A number of states and agencies are loathed to allow gay and lesbian parents to adopt or even grant custody after a divorce to the parent in a same-gender relationship. Unfortunately, this bigotry is not founded on any kind of science. In fact, most of the stereotypes and fears of these institutions are unfounded and even disproved by such organizations as the American Psychological Association. In this column, I will give a very brief but poignant summary of some intriguing findings regarding gay and lesbian parents.
I examined one brief specifically that pulls data from a slew of studies done over the decades, ranging from the 19th century to 2005. This brief can be found at the American Psychology Association’s Web site and is an excellent source for information concerning legitimate studies and statistics on lesbian and gay parenting relationships with their children.
The APA’s brief, “Children of Gay and Lesbian Parents,” has some interesting things to say about gay parenting. Amid recognizing that as a group gays and lesbians are actively discriminated against at all levels and that negative attitudes toward them are culturally transmitted and not legitimized through experience, it has also been quoted as saying, “common stereotypes are not supported by the data.”
However, before I discuss the studies that have been done appropriately, I’ll discuss some of the confounding factors that may account for studies that have been done otherwise.
The APA found that many previous studies claiming a deficit in parenting between lesbian and gay households and heterosexual ones did not consider a variety of confounding factors, some of which include:
“The children raised by gay and lesbian parents experienced unusually high levels of extreme social ostracism and overt hostility from other children and parents, which probably accounted for the formers’ lower levels of interaction and social integration with peers) nearly all indicators of the children’s functioning were based on subjective reports by teachers, who, as noted repeatedly by the author, may have been biased; and most or all of the children being raised by gay and lesbian parents, but not the children being raised by heterosexual married parents, had experienced parental divorce, which is known to correlate with poor adjustment and academic performance.”
With the first point, some issues regarding gay and lesbian parenting are caused by bigoted heterosexuals and homophobia, compared to homosexuality.
Paul Cameron, a popular dissenter who attempted to demonize homosexuality and parenting, is also invalidated by the APA and its studies. In its words, “Cameron’s research is methodologically suspect. Cameron’s key findings in this area have not been replicated and are contradicted by the reputable published research. Unlike research that makes a contribution to science, his key findings and conclusions have rarely been cited by subsequent scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals as informing their scientific inquiry.”
Indeed, the APA found that there was no difference and, at times, even a positive deficit between the two parenting gender types. Lesbian parents, for example, tended to be more egalitarian, which is psychologically healthier for children and tended to evenly split household duties as opposed to reinforcing gender roles such as many heterosexual households. Gay men were also likely to divide child rearing responsibilities, reporting that they were happy with their couple relationships.
In fact, some studies even report that gay and lesbian parenting styles were superior to their heterosexual counterparts.
But don’t take my word for it, look at the APA’s summary of “Family functioning in lesbian families created by donor insemination:”