Findings from a new study show that children raised in homes with same-sex parents are just as healthy physically and emotionally as children raised in homes with opposite-sex parents. The research, published April 11 in the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, confirms previous studies that having gay parents has no effect on a child’s well-being.
Psychiatrist and study co-author Nanette Gartrell, MD, Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, told CNN that the goal of the study 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,” she explained.
The new study aimed to compensate for the shortcomings of previous studies, which recruited same-sex parent families and possibly established 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,” Gartrell added.
To meet that goal, Gartrell and her colleagues used the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health to match 95 female same-sex parent and 95 opposite-sex parent households with children between the ages of 6 and 17. Matching was done based on such parental and child characteristics as parental age, level of education, children’s ages and education, geographic location, and children’s gender and race/ethnicity.
All the couples in the study were in a continuous relationship, and had raised their children since birth without separation, divorce or adoption. These requirements were established to minimize the impact of disruptive transitions on the family.
Study findings showed that there were no differences between kids raised by same-sex couples and those raised by opposite-sex couples, with regard to emotional difficulties, coping behaviors and learning behaviors. However, same-sex parents had higher stress levels compared to opposite-sex parents.
“Further investigation might explore whether the cultural spotlight on child outcomes in same-sex parent families is associated with increased parenting stress,” Gartrell noted in a news release. “Some of our earlier studies have shown that lesbian mothers feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting because of their sexual orientation.”
The bottom line, concluded the researchers, is that a stable home and good family relationships are what contribute to children’s well-being and not their parents’ sexual orientation.
“Our study of households with no divorce or other family transitions finds that spouse-partner and parent-child relationships are similar regardless of family structure,” co-author Henny Bos, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, told Headlines and Global News. “These strong relationships are important contributors to good child outcomes – not whether the parents are same-sex or different-sex.”