preferences, family and peer group relationships, and adjustment to the single-parent family. No significant differences were found between the two types of households for boys and few significant differences for girls. Concerns that being raised by a homosexual mother might produce sexual identity conflict and peer group stigmatization were not supported by the research findings. Data also revealed more similarities than differences in parenting experiences, marital history, and present living situations of the two groups of mothers. The postulated compromised parental fitness of lesbian mothers, commonly asserted in child custody cases, is not supported by these data.
Harris and Turner, 1986
Harris, M., & Turner, P. (1986). Gay and lesbian parents. Journal of Homosexuality, 12(2), 101-13.
An anonymous survey of 23 gay and lesbian parents and 16 heterosexual single parents was conducted in order to see whether the parents’ homosexuality created special problems or benefits or both, for their children. Both sets of parents reported relatively few serious problems and generally positive relationships with their children, with only a minority encouraging sex-typed toys, activities, and playmates. Heterosexual parents made a greater effort to provide an opposite-sex role model for their children, but no other differences in their parenting behaviors were found. Gay and lesbian parents saw a number of benefits and relatively few problems for their children as a result of their homosexuality, with lesbians perceiving greater benefits than gay men. Conversely, the gay males reported greater satisfaction with their first child, fewer disagreements with their partners over discipline, and a greater tendency to encourage play with sex-typed toys than did the lesbians. The findings suggest that being homosexual is clearly compatible with effective parenting and is not a major issue in parents’ relationships with their children.
Hoeffer, B. (1981). Children’s acquisition of sex-role behavior in lesbian-mother families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51 (3), 536–544.
Children’s play and activity interests as indices of sex-role behavior were compared for a sample of lesbian and heterosexual single mothers and their children. More striking than any differences were the similarities between the two groups of children on acquisition of sex-role behavior and between the two groups of mothers on encouragement of sex-role behavior.
Huggins, S. (1989). A comparative study of self-esteem of adolescent children of divorced lesbian mothers and divorced heterosexual mothers. Journal of Homosexuality, 18(1-2), 123-135.
Thirty-six adolescent children, ages 13 to 19 years, divided equally into two groups according to their mother’s sexual object choice and within group by sex, were compared to determine if there were any significant differences in the self-esteem of these two populations. Findings of the analysis of the self-esteem scores indicated there was no significant statistical differences in the self-esteem scores between adolescents with divorced lesbian mothers and adolescents with divorced heterosexual mothers.
Kirkpatrick, Smith, & Roy, 1981
Kirkpatrick, M., Smith, C., & Roy, R. (1981). Lesbian mothers and their children: a comparative survey. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51(3), 545-551.
Forty children ages five to 12, divided equally into groups according to their mothers’ sexual object choice and within group by sex, were assessed by a research team. Gender development of the children was not identifiably different in the two groups. Prevalence of disturbance among the children was not found to be a function of the mother’s sexual object choice. Case material is used to illustrate the variety and complexity of the issues involved.
Lamb, M. E. (2012). Mothers, fathers, families, and circumstances: factors affecting children’s adjustment. Applied Developmental Science, 16(2), 98-111.
The burgeoning empirical literature exploring the factors accounting for individual differences in psychological adjustment is reviewed. Many studies have shown that adjustment is largely affected by differences in the quality of parenting and parent–child relationships, the quality of the relationships between the parents, and the richness of the economic and social resources available to the family; more recent research signals the importance of congenital differences as well. Dimensions of family structure— including such factors as divorce, single parenthood, and the parents’ sexual orientation—and biological relatedness between parents and children are of little or no predictive importance once the process variables are taken into account, because the same factors explain child adjustment regardless of family structure. These findings have important social and legal implications, especially in relation to decisions regarding foster care and adoption, as well as those concerning children’s well-being following family dissolution.
Lavner, Waterman, & Peplau, 2012
Lavner, J. A., Waterman, J., & Peplau, L. A. (2012). Can gay and lesbian parents promote healthy development in high-risk children adopted from foster care? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(4), 465-472.
Adoption is known to promote cognitive and emotional development in children from foster care, but policy debates remain regarding whether children adopted by gay and lesbian parents can achieve these positive outcomes. This study compared the cognitive development and behavior problems at 2, 12, and 24 months post placement of 82 high-risk children adopted from foster care in heterosexual and gay or lesbian households. On average, children in both household types showed significant gains in cognitive development and maintained similar levels of behavior problems over time, despite gay and lesbian parents raising children with higher levels of biological and environmental risks prior to adoptive placement. Results demonstrated that high-risk children show similar patterns of development over time in heterosexual and gay and lesbian adoptive households.
Leddy, Gartrell, & Bos, 2012
Leddy, A., Gartrell, N., & Bos, H. (2012). Growing up in a lesbian family: the life experiences of the adult daughters and sons of lesbian mothers. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 8(3), 243-257.
This qualitative study aims to explore the experience of being raised in a lesbian home from the perspective of the daughters and sons of lesbian families. Adult offspring of lesbian families participated in an online questionnaire that examined five themes: (1) positive aspects of being raised in a lesbian home, (2) opinions about discrimination towards lesbians in society, (3) reactions of peers towards their mothers’ lesbianism, (4) experiences with stigma due to their mothers’ lesbianism, and (5) the subsequent coping mechanisms employed. Findings indicate that offspring of lesbian families value an environment of acceptance and love fostered within their immediate family, as well as a strong sense of community among other lesbian families. Many individuals in this study expressed their belief that heterosexism is ingrained into the politics and social constructs of society as a whole. However, participants also noted their opinion that homophobic discrimination happens in varying degrees based on regional, religious, and cultural differences. Although participants received largely positive reactions from peers in regards to their mothers’ lesbianism, they also experienced stigma at some point in their lives due to their mothers’ lesbianism. A range of coping mechanisms were employed, including confrontation, secrecy, and seeking outside support.
Lewis, K. G. (1980). Children of lesbians: Their point of view. Social Work, 25(3), 198-203.
The author interviewed twenty one children-ranging in age from 9 to 26, from eight families-whose mothers were lesbians. The children spoke about the problems they experienced during their parents’ divorce and from the subsequent disclosure of their mother’s homosexuality. The author suggests areas for further research on lesbian mothers and their children.
Lick, Patterson, & Schmidt, 2013
Lick, D. J., Patterson, C. J., & Schmidt, K. M. (2013). Recalled social experiences and current psychological adjustment among adults reared by gay and lesbian parents. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 9(3), 230-253.
Children of gay and lesbian parents are a diverse group, but existing studies offer limited information about individual differences in their social experiences and subsequent psychological outcomes. In this study, 91 adults reared by gay and lesbian parents responded to measures of recalled social experiences as well as current depressive symptoms, positive and negative affect, and life satisfaction. Participants reported differing social experiences (e.g., stigma) as a function of their sex, family type, gay/lesbian parent’s sex, and age at which they learned that a parent was gay or lesbian. Despite such diverse experiences, participants reported no significant differences in long-term psychological adjustment. It could be the case that children of gay and lesbian parents learn to cope with difficult social experiences, leading to positive adjustment overall. Indeed, the current sample perceived their social experiences as becoming significantly more positive over the life course, with less stigma and more benefits related to their family situation during adulthood than during earlier developmental periods. Future studies of adaptive coping processes and longitudinal changes in social experiences among offspring of gay and lesbian parents are warranted.
MacCullum and Golombok, 2004
MacCallum, F., & Golombok, S. (2004). Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: a follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(8), 1407-1419.
Background: An increasing number of lesbian women and single heterosexual women are bringing up children with no male involvement. This study follows up to adolescence a sample of children raised in fatherless families from birth or early infancy.
Methods: Twenty-five lesbian mother families and 38 families headed by a single heterosexual mother were compared with 38 two-parent heterosexual families. The quality of parenting by the mother, and the social and emotional development of the child, were assessed using standardised interview and questionnaire measures administered to mothers, children and teachers.
Results: Children in fatherless families experienced more interaction with their mother, and perceived her as more available and dependable than their peers from father-present homes. However, there were no group differences in maternal warmth towards the children. Mothers raising their child without a father reported more severe disputes with their child than did mothers in father-present families. The children’s social and emotional development was not negatively affected by the absence of a father, although boys in father-absent families showed more feminine but no less masculine characteristics of gender role behaviour. No major differences in parenting or child development were identified between families headed by lesbian and single heterosexual mothers.
Conclusions: The presence or absence of a father in the home from the outset does appear to have some influence on adolescents’ relationships with their mothers. However, being without a resident father from infancy does not seem to have negative consequences for children. In addition, there is no evidence that the sexual orientation of the mother influences parent-child interaction or the socioemotional development of the child.
Miller, Jacobsen, & Bigner, 1981
Miller, J. A., Jacobsen, R. B., & Bigner, J. J. (1981). The child’s home environment for lesbian vs. heterosexual mothers: a neglected area of research. Journal of Homosexuality, 7(1), 49-56.
Much research on the lesbian experience has focused on assessing differences between lesbian and heterosexual adults. Less effort has been expended in analyzing the home environment of the child in a lesbian household. This study compares samples of lesbian and heterosexual mothers in terms of the home setting provided and the caregiver role vs-à-vis children. Results reveal a less affluent socioeconomic setting for the children of lesbian mothers. A strong child-development orientation was found among lesbian mothers, undermining the stereotype of lesbians as aloof from children.
Patterson, C. J. (1995). Families of the lesbian baby boom: parents’ division of labor and children’s adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 115-123.
This study assessed lesbian couples’ division of labor, their satisfaction with division of labor and with their relationships, and their children’s psychosocial adjustment. The 26 participating families were headed by lesbian couples, each of whom had at least 1 child between 4 and 9 years of age. Parents’ relationship satisfaction was generally high but was unrelated to measures of parental division of labor or of children’s adjustment. Although both parents reported sharing household tasks and decision making equally, biological mothers reported greater involvement in child care, and nonbiological mothers reported spending longer hours in paid employment. Parents were more satisfied and children were more well-adjusted when labor involved in child care was more evenly distributed between the parents.
Patterson, C. J. (2001). Families of the Lesbian baby boom: Maternal mental health and child adjustment. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 4(3), 91-107.
This article reports a study of maternal mental health, household composition, and children’s adjustment among 37 families in which 4- to 9-year-old children had been born to or adopted early in life by lesbian mothers. Results showed that maternal reports of both self-esteem and psychological symptoms were within the normal range. Consistent with findings for heterosexual parents and their children, assessments of children’s adjustment were significantly associated with measures of maternal mental health. These results underline the importance of maternal mental health as a predictor of children’s adjustment among lesbian as well as among heterosexual families.
Patterson, Hurt, & Mason, 1998
Patterson, C. J., Hurt, S., & Mason, C. D. (1998). Families of the lesbian baby boom: Children’s contact with grandparents and other adults. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68(3), 390-399.
In an exploratory study of 37 lesbian-mother families, the frequency of children’s contact with adults in their extended family and friendship networks was found to counter stereotypes of such children as isolated from parents’ families of origin. Children were more likely to have regular contact with relatives of the biological than nonbiological mother. Mothers rated those in regular contact with grandparents as having fewer behavior problems, and those in more regular contact with unrelated adults rated themselves more positively on general well-being.
Pawelski et al, 2006
Pawelski, J. G. et al (2006). The effects of marriage, civil union, and domestic partnerships laws on the health and well-being of children. Pediatrics, 118(1), 349 -364.
In 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Board of Directors commissioned the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, the Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, the Committee on Adolescence, the Committee on State Government Affairs, the Committee on Federal Government Affairs, and the Section on Adoption and Foster Care to develop an analysis examining the effects of marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership statutes and amendments on the legal, financial, and psychosocial health and well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian.
In developing this analysis, the involved committees and section held before them the AAP’s core philosophy—that the family is the principal caregiver and the center of strength and support for children. Together with this philosophy, contributors recognized the reality that our gay and lesbian patients grow up to be gay and lesbian adults. Because many pediatricians are fortunate to care for 2 or more generations of a family, we are likely to encounter and remain involved with our patients, regardless of sexual orientation, as they mature and mark the milestones of establishing a committed partnership with another adult, deciding to raise a family, and entrusting the health and well-being of their own children to us.
This analysis explores the unique and complex challenges that same-gender couples and their children face as a result of public policy that excludes them from civil marriage. In compiling this report it became clear to the contributing committees and section that the depth and breadth of these challenges are largely unknown to the general public and perhaps even to many pediatricians. As such, the AAP Board of Directors approved the broad dissemination of this analysis to assist pediatricians with addressing the complex issues related to same-gender couples and their children.
Perrin, E. C. (2002). Technical report: coparent or second-parent adoption by same-sex parents. Pediatrics, 109(2), 341-344.
A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.
Perry, Burston, Stevens, Golding, Steele, & Golombok, 2004
Perry, B., Burston, A., Stevens, M., Golding, J., Steele, H., & Golombok, S. (2004). Children’s play narratives: what they tell us about lesbian-mother families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(4), 467-479.
Play narratives can offer a unique insight into the child’s internal world. This study compared the play narratives of children in 38 lesbian-mother families; 73 two-parent, heterosexual-mother families; and 58 single-heterosexual-mother families recruited from a general population sample. Findings indicated positive mother—child relationships and well-adjusted children. Girls’ narratives showed more affection than boys’ and were more strongly associated with mothers’ interview measures, suggesting that girls’ play narratives reveal a more accurate picture of family relationships.
Potter, D. (2012).Same-sex parent families and children’s academic achievement. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74(3), 556–571.
Children in traditional families (i.e., married, 2 biological parents) tend to do better than their peers in nontraditional families. An exception to this pattern appears to be children from same-sex parent families. Children with lesbian mothers or gay fathers do not exhibit the poorer outcomes typically associated with nontraditional families. Studies of same-sex parent families, however, have relied on a static conceptualization of the family and discounted the importance of the timing and number of family transitions for understanding children’s outcomes. To examine whether same-sex parent families represent an exception among nontraditional families, the author used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study— Kindergarten cohort (N = 19,043) to create a dynamic indicator of children’s family structure and tested its association with math assessment scores. The results indicated that children in same-sex parent families scored lower than their peers in married, 2-biological parent households, but the difference was nonsignificant net of family transitions.
Rosenfeld, M. J. (2010).Nontraditional families and childhood progress through school. Demography, 47(3), 755-775.
I use U.S. census data to perform the first large-sample, nationally representative tests of outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples. The results show that children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures. Heterosexual married couples are the family type whose children have the lowest rates of grade retention, but the advantage of heterosexual married couples is mostly due to their higher socioeconomic status. Children of all family types (including children of same-sex couples) are far more likely to make normal progress through school than are children living in group quarters (such as orphanages and shelters).
Ryan, S. (2007). Parent-child interaction styles between gay and lesbian parents and their adopted children. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 3(2), 105-132.
While myths exist that call into question the parenting ability of gay and lesbian parents as well as the impact of such parenting on children in their care, there is an ever increasing body of literature that clearly demonstrates the capabilities of these parents with their birth children. However, there continues to be a dearth of research on gay and lesbian adoptive parents and their children. To address this deficiency in the literature, this article explores the parenting styles of gay and lesbian adoptive parents and strengths of their children between the ages of 5–9 years (N = 94), using scores from the Parent-as-a-Teacher Inventory and the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale. Results illustrate that the gay and lesbian adoptive parents in this sample fell into the desirable range of the parenting scale and their children have strength levels equal to or exceeding the scale norms. Finally, various aspects of parenting style significantly predicted the adoptive parents’ view of their child’s level of care difficulty which subsequently predicted the type and level of strengths assessed within their adopted child. Recommendations for practice, policy and future research are highlighted.
Shechner, Slone, Lobel, & Schecter, 2013
Shechner, T., Slone, M., Lobel, T., & Schecter, R. (2013). Children’s adjustment in non-traditional families in Israel: the effect of parental sexual orientation and the number of parents on children’s development. Child: Care, Health, & Development, 39(2), 178-184.
Objectives: This study examined differences in children’s psychological and social indicators in non-traditional families in Israel, focusing on fatherless families headed by lesbian mothers and single mothers by choice. Although Israel is considered an industrialized westernized country, centrality of the traditional nuclear family predominates this country.
Methods: This factorial design study included four family types: lesbian and heterosexual mothers, each in both single and coupled parenthood. Children’s measures included the Child Behavior Checklist, perception of peer relations and perceived self-competence.
Results: Children from single parent as opposed to two-parent families exhibited more externalizing behaviour problems and aggressiveness. Children of lesbian mothers reported more prosocial behaviours and less loneliness than children from heterosexual families. No differences emerged for perceived self-competence across family types.
Conclusion: Mother’s sexual orientation did not affect children’s adjustment negatively, whereas single parenthood placed children at greater risk for some difficulties. Implications include the need for apprising health professionals of effects of family types on children’s development.
Stacey and Biblarz, 2001
Stacey, J., & Biblarz, T. J. (2001). (How) does the sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 66(2), 159-183.
Opponents of lesbian and gay parental rights claim that children with lesbigay parents are at higher risk for a variety of negative outcomes. Yet most research in psychology concludes that there are no differences in developmental outcomes between children raised by lesbigay parents and those raised by heterosexual parents. The analysis here challenges this defensive conceptual framework and analyzes how heterosexism has hampered intellectual progress in the field. The authors discuss limitations in the definitions, samples, and analyses of the studies to date. Next they explore findings from 21 studies and demonstrate that researchers frequently downplay findings indicating difference regarding children’s gender and sexual preferences and behavior that could stimulate important theoretical questions. A less defensive, more sociologically informed analytic framework is proposed for investigating these issues. The framework focuses on (1) whether selection effects produced by homophobia account for associations between parental sexual orientations and child outcomes; (2) the role of parental gender vis-a-vis sexual orientation in influencing children’s gender development; and (3) the relationship between parental sexual orientations and children’s sexual preferences and behaviors.
Tasker, F. (2005). Lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children: a review. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 26(3), 224-40.
There is a variety of families headed by a lesbian or gay male parent or same-sex couple. Findings from research suggest that children with lesbian or gay parents are comparable with children with heterosexual parents on key psychosocial developmental outcomes. In many ways, children of lesbian or gay parents have similar experiences of family life compared with children in heterosexual families. Some special considerations apply to the context of lesbian and gay parenting: variation in family forms, children’s awareness of lesbian and gay relationships, heterosexism, and homophobia. These issues have important implications for managing clinical work with children of lesbian mothers or gay fathers.
Tasker and Golombok, 1995
Tasker, F., & Golombok, S. (1995). Adults raised as children in lesbian families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 65(2), 203-215.
A longitudinal study of 25 young adults from lesbian families and 21 raised by heterosexual single mothers revealed that those raised by lesbian mothers functioned well in adulthood in terms of psychological well-being and of family identity and relationships. The commonly held assumption that lesbian mothers will have lesbian daughters and gay sons was not supported by the findings.
van Gelderen, Bos, Gartrell, Hermanns, & Perrin, 2012
van Gelderen, L., Bos, H. M. W., Gartrell, N., & Hermanns, J., Perrin, E. C. (2012). Quality of life of adolescents raised from birth by lesbian mothers: the us national longitudinal family study. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 33(1), 17-23.
Objective: To compare the quality of life (QoL), a measure of psychological well-being, of adolescents reared in lesbian-mother families with that of a matched comparison group of adolescents with heterosexual parents. The adolescents in the comparison group were derived from a representative sample of adolescents in Washington state. The second aim of the study was to assess among teens with lesbian mothers whether donor status, maternal relationship continuity, and self-reported stigmatization are associated with QoL.
Methods: In 1986, prospective lesbian mothers were recruited in Boston, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. Currently, 93% of the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) families are still participating in the study. This report is based on an online questionnaire completed by 78 NLLFS adolescent offspring-39 girls and 39 boys. Six items of the Youth Quality of Life Instrument were used to assess QoL. Also, the NLLFS adolescents were asked whether they had experienced stigmatization, and if so, to describe these experiences (e.g., teasing and ridicule). Mothers were queried about donor status and maternal relationship continuity.
Results: The results revealed that the NLLFS adolescents rated their QoL comparably to their counterparts in heterosexual-parent families. Donor status, maternal relationship continuity, and experienced stigmatization were not related to QoL
Conclusions: Adolescent offspring in planned lesbian families do not show differences in QoL when compared with a matched group of adolescents reared in heterosexual families. By investigating QoL, this study provides insight into positive aspects of mental health of adolescents with lesbian mothers.
van Gelderen, Gartrell, Bos, & Hermanns, 2013
van Gelderen, L., Gartrell, N. N., Bos, H. M. W., & Hermanns, J. M. A. (2013). Stigmatization and promotive factors in relation to psychological health and life satisfaction of adolescents in planned lesbian families. Journal of Family Issues, 34(6), 809-827.
The aim of this study was to investigate whether stigmatization was associated with psychological adjustment in adolescents from planned lesbian families and, if so, to examine whether individual and interpersonal promotive factors influenced this association. Seventy-eight adolescents (39 girls, 39 boys; mean age = 17.05 years) completed an online questionnaire about psychological health problems and life satisfaction. In addition, information was obtained about androgynous personality traits (an individual factor) of the adolescents. The adolescents were also queried about family compatibility and peer group fit (two interpersonal factors). Hierarchical multiple-regression analyses revealed that stigmatization was associated with more psychological health problems and less life satisfaction, but family compatibility and peer group fit ameliorated this. These findings suggest that stigmatization has a negative impact on the psychological adjustment of adolescents with same-sex parents. Interpersonal promotive factors decrease the strength of this association.
van Rijn-van Gelderen, Bos, & Gartrell, 2015
van Rijn-van Gelderen, L., Bos, H. M. W., & Gartrell, N. (2015) Dutch adolescents from lesbian-parent families: how do they compare to peers with heterosexual parents and what is the impact of homophobic stigmatization? Journal of Adolescence, 40, 65-73.
In this study, we compared internalizing and externalizing problem behavior of 67 Dutch
adolescents (Mage ¼ 16.04) in planned lesbian families who were matched with 67 adolescents
in heterosexual-parent families. We also examined whether homophobic stigmatization
was associated with problem behavior in adolescents with lesbian mothers
after taking into account demographic characteristics, mothers’ scores on emotional
involvement, and adolescents’ earlier problem behavior (measured at age 4e8 years old).
Standardized instruments measuring problem behavior were completed by parents and
adolescent offspring, and questions about stigmatization were answered by adolescents
with lesbian mothers. The results revealed no differences in internalizing and externalizing
problem behavior associated with family type. Offspring in lesbian families who reported
more experiences of homophobic stigmatization also demonstrated more internalizing
and externalizing problem behavior.
Vanfraussen, Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, & Brewaeys, 2002
Vanfraussen, K., Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, I., & Brewaeys, A. (2002). What does it mean for youngsters to grow up in a lesbian family created by means of donor insemination? Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 20(4), 237-252.
In many countries fertility services still refuse to inseminate lesbian couples because they believe the child’s welfare would be at stake. One of their concerns is that these children will be stigmatized because of their non-traditional family structure. In this follow-up study, we interviewed children from lesbian donor insemination (DI) families about how they present their ‘non-traditional’ family to people in their immediate social environment. We also explored whether or not children were teased or harassed about their lesbian family and whether or not coping with a non-traditional family constellation was reflected in their psychological well-being. According to this study, almost all children from lesbian DI families share the fact that they live in a two-mother unit spontaneously with close friends who react positively. Others are only informed about the non-traditional family structure when they ask questions about it. From the children’s answers, we can conclude that for some peers it is hard to understand that someone can have two mothers without having a father somewhere. Compared with children from heterosexual families, these DI children are not more likely to be teased but they are more prone to family-related teasing incidents. However, introducing their non-traditional family into their peer group does not seem to interfere with their psychological well-being. Nonetheless, teachers indicate that children from lesbian families experience more attention problems compared with children from heterosexual households.
Vanfraussen, Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, & Brewaeys, 2003
Vanfraussen, K., Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, I., & Brewaeys, A. (2003). Family functioning in lesbian families created by donor insemination. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 73(1), 78-90.
The quantitative and qualitative data of this study on family functioning in lesbian donor insemination families reveal that according to both parents and children, the quality of children’s relationship with the social mother is comparable to that with the biological mother. Unlike fathers in heterosexual families, the lesbian social mother is as much involved in child activities as is the biological mother. Furthermore, the lesbian social mother has as much authority as does the father in heterosexual families.
Wainright and Patterson, 2006
Wainright, J. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2006).Delinquency, victimization, and substance use among adolescents with female same-sex parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(3), 526-530.
The question of whether parental sexual orientation has an impact on human development has important implications for psychological theories and for legal policy. This study examined associations among family type (same-sex vs. different-sex parents), family and relationship variables, substance use, delinquency, and victimization of adolescents. Participants included 44 adolescents living with female same-sex couples and 44 adolescents living with different-sex couples, matched on demographic characteristics and drawn from a national sample. Analyses indicated that adolescents were functioning well and that their adjustment was not associated with family type. Adolescents whose parents described closer relationships with them reported less delinquent behavior and substance use, suggesting that the quality of parent-adolescent relationships better predicts adolescent outcomes than does family type.
Wainright and Patterson, 2008
Wainright, J. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2008). Peer relations among adolescents with female same-sex parents. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 117-126.
This study examined associations among family type (same-sex vs. opposite-sex parents), adolescent gender, family and relationship variables, and the peer relations of adolescents. Participants included 44 adolescents parented by same-sex female couples and 44 adolescents parented by opposite-sex couples, matched on demographic characteristics and drawn from a national sample. On both self-reported and peer-reported measures of relations with peers, adolescents were functioning well, and the quality of their peer relations was not associated with family type. Regardless of family type, adolescents whose parents described closer relationships with them reported higher quality peer relations and more friends in school and were rated as more central in their friendship networks.
Wainright, Russell, & Patterson, 2004
Wainright, J. L., Russell, S. T., & Patterson, C. J. (2004). Psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships of adolescents with same-sex parents. Child Development, 75(6), 1886-1898.
This study examined associations among family type (same-sex vs. opposite-sex parents); family and relationship variables; and the psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic attractions and behaviors of adolescents. Participants included 44 12- to 18-year-old adolescents parented by same-sex couples and 44 same-aged adolescents parented by opposite-sex couples, matched on demographic characteristics and drawn from a national sample. Normative analyses indicated that, on measures of psychosocial adjustment and school outcomes, adolescents were functioning well, and their adjustment was not generally associated with family type. Assessments of romantic relationships and sexual behavior were not associated with family type. Regardless of family type, adolescents whose parents described closer relationships with them reported better school adjustment.
Below are 4 studies concluding that children of gay or lesbian parents face added disadvantages compared with others. Click here to jump to studies concluding that children of gay or lesbian parents fare no worse than other children.
Allen, D. W. (2013). High school graduation rates among children of same-sex households. Review of Economics of the Household, 11(4), 635-658.
Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20 % sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.
Regnerus, M. (2012). How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Science Research, 41(4), 752-770.
The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is a social-science data-collection project that fielded a survey to a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18–39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements. In this debut article of the NFSS, I compare how the young-adult children of a parent who has had a same-sex romantic relationship fare on 40 different social, emotional, and relational outcome variables when compared with six other family-of-origin types. The results reveal numerous, consistent differences, especially between the children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents. The results are typically robust in multivariate contexts as well, suggesting far greater diversity in lesbian-parent household experiences than convenience-sample studies of lesbian families have revealed. The NFSS proves to be an illuminating, versatile dataset that can assist family scholars in understanding the long reach of family structure and transitions.
* Note: This study was rebuked in a letter signed by 200 social scientists claiming flawed methodologies, and the publishing journal performed an audit that sharply criticized the peer-review process in accepting the study for publication.
Sarantakos, S. (1996). Children in three contexts: Family, education and social development. Children Australia, 21(3), 23-31.
This paper explores the relationship between family environment and behavior of primary school children living in three family contexts. It uses data from studies including children of married heterosexual couples, cohabiting heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, and examines the extent to which these children differ with regard to scholastic achievement and aspects of social development. It shows that in the majority of cases, the most successful are children of married couples, followed by children of cohabiting couples and finally by children of homosexual couples.
Sullins, D. P. (2015). Emotional problems among children with same-sex parents: difference by definition. British Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, (forthcoming).
Aims: To test whether small non-random sample findings that children with same-sex parents suffer no disadvantage in emotional well-being can be replicated in a large population sample; and examine the correlates of any differences discovered. Methodology: Using a representative sample of 207,007 children, including 512 with same-sex parents, from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, prevalence in the two groups was compared for twelve measures of emotional problems, developmental problems, and affiliated service and treatment usage, with controls for age, sex, and race of child and parent education and income. Instruments included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Kessler Scale of Psychological Distress (SPD). Bivariate logistic regression models tested the effect of parent psychological distress, family instability, child peer stigmatization and biological parentage, both overall and by opposite- sex family structure.
Results: Emotional problems were over twice as prevalent (minimum risk ratio (RR) 2.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.7-3.0) for children with same-sex parents than for children with opposite-sex parents. Risk was elevated in the presence of parent psychological distress (RR 2.7, CI 1.8-4.3, p (t) < .001), moderated by family instability (RR 1.3, CI 1.2- 1.4) and unaffected by stigmatization (RR 2.4, CI 1.4-4.2), though these all had significant direct effects on emotional problems. However, biological parentage nullified risk alone and in combination with any iteration of factors. Joint biological parents are associated with the lowest rate of child emotional problems by a factor of 4 relative to same-sex parents, accounting for the bulk of the overall same-sex/opposite-sex difference.
Conclusion: Joint biological parentage, the modal condition for opposite-sex parents but not possible for same-sex parents, sharply differentiates between the two groups on child emotional problem outcomes. The two groups are different by definition. Intact opposite- sex marriage ensures children of the persistent presence of their joint biological parents; same-sex marriage ensures the opposite. However, further work is needed to determine the mechanisms involved.