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Teenage Children raised by Same-Sex Parents Developing Normally

Updated on May 14, 2017

Love is what Matters

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

Opponents of same-sex marriage, access to reproductive assistance for same gender couples, adoptions by same sex couples, and/or child custody being given to a homosexual parent in divorce proceedings often cite the "Rights of the Child" and state that same-sex parents are less capable parents that those in the so-called traditional heterosexual marriage. Some even go as far as saying it would be better for a child to be in an abusive family than with a couple who happen to be the same gender. Whilst it seems like a historical view to hold, it is even in the very recent past (say 2012) that these arguments are being used against marriage equality, and adoption by same sex couples. However, the evidence to support these theories are sorely lacking.

Research in this area is fairly recent, due to homosexuality and homosexual relationships only being made legal in the recent past (1970s onwards). Yet, in more than two decades of research, research has failed to show any significant difference, particularly negative, in the outcomes for children raised by homosexual parents in relation to those children raised by heterosexual parents.

Where is the Evidence Against it?
Where is the Evidence Against it? | Source

What Research Says:

A study by Patterson in 2006 looked at research in the development of children with lesbian and gay parents - both the early research and more recent.

Early research seemed to focus on cases where children had been born into heterosexual marriages that had ended in divorce post the legalisation and non-medicalisation of homosexuality - where one parent had 'come out' as homosexual, ending the relationship with the heterosexual opposite sexed spouse. Few significant differences were found between the development of children raised by divorced lesbian mothers compared to those raised by divorced heterosexual mothers. However, as the children in these studies were from 'heterosexual' marriages - where at least one parent was heterosexual and involved in their upbringing, it could not be clear how to determine reasons for healthy development.

This early research was helpful for those judges who presided over divorce and child custody proceedings in cases where one parent was homosexual, however this early research still did not answer the real question: Do children raised from birth in lesbian or gay headed families develop normally? (or Do their children grow up in typical ways and show healthy development?)

Two Parents are Better than None
Two Parents are Better than None | Source

In order to answer this question, it was necessary to begin to study children who had never lived with heterosexual parents. The Bay Area Families Study, a study of 4-9yr olds who were born or adopted early in life by lesbian mothers. Results showed that the children had regular contact with both children and adults of both genders, and that the children's self-concepts and preference for same-gender playmates and activities was much the same as other children their age.

Other studies studied children who were conceived using a sperm bank - enlisting both lesbian and heterosexual couples who had children conceived using donor sperm aged 5yrs or older. They also enlisted the assistance of the children's teachers in evaluation of the children's adjustment. The results found that parental sexual orientation was not related to children's adaptation. However, what it did show was that quite apart from sexual orientation of parents - when parent-child relationships were marked by warmth and affection, children were more likely to develop well. Limitations were that this study was drawn from a known population, as well as the fact that lesbian mothers who conceive using sperm banks are usually both educationally and financially comfortable, and thus may be able to protect children from many forms of discrimination.

Parental Gender Does Not Matter
Parental Gender Does Not Matter | Source

Teenagers, Still Normal???

Now, parents of teenagers may disagree that teenagers in general are normal, and that is a topic for another hub!

Given the topic of this hub, I'd be remiss to forget to talk about the adjustment and development of adolescents. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health was a large, ethnically diverse and representative sample of American adolescents and their parents. The data collected by this study provided information on both heterosexual and same-sex parented children by asking only if the parents were in a marriage or marriage-like relationship, and only then asking gender of partner.

Consistent with earlier research, few differences in adjustment were discovered between adolescents living with opposite-sex parents and those living with same-sex parents. Nil difference was found on self-reported assessments of psychological well-being such as self-esteem and anxiety, school outcome measures such as grade averages or trouble at school.

The outcome of this particular study found that it is not only possible for children and adolescents parented by same sex couples to develop in healthy directions, but that even when studied in a diverse and representative sample of American children, they generally do develop as well as their counterparts.

Source

What are they saying more recently?

The US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study follows a group of people who entered into the study as prospective mothers in the years between 1986 and 1992, with the design to follow through until the children reached adulthood, conducting interviews with the mothers, and children throughout the study. It's latest findings are from 17yr old adolescents within this study, on their psychological adjustment into adolescents.

Findings from this research have found that the 17yr old daughters and sons of the lesbian mothers in the study were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic and total competence. They were also rated lower in social problems, rule breaking, externalising and aggressive problem behaviours. This was when compared to their age-matched counterparts from Achenbach's normative sample of American youth.

The results also agreed with the previous study mentioned (The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health) in their findings that 'a satisfying relationships with one's parents is associated with a more favourable adolescent adjustment.".

Bilbarz and Stacey analysed 81 different parenting studies in 2010, and challenged deeply held beliefs about the 'right' way to parent, and raise normally developed children. This belief being that a child needs both a mother and a father in the household to thrive.

What they found was that there is no best household structure, that the importance of child-rearing, and the investment one is willing to put into child rearing (not monetary - emotional, psychological, etc), is what matters. They found that children fair better with TWO parents involved in their upbringing, but that gender did not feature. By not controlling for the number of parents, gender, marital status and biogenetic relationship to the child - there was a failure to isolate a real impact of gender on effective parenting.

They found that either gender was suited to child rearing, being single fathers, single mothers, or gay and lesbian parents. But the main conclusion was that the gender did not matter - the investment, the importance, and willingness to give to child rearing were the factors that mattered.

ABC Fact Check recently (July 2015) compared a number of studies into parenting - both heterosexual two parent families, and same sex two parent families. What they found was also very similar to the previous studies mentioned.

There seems to be a lot of information on lesbian parenting, and the final study found that as more research into gay parenting comes around, it may find that gay men are the best parents - given the deep commitment required for them to become legally fathers to children. However, in the studies reviewed for this article, lesbian parents featured more - hopefully in the future this will change

Conversely, there is a dearth (meaning "lack of") evidence or studies out there that confirm the opposite - therefore those who use the "Children need a mother and a father" have little to no research backing them up.

Conclusion

Overall, the conclusion from analysis of multiple studies, by several different professionals, all have come to the same conclusion:

The gender of one's parents does not affect normal development - psychologically, emotionally, physically, or otherwise. A warm, satisfying relationship with one's parents is what really matters.


NOTE: Before anyone mentions the New Family Structure study - unfortunately used by opponents in lawsuits about DOMA, and other law suits, and unfortunately widely cited in cases against gay parenting etc - has not been included as it has been debunked, and been proven to have been a deliberate attempt to sway SCOTUS etc through flawed methodology, funding (by the Witherspoon Institute...look em up), and academic integrity. Before you have a go in the comments - read this: New Family Structure Study intended to sway Supreme Court on Gay Marriage, Documents Show (Huffington Post, in conjunction with The American Independent).


Sources used:

Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents - C.J Patterson

US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-year-old Adolescents - Pediatrics (Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics)

Does a Parent's Gender Impact a child's success? - Discovery News

How Does the Gender of Parent's Matter? - Timothy Bilbarz and Judith Stacey, in the Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2010 (Vol 72, Issue 1, pg 3-22) - DOI:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00678.x

Fact or Fiction: A mother and a father is better than same sex parent - ABC Fact Check Australia July 2015

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    • jlpark profile image
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      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      And sometimes, whilst unfortunate, it's only the experience of a few rather than the majority.

      I understand your point, but what I'm saying is a handful of bad experiences of children raised in same sex households does not generalise over the entire group.

      I agree that some experience difficulties through the actions of their parents, and for some this means their development is affected. For some this is solely because their parents are gay, for some it's because their parents are abusive, for some it's because their parents are work driven and spend vey little time with their children who are raised by nannies. Etc etc.

      Yes, Lopez and the others had bad experiences through choices that their parents made in relation to sexual appetites, and through choices that's other people's parents made by raising judgemental children (it's the old adage - stop worrying about my child being bullied, and start teaching yor children NOT to bully). Yes, for them it was solely related to their parents sexual orientation. But it is not the case for all.

      I'm not saying it's roses for everyone cause it's not. But studies do show that MOST children raised in same sex households developed normally in relation to their peers raised in opposite sexed parented households. There are always a few that will be affected adversely by certain things in their childhood, including the orientation of their parents. It still doesn't make the studies invalid.

      I never said it was All children from gay parented households. Lopez and te others are evidence of that.

      You've made your point, I've got your point, even though I never said anything of the sort. They fit in the normal scheme of things because you (being anyone) will never fit one thing that fits everyone perfectly - and unfortunately for Lopez and co, it happened to be the sexual orientation (and a few things that went along with that for their parents...again not everyone).

      I am not trying to take away from their experiences, nor would I ever try to silence them (as unfortunately it seems, others in the LGBT community might - remember not all are the same in any community) - theirs are stories that need to be heard. But they also don't speak for every child raised by same sex parents.

    • Terrex profile image

      Terrex 2 years ago

      How did I miss the point? I quote you:

      "Development wise - Hitler, Pol Pot etc were raised by straight parents. Yet we do not consider their raising to be anything unusual. We don't condemn heterosexuality based on them."

      I reiterate: their parents' sexuality did not make them what they were, just like Jeffrey Dahmer's didn't.

      When you say Faust 'goes on' about the 'Mother and Father concept'; remember that we evolved over eons to have that need hardwired into our DNA - would any child from a single parent home choose to not have one parent? Of course not. Then why put that burden on a kid? Are there not enough pressures already?

      Lopez does speak of bullying, but nothing could have prepared him for the hate from pro-gay individuals and organizations for talking about his own experiences. When you say people are much more 'tolerant/accepting' today, perhaps you should read 'A Tale of Targeting' by him.

      As a kid being raised by two lesbians, Lopez seemed like the perfect child to outsiders, eerily like all these kids in studies today being raised in similar households. He says this:

      "Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s..... There were loving things about my childhood, but it was hard. "

      From experiences of others like him (and who knows how many have been frightened into not speaking out after seeing the hate he encountered), it seems studies will come to all sorts of happy conclusions, based on what the researchers want to show. But, sometimes, someone will speak out and tell us that it's just a facade.

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      And you missed mine.

      I've read a bit more about their stories (I told you before I was on a phone..). There are people/parents out there that have lifestyles that are no conducive to raising children - both straight and gay parents who have issues within their lifestyle, that would not be appropriate to expose children to. These 4 adults state that it was their parents sexual appetites and the subculture that they were exposed to because of their parent's sexual orientation and their appetites was deterimental.

      Stefanowicz makes HUGE generalisations about children in gay parented households not being able to speak out against their parents etc.

      Faust goes on about the Mother and Father concept - forgetting that solo parents do the jobs of BOTH genders when one leaves of their own free will. Depriving the child of one gender of parent daily for their lives - which is what Faust's main point was. So, same sex marriage wasn't going to change that as it's already happening, and many a child from a solo parent family develops normally.

      Lopez speaks of bullying, of searching for a father figure, of bullying at work when it came out that he was raised by gay parents - remember these people grew up in a MUCH less tolerant/accepting society than those children growing up now. So, he's going to have some difficulties associated to the stigma of the time.

      Yet, you have people like Zach Wahls who has a completely different experience, one that many children of gay couples will have.

      My sister is a social worker for our version of CPS (I'm not an American), and uplifts children from disasterous experiences with their parents - MOST of them are straight parents. But that doesn't make ALL straight parents bad parents.

      How do they fit in the picture of "normal"? The FOUR adult examples you give.

      There are exceptions to every rule - thats what makes life diverse. Of course, no one should be subjected to an abusive household if it can be helped. But then again, the rate of abuse in gay households is similar to that of heterosexual households, so thats no reason to say they can't develop normally.

      They may have had tumultuous experiences that they feel are associated with their parents being gay - (I say may because I did not live their life). But their experience is not necessarily the norm for all children raised in gay households.

      Unfortunately not everyone gets the perfect growing up experience - it's our job as parents to give our children a childhood they don't have to recover from - and for most of us (gay or straight) thats exactly what we strive to do....some people strive only for themselves.

    • Terrex profile image

      Terrex 2 years ago

      I think you missed the point B.N. Klein, Robert Oscar Lopez, Dawn Stefanowicz, and Katy Faust who were all raised by gay parents, are making.

      Your 'counter-question' falters because there was nothing about the heterosexual lifestyle of 'Hitler, Pol Pot etc' that was responsible for their unfortunate decisions in life. That's like saying jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer, cannibal and rapist because he was gay.

      The point that B.N. Klein, Robert Oscar Lopez, Dawn Stefanowicz and Katy Faust make is that they had tumultuous and harrowing experiences as kids which have permanently damaged them precisely because of their 'gay parents' and the lifestyles they were forcibly exposed to.

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I've given a brief look at a few of the names - Robert Lopez in particular - as I've not got a lot of time at present - I will take a better look.

      I have a counter question - what about the multitudes of children raised by straight parents who are unhappy with how they were raised? How do they get reconciled with the norm?

      Development wise - Hitler, Pol Pot etc were raised by straight parents. Yet we do not consider their raising to be anything unusual. We don't condemn heterosexuality based on them.

      Not one parenting type or style is going to be perfect for everyone. For many, being raised by same sex parents will result in them developing similarly to their peers, if not more empathetic (as the studies showed). For most, being raised by heterosexual parents will result in normal development.

      But normal development does not mean that they will agree with everything that their parents did or didn't do. Robert can be against same sex marriage even if his parents were gay. He's an adult with opinions of his own, possibly upset by something in his history. What family doesn't have it's differing opinions?

      Like I said - I'll look into it further later when I'm not trying to see it all on my phone.

      Thanks for yr comment

    • Terrex profile image

      Terrex 2 years ago

      I read about the lives and experiences of B.N. Klein, Robert Oscar Lopez, Dawn Stefanowicz, and Katy Faust, who were all raised by gay parents.

      It seems they didn't quite all 'develop normally'.

      How do you reconcile their experiences (and of others like them) with the 'normal' tag?

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      wow, i had never read about gay or lesbian parenting method. But if you look at Elton john baby, I think it is normal

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for the visit Krillco and Thunkful thinker.

      Exactly!

    • thunkfulthinker profile image

      Jim 3 years ago from Ohio

      I love this article. It shows what any rational person should already know and that is having good parents makes for good kids.

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 3 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      Being a parent is not about how yer 'plumbed', but how you love. Love is love, and not fade away.

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Peachpurple.

      I think what we need to do is raise our children to not be bullies - those who aren't bullies are likely to only ask questions but not say hurtful things. So, maybe their parents do not agree with SS parents etc, but the child only knows what it is taught - if it is taught to hate, it will. So perhaps we should teach all to love, and let live, and we will rid the world of bullies

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i don't object to parents of same sex bringing up a child. The important part is both parents have to bring up the child in a positive way, because many onlookers will be gossiping and may hurt the poor child. Elton john did a good job.

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 4 years ago from New Zealand

      To have two same sexed parent? Or how does a gay couple have children?

      Or how is is possible they develop normally?

      If its the second paragraph - please read the hub properly.

      If its the first paragraph - let me know, and I can educate you on how - cause its not that difficult

    • profile image

      mail2meonline 4 years ago

      how could it be possilbe

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I don't know any same sex couples with children, so I've not had the chance to make any observations.

      As a parent myself, I remember being told "You're such a good mother" when my first-born was young. My answer was, "I won't know if that's true until she's at least 16." She's in her 30s now and I think I did okay.

      My parenting skills have been honed over the years. My youngest is not yet a teenager. It'll be another 20 years before I find out how I went with her. :)

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Marsei, and Made - thank you for your comments.

      James - I understand where you are coming from, yet, I felt I had to add that it was found that children of same-sex parents had a keener awareness of minorities also - so a well developed social conscious if you will.

      What people seem to forget is that parents do not parent in isolation - regardless of gender and sexual orientation. We all have friends and family members who are involved in our lives and the lives of our children, who enrich both our and their lives. It takes a village - regardless of what gender mix your parents are.

      Torri - yes, they may. Or in the future, people may have taught their children that difference is not to be ridiculed but embraced. However, another part of one of the studies mentioned commented about the fact that the lesbians mothers conceiving using sperm banks were often well-educated and financially comfortable - and ALSO able to teach their children resilience and ways to deal with any homophobic issues that may arise at school/in public. Homosexual parents are FULLY aware of what may happen at school - they've been there as well themselves, so are more prepared to prepare their children if the need to defend themselves (intelligently, not physically) arose.

      Lisa - one is entitled to their view, but would you care to elaborate on your position? Particularly when this hub is about one of the more common reasons people have an issue with same-sex parents. I am very open to a civil discussion on your thoughts - I believe difference makes the world go round. But, it is difficult to have such a discussion if you do not elaborate.

      Thanks for your compliment however

    • Lisa A Kessler profile image

      Lisa 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Your lens is great but sorry I'm strongly against Same-Sex Parents.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      jlpark,

      I think that kids of the same sex can have a normal time developing

      granted they may receive backlash, tauntings from other kids, and what not

      but if they learn to accept it and are happy with it then they will be fine

      Voted up and shared

    • James-wolve profile image

      Tijani Achamlal 4 years ago from Morocco

      Sorry to intrude.I found the title very interesting,so I clicked on to read.What you have done here is a great job.It is coherent , well-based and direct to the point.But,I think the secret behind the fact that teenagers of same-sex Parents developing normally is that children today are not raised by their parents; they are raised at school or other environments away from their families. Mothers or fathers are not the biggest influence in the children's lives; rather, they hardly seem to have one at all.So no wonder if they are doing great under the same sex parents.As you stated above , parents of the same sex are more serious , committed and giving much love to their kids rather than those who are in straight relationship but I am sure those kids when they grow up , they won t be like other guys.They always lack something.

      Many blessings.

      James

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 4 years ago from Finland

      Well written and researched article, and I like the results. What gender the parents have shouldn't matter. People who are against gay or lesbian couples with children should understand that we live in year 2013 now, and people should be acceptes as they are. Our differencies is what make the world a great place.

      I know a couple, a man and a woman, who divorced some yars ago. They have two children and the mother met another woman and these two women are now living together. The childrens' father is living with a new woman. I think these children are doing great, and they have "three mothers" and one father, who all get along well and raise the children.

    • Marsei profile image

      Sue Pratt 4 years ago from New Orleans

      I enjoyed this hub and the research confirms my own beliefs. Children need love and consistency, period. Given those two ingredients, they will almost always thrive. I have a friend who has three children, two girls and a boy, and who has lived with and been in a relationship with another woman for three years. They range in age from 5 to 11. They all make excellent grades in school, have friends and socialize normally, are proud of their two female parents. They get teased about their parents, but it hasn't "warped" them in any way. I'm sure they will grow up to be productive members of this organism we call society. I hope one day we will all get past the obsession with gender and relationships and put the emphasis where it belongs, on loving our children and guiding them into adulthood.