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What do we know about the effects of same-sex parenting?


In addition, whereas early study samples consisted mainly of children originally born into heterosexual relationships that subsequently dissolved when one parent came out as gay or lesbian, recent samples are more likely to include children conceived within a same-sex relationship or adopted in infancy by a same-sex couple.

Thus, they are less likely to confound the effects of having a sexual minority parent with the consequences of divorce. A review of the literature identified 20 studies examining outcomes among children raised by gay or lesbian parents and found that these children did not systematically differ from those raised by heterosexual parents on any of the studied outcomes.

In a affidavit filed in the case Gill v. The methodologies used in the major studies of same-sex parenting meet the standards for research in the field of developmental psychology and psychology generally. The studies specific to same-sex parenting were published in leading journals in the field of child and adolescent development, such as Child Development, published by the Society for Research in Child Development, Developmental Psychology , published by the American Psychological Association, and The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the flagship peer-review journals in the field of child development.

Most of the studies appeared in these or similar rigorously peer-reviewed and highly selective journals, whose standards represent expert consensus on generally accepted social scientific standards for research on child and adolescent development. Prior to publication in these journals, these studies were required to go through a rigorous peer-review process, and as a result, they constitute the type of research that members of the respective professions consider reliable.

The body of research on same-sex families is consistent with standards in the relevant fields and produces reliable conclusions. Gartrell and Bos's year longitudinal study, published , was limited to mothers who sought donor insemination and who may have been more motivated than mothers in other circumstances. Rosenfeld, associate professor of sociology at Stanford University , wrote in a study published in Demography that "[A] critique of the literature—that the sample sizes of the studies are too small to allow for statistically powerful tests—continues to be relevant.

Data on children of parents who identify as bisexual are still not available, and information about children of non-White lesbian or gay parents is hard to find but see Wainright et al. However, the existing data are still limited, and any conclusions must be seen as tentative It should be acknowledged that research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, though no longer new, is still limited in extent. Although studies of gay fathers and their children have been conducted Patterson, , less is known about children of gay fathers than about children of lesbian mothers.

Although studies of adolescent and young adult offspring of lesbian and gay parents are available e. Relatively few studies have directly examined gay fathers, but those that exist find that gay men are similarly fit and able parents, as compared to heterosexual men. Available empirical data do not provide a basis for assuming gay men are unsuited for parenthood.

If gay parents were inherently unfit, even small studies with convenience samples would readily detect it. This has not been the case. Being raised by a single father does not appear to inherently disadvantage children's psychological wellbeing more than being raised by a single mother.

Homosexuality does not constitute a pathology or deficit, and there is no theoretical reason to expect gay fathers to cause harm to their children. Thus, although more research is needed, available data place the burden of empirical proof on those who argue that having a gay father is harmful. Scientific research that has directly compared outcomes for children with gay and lesbian parents with outcomes for children with heterosexual parents has found that children raised by same-sex couples are as physically or psychologically healthy, capable, and successful as those raised by opposite-sex couples, [8] [9] [10] despite the reality that considerable legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families.

Since the s, it has become increasingly clear that it is family processes such as the quality of parenting, the psychosocial well-being of parents, the quality of and satisfaction with relationships within the family, and the level of co-operation and harmony between parents that contribute to determining children's well-being and outcomes rather than family structures, per se, such as the number, gender, sexuality and cohabitation status of parents.

According to sociologist Judith Stacey of New York University , "Rarely is there as much consensus in any area of social science as in the case of gay parenting, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and all of the major professional organizations with expertise in child welfare have issued reports and resolutions in support of gay and lesbian parental rights".

Herek stated in American Psychologist: This pattern clearly has not been observed. Given the consistent failures in this research literature to disprove the null hypothesis , the burden of empirical proof is on those who argue that the children of sexual minority parents fare worse than the children of heterosexual parents. Studies and analyses include Bridget Fitzgerald's analysis of the research on gay and lesbian parenting, published in Marriage and Family Review , which found that the available studies generally concluded that "the sexual orientation of parents is not an effective or important predictor of successful childhood development" [39] and Gregory M.

Herek 's analysis in American Psychologist , which said: Empirical studies comparing children raised by sexual minority parents with those raised by otherwise comparable heterosexual parents have not found reliable disparities in mental health or social adjustment. Differences have not been found in parenting ability between lesbian mothers and heterosexual mothers. Studies examining gay fathers are fewer in number but do not show that gay men are any less fit or able as parents than heterosexual men.

In June , the results of a year ongoing longitudinal study by Nanette Gartrell of the University of California and Henny Bos of the University of Amsterdam were released. Gartrell and Bos studied 78 children conceived through donor insemination and raised by lesbian mothers. Mothers were interviewed and given clinical questionnaires during pregnancy and when their children were 2, 5, 10, and 17 years of age.

In the abstract of the report, the authors stated: Analysis of extensive social science literature into the question of children's psychological outcomes of being raised by same-sex parents by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in concluded that "there is now strong evidence that same-sex parented families constitute supportive environments in which to raise children" and that with regard to lesbian parenting " A number of studies have examined whether the children of lesbian and gay parents are themselves more likely to identify as lesbian and gay.

In a review of 21 studies, Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz found that researchers frequently downplay findings indicating difference regarding children's gender, sexual preferences and behavior, suggesting that an environment of heterosexism has hampered scientific inquiry in the area.

Their findings indicate that the children with lesbian or gay parents appear less traditionally gender-typed and are more likely to be open to homoerotic relationships, which may be partly due to genetic or family socialization processes or "contextual effects," even though children raised by same-sex couples are not more likely to self-identify as bisexual, lesbian, or gay and most of them identify as heterosexual.

A review by Charlotte J. Patterson for the American Psychological Association found that the available data did not suggest higher rates of homosexuality among the children of lesbian or gay parents. In a review comparing single-father families with other family types, Stacey and Biblarz state, "We know very little yet about how parents influence the development of their children's sexual identities or how these intersect with gender.

Children of LGBT parents do not have any differences in their gender role behaviors in comparison to those observed in heterosexual family structures. Children may struggle with negative attitudes about their parents from the harassment they may encounter by living in society. Stephen Hicks, a reader in health and social care at the University of Salford [69] questions the value of trying to establish that lesbian or gay parents are defective or suitable.

He argues such positions are flawed because they are informed by ideologies that either oppose or support such families. Instead of asking whether gay parenting is bad for kids, I think we should ask how contemporary discourses of sexuality maintain the very idea that lesbian and gay families are essentially different and, indeed, deficient.

But, in order to ask this, I think that we need a wider range of research into lesbian and gay parenting More work of this sort will help us to ask more complex questions about forms of parenting that continue to offer some novel and challenging approaches to family life. In a statement the Canadian Psychological Association released an updated statement on their and conclusions, saying, "The CPA recognizes and appreciates that persons and institutions are entitled to their opinions and positions on this issue.

However, CPA is concerned that some persons and institutions are mis-interpreting the findings of psychological research to support their positions, when their positions are more accurately based on other systems of belief or values. Brown , in which Judge Vaughn Walker found that the available studies on stepchildren, which opponents of same-sex marriage cited to support their position that it is best for a child to be raised by its biological mother and father, do not isolate "the genetic relationship between a parent and a child as a variable to be tested" and only compare "children raised by married, biological parents with children raised by single parents, unmarried mothers, step families and cohabiting parents," and thus "compare various family structures and do not emphasize biology.

Herek noted in that "empirical research can't reconcile disputes about core values, but it is very good at addressing questions of fact.

Policy debates will be impoverished if this important source of knowledge is simply dismissed as a 'he said, she said' squabble. Same-sex parenting is often raised as an issue in debates about the recognition of same-sex marriage by law. Communication competence in long-term relationships. The case against restricting gay parenting, New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation.

Medical Journal of Australia A mixed methods study. Care, Health, and Development 41 3: BMC Public Health 14 Same-sex parented families in Australia. Australian Institute of Family Studies. Journal of Homosexuality 40 2: Opportunities to improve identification, treatment, and prevention, Washington, DC: Children and Youth Services Review A long term outcome analysis. Journal of Family Social Work 9: Counseling lesbian couples choosing motherhood.

Longitudinal outcomes for children adopted by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology A meta-analytic approach in assessing outcomes. A differential effect for children with same-sex coupled parents?

Marriage and Family Review Judicial assumptions, scientific realities. A comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children. Google Scholar , Medline.

Science and Practice 2: Associations with parental sexual orientation, attitudes, and division of labor. Strategies of familial-linguistic management in lesbian parent families. Journal of Lesbian Studies 3: Interviews with mothers of five-year-olds. Psychological characteristics of year-old adolescents. Sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and sexual risk exposure.

Archives of Sexual Behavior Interviews with Prospective Mothers. Interviews with mothers of year-olds. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates , pp. Journal of Adolescent Health A systemic, life-cycle perspective. Research on the family life cycle, Washington, DC: Perspectives of young adults with LGB parents.

Reflections on the volume and visions for the future. National longitudinal lesbian family study. Journal of Health Psychology Adopted children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. Journal of Counseling Psychology The perspectives of adolescents and emerging adults with lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice 2: Challenges and experiences of heterosexual and same-sex couples adopting through the child welfare system.

Perspectives of lesbian and gay parents in Florida. Lesbian couples across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships Parents and children in new family forms, Cambridge, England: A follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers, at early adulthood.

A follow-up at age twelve. Psychosexual and psychiatric appraisal. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families. Family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers. What the behavioral sciences know about sexual orientation and why it matters. Mental disorders of the new millennium: Biology and function, Westport, CT: Journal of Genetic Psychology Same-sex spouses marrying tradition and innovation.

Canadian Journal of Sociology A handbook for therapists, New York, NY: Exploring gender fluid parenting practices, Bradford, Canada: Different factors contribute to self-esteem. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior Women with a history of child abuse resolving to raise their children without abuse.

Harvard Educational Review The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of family studies. Depriving children of families. Arkansas Law Review American Journal of Public Health Annals of Behavioral Medicine Family relationships and adolescent behavior: A look at families headed by heterosexual, lesbian, and gay parents Unpublished doctoral dissertation.

Maternal attitudes and their influence on the creativity level of preschool children. Lesbian mothers negotiating incompletely institutionalized family relationships. Stories of becoming, New York, NY: A social science perspective. A tale of three studies. University of California-Davis Law Review Annual Review of Psychology Sexuality Research and Social Policy 7: The influence of doctrine, statute, and societal factors in the United States.

Harrington Park , pp. Child Psychiatry and Human Development Long term lesbian couples, Tallahassee, FL: The importance of rigorous methods. A study of a representative population sample from Quebec Province Canada. A review of theory, methods, and research. Evidence from Afghanistan and Iraq. Families in Society American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 51 3: A study comparing children raised by lesbian parents to children raised by heterosexual parents. Science and Engineering 59 Longitudinal evidence from heterosexual married, gay cohabiting, and lesbian cohabiting couples.

Current Directions in Psychological Science Perspectives on Psychological Science 4: Extradyadic sex and gay male couples. American Journal of Ortho-Psychiatry Journal of Adolescent Health 1: Revisiting the Becker-Landes-Michael hypothesis.

Journal of Population Economics Implications of familial supports and child characteristics. Sexuality Research and Social Policy 9: Examining the role of narratives in same-sex adoption cases. Columbia Law Review Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers , pp. Same-gendered families in South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology Religion and the parent-child relationship. The Counseling Psychologist A follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence.

The surprising payoff of trial-and-error for business, politics, and society, New York, NY: Journal of Lesbian Studies 7: Journal of Interpersonal Violence Validity of the Marital Satisfaction Inventory-Revised with gay, lesbian, and cohabiting heterosexual couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Sleep deprivation, low self-control, and delinquency: A test of the strength model of self-control. Journal of Youth and Adolescence , 44 , — Sexualities and identities of minority women, New York, NY: Claiming a place at the family table: Gay and lesbian families in the 21st century.

Goldberg, Lesbian and gay parents and their children: Research on the family life cycle. Part of that could be their own preferences, and part could be because of discrimination by adoption agencies that puts more difficult children with what caseworkers see as "less desirable" parents.

No matter how you slice it, Brodzinsky told LiveScience, gays and lesbians are highly interested in adoption as a group. The report by the Urban Institute also found that more than half of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians in the U. That adds up to an estimated 2 million gay people who are interested in adoption.

It's a huge reservoir of potential parents who could get kids out of the instability of the foster system, Brodzinsky said. In addition, Brodzinsky said, there's evidence to suggest that gays and lesbians are especially accepting of open adoptions, where the child retains some contact with his or her birth parents. And the statistics bear out that birth parents often have no problem with their kids being raised by same-sex couples , he added. Research has shown that the kids of same-sex couples — both adopted and biological kids — fare no worse than the kids of straight couples on mental health, social functioning, school performance and a variety of other life-success measures.

In a review of virtually every study on gay parenting, New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian parents.

There is very little research on the children of gay men, so Stacey and Biblarz couldn't draw conclusions on those families.

But Stacey suspects that gay men "will be the best parents on average," she said. That's a speculation, she said, but if lesbian parents have to really plan to have a child, it's even harder for gay men. Those who decide to do it are thus likely to be extremely committed, Stacey said. Gay men may also experience fewer parenting conflicts, she added.

Most lesbians use donor sperm to have a child, so one mother is biological and the other is not, which could create conflict because one mother may feel closer to the kid. The bottom line, Stacey said, is that people who say children need both a father and a mother in the home are misrepresenting the research, most of which compares children of single parents to children of married couples.

Two good parents are better than one good parent, Stacey said, but one good parent is better than two bad parents. And gender seems to make no difference. While you do find broad differences between how men and women parent on average, she said, there is much more diversity within the genders than between them.

In fact, the only consistent places you find differences between how kids of gay parents and kids of straight parents turn out are in issues of tolerance and open-mindedness, according to Goldberg.


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Loren Marks, “Same-Sex Parenting and Children’s Outcomes: A Closer Examination of the American Psychological Association’s Brief on Lesbian and Gay Parenting,” Social Science Research, Vol.

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"Lesbian and Gay Parenting" is the successor to "Lesbian and Gay Parenting: A Resource for Psychologists" (). It is divided into three parts. Part I is a summary of research findings on lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children written by Charlotte J. Patterson, PhD.

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Holtzman () stated that “research consistently finds that parenting among lesbians and gay men is associated with secure attachments, relationship satisfaction, and normal development for both adults and children” (p. ). For an overall exploration of the challenges and potential lines of criticism in this field, see “Gay & Lesbian Parenting,” a review of the research literature by the American Psychological Association.

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Feb 12,  · The new research is timely, because the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage this spring, and last time it looked at this issue, in , questions arose about the impact of. The problems don't stop there. A chunk of the gay-parenting literature dates to the s, when researchers drew mostly on children born in heterosexual marriages that dissolved before or after a.