Same-sex and different-sex parenting: quality matters

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A study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics  says there’s no difference in how kids turn out whether their parents are same-sex or different-sex.  The author says the research shows it is the quality of relationships between couples that affects children more than the sexual orientation of their parents. Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Children’s Health and compared child health outcomes between female same-sex couples and different-sex households. Because the study focused on family stability and child outcome, only continuously coupled families were considered in the research.  While same-sex parents reported more stress than different-sex parents, there were no differences in a host of other areas. The researchers looked at general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior or learning behaviors in the children being raised in the two types of households. The conclusion:  there was no difference in kids’ outcome no matter which of the two types of household they grew up in. And typically children with closer ties to a parent, regardless of sexual orientation, performed better in school.

The combined research efforts from the University of Amsterdam, Columbia University of New York and the UCLA School of found the outcomes for children ages 6-17 years old in the study were instead more associated with the quality of parent-child and spouse-partner relationships and the amount of overall parenting stress in the household.  The paper focused on lesbian couples because comparative data goes back much further.  “The phenomenon know as the ‘lesbian baby boom’ began in the 1980s when sperm banks first opened their doors to lesbians,” says author Henry M. W. Bos, Phd. “As same-sex parent adoptions became legalized, increasing number gay men became fathers resulting in the gay baby boom. Since the lesbian baby boom preceded the gay baby boom by nearly 2 decades, female same-sex parent families have been studied most extensively.”

The author says earlier studies relied on convenience samples and fertility clinic recruitment.  This study looked at the more than 95,000 households through the National Survey of Children’s Health telephone survey conducted in 2011-12. The paper says there are an estimated 690,000 same-sex couples living in the United States and that 19% of such couples as well as lesbian/gay/bisexual individuals are raising children under the age of 18. The author of the study says future studies may reveal the sources of parenting stress in same-sex couples.