Spanish Study: Gays Make Great Parents
A new study in Spain says that gay parents are "excellent" at raising healthy, well-adjusted children.
The study assessed how children fared in homes with same-sex parents, and found that both young children and adolescents benefited from the attention they received by two engaged, caring parents of the same gender, reported news site Typically Spanish on March 19.
The results on same-sex parenting were part of a larger study examining "new families," or ways in which the "traditional" family structure has changed now that more women are entering the work force. The study surveyed 214 families of various types, including families with married parents of opposite genders, same-sex parents, single parents, and families in which the parents had separated but then reunited.
Though reputable research has been done in the United States and elsewhere on the subject of same-sex parenting, this is the first time a study of this sort has been conducted in Spain. The research on same-sex families has long shown that children with two parents of the same gender do just as well as children from homes headed by opposite-sex parents.
But anti-gay groups regularly tout studies that they say prove that children need both a male and female parent. However, the studies that such groups point to do not address same-sex couples and their children; rather, they examine the effects on children of being raised by single mothers. Even so, political decisions, including denial of family parity by voters, are often informed by the studies concerning single-parent families, rather than studies that actually examine same-sex parenting.
"Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father," notes USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences sociologist Timothy Biblarz, as quoted in a Jan. 25 QNotes article. "Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents."
Biblarz and co-author Judith Stacey of NYU published a paper in the Journal of Marriage and Family's February issue that looked at same-sex parenting and concluded that child rearing was affected only slightly, and only in one way: the manner in which a child might be fed. Same-sex male couples cannot breast feed their babies. "The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home," the paper notes. "Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [heterosexual two-parent] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents."
The "common sense" notion that children need a mother and a father to develop properly is comforting to many, but the science seems not to support it. Noted co-author Stacey, "That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical."
Children with Two Parents Thrive--Regardless of Parents' Genders
The paper found that same-sex parents reflected the experiences of mixed-gender parents, including a biological parent in lesbian couples taking on more child-care duties than the none-biological parent, in a manner reminiscent of a heterosexual mother and her male mate.
"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents," concluded Biblarz. "This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well."
Others have also noted the disparity between sound research and the claims made by anti-gay opponents of family parity. "The truth is that it has now been established by research that gay people are just as capable of being good parents as heterosexual or 'straight' people, and that their children are just as likely to be healthy and well-adjusted," observed Dr. Kenneth D. George, a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, in a letter published on Feb. 5 by Florida newspaper the Palm Beach Post. "Not a single reputable study has found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents have been harmed in any way because of their parents' sexual orientation."
"The research on this topic is consistent and clear: General levels of psychological adjustment are as good for children reared by gay or lesbian parents as for children reared by heterosexual parents," wrote Professor David F. Bjorklund of Florida Atlantic University in the same edition of that newspaper. "Children with gay or lesbian parents do not typically experience gender confusion, and they are as likely to identify themselves as heterosexual as adults as children growing up with heterosexual parents. In addition, on average, same-sex couples raising adopted children are older, more educated, and have more economic resources than other adoptive parents, and are at least as emotionally healthy as heterosexual divorced women."
"Children clearly benefit when they have two parents, both of them actively involved," Cambridge University's Michael Lamb testified before Judge Vaughn Walker in the recent trial on the constitutionality of California's anti-gay ballot initiative Proposition 8, which put the rights of gay and lesbian families up to popular vote in 2008 and resulted in the loss of marriage equality in that state. Reuters news service reported on Lamb's testimony in a Jan. 15 article.
Marriage equality opponents in the Prop. 8 campaign claimed that children would be adversely affected if gay and lesbian families were permitted marriage rights. The message was credited with helping convince voters to repeal family rights for sexual minorities.
But Lamb, who head Cambridge University's Social and Developmental Psychology Department, added that it was "quite clear" that issues about the genders of the parents "in and of themselves do not significantly affect children's adjustment." Lamb also cited data from the U.S. Census that indicated that children growing up in households headed by couples of the same gender do as well in school as their peers with mixed-gender parents.