A new study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics finds that the kids really are all right. Despite the ongoing cultural debate around same-sex parenting, the new study finds the children of same-sex parents are just as healthy emotionally and physically as the children of different-sex parents.
An apples to apples comparison
Dr. Nanette Gartrell, one of the study’s authors, said the aim was to do a real population-based, apples to apples comparison. “It is the only study to compare same-sex and different-sex parent households with stable, continuously coupled parents and their biological offspring,” said Gartrell. This study tried to compensate for the shortcomings of previous studies, which recruited same-sex parent families and could thus establish a certain selection bias. “It’s been a goal of ours to do a nationally representative survey in which we could do this very carefully matched study,” she said
Using the National Survey of Children’s Health on emotional and physical well being, Gartrell and her colleagues matched 95 same-sex female parent households to 95 different-sex parent based on the following characteristics:
Parents’ age Parents’ level of education Whether parents were born in the United States Family residence (urban or rural) Child’s age Child’s race Child’s gender Whether the child was born in the United States or elsewhere
No differences in children’s outcomes
The study found that there were no differences in the children when it came to their general health, their emotional difficulties, their coping behaviors and their learning behaviors. What the study found to be more indicative predictors of these behaviors were the relationships between the parents, the parents and child, and parenting stress.
The study did note that lesbian parents seem to exhibit higher levels of parenting stress, which Gartell attributed to perceived homophobia. “Parents feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting more than their heterosexual counterparts. We also suspect and feel that more study is warranted, but the cultural spotlight on same-sex parenting may be part of the stress,” she said.
Those against same-sex parenting have pointed to studies that have found gay parents to have a negative impact on childhood outcomes, such as lower levels of income, and poorer mental and physical health
Gartell said studies like those didn’t compensate for the fact that they were comparing children from same-sex couples who were not continuously coupled. Rather, those studies looked at children from same-sex families who experienced family upheaval such as divorce, adoption or foster care and compared them to children from stable households with different-sex parents.
The current study only looked at lesbian households, because when households were finally matched and controlled for continuous relationships, there were too few male same-sex households.
Gartrell said this is by no means the final study to be done on same-sex parenting. “We still have so much to learn and find out about different types of families,” she said.