Literature Review Gays and Lesbians as Parents Elizabeth Grange
Introduction In the last several decades research has been conducted to determine if Gay and Lesbian parents are as competent as heterosexual parents (Patterson, 2009). It was originally thought that Gay and Lesbian parents could not provide children with an environment that would lead to normalcy and a healthy upbringing. Yet the rights to marry and bear or rear children are fundamental rights here in the United States. The government in the United States of America unlike some of the other countries in the world is a democracy, one that tends to pride itself with tolerance.
Yet many feel uncomfortable and threatened at the idea of Gay and Lesbians being married and raising families. What this literature review is attempting to uncover are the facts and research which should determine whether or not there is any difference in the parenting effectiveness of gays/lesbians when compared to heterosexual parenting .
The hypothesis is that there is no difference in the parenting effectiveness of gays/lesbians when compared to heterosexual parenting. All of the research that was reviewed points out that gay and lesbians are effective at providing a nurturing and healthy environment for their children. There were no studies found that advocated against gays and lesbians having these rights, or that stated they were not capable of being competent or nurturing. The APA also supports gay and lesbians being parents because there is no evidence that proves they are fundamentally different than heterosexual parents ( Crawford, Jordan, McLeod, Zamboni, 1999 ).
An empirical study was conducted comparing children from 106 different families where these families were divided up into by 27 lesbian, 29 gay, and 50 heterosexual couples (Farr, Forssell, Patterson, 2010). Teachers unanimously reported that these children were all developing along average tendencies. “Measures of children's adjustment, parenting approaches, parenting stress, and couple relationship adjustment were not significantly associated with parental sexual orientation,” (Farr, Forssell, Patterson, 2010). This study concluded that sexual orientation did not play a significant role in child development .
In another empirical study 44 adolescents aged 12-18 from same sex couples were compared to 44 adolescents of the same age from heterosexual couples. The purpose of this study was to determine if there were significant differences between these two groups in psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships (Patterson, Russell, Wainright 2004). Interestingly regardless of family type students who reported a close relationship with their parents had better school adjustment.
This is an important find because it demonstrates that children who come from families of same sex parents are not disadvantaged academically in any way. Family type had no effect on romantic relationships that were developed, or in psychosocial adjustment. This shows that gay and lesbian couples are just as effective at parenting because being raised by same sex couples does not determine sexual orientation or psychosocial development. Another common argument against gays and lesbians being parents is that children need both a mother and a father or masculine and feminine figures or role models in their lives to develop into healthy adults.
An empirical study that compared children raised by lesbian mothers, children who were raised by heterosexual single mothers, and children who were raised by heterosexual couples found that there were no significant differences in parenting or development in children who were raised by a woman or women (Golombok, MacCallum 2004). These children did not have any social or emotional development issues due to having a missing father. Boys did show more feminine but no less masculine characteristics of gender role behavior (Golombok, MacCallum 2004).
Similarly in another study researchers looked into children raised by lesbian mothers and if this situation had any effect on their psychosexual development. The idea was whether or not boys could or should be raised by two mothers because this might affect their ability to develop masculine qualities. What was found was that being raised by two mothers did not have any adverse or negative effects on these children ( Heineman, 2004 )Another study was conducted using the home video footage of children growing up in both same sex families and heterosexual families.
Another study was conducted using the home video footage of children growing up in both same sex families and heterosexual families. The findings were that even though it was obvious that sexual orientation and tendencies start to develop at a young age, sometimes even before the child hits puberty, there was no evidence to suggest that being raised by same sex parents influenced the outcome of a child’s sexual orientation ( Bailey, Gygax, Linsenmeier, Rieger 2008 ).
In a final study 100 lesbian two mother families were compared with 100 heterosexual families that had naturally conceived. What was found was that “lesbian parents are no less competent or burdened than heterosexual parents,” ((Bos, Van Balen, Van Den Boom 2004). Conformity was found to less important to lesbian parents, yet developing qualities of independence were equally important to lesbian parents and heterosexual parents. Lesbian parents also felt that they had to justify the quality of their parenting often. These studies all point to the same conclusions in support of the original hypothesis that there is no difference in the parenting effectiveness of gays/lesbians when compared to heterosexual parenting.
Legal Rights In the U.S.A there are many states which do not legally recognize gay and lesbian couples, either by giving them very little or no rights at all as parents (Patterson, 2009). These laws and regulations are often times based off of negative assumptions and stereotypes regarding gays and lesbians as being incompetent parents. However there is no empirical research that supports the many negative assumptions and stereotypes surrounding gays and lesbians as both parents and individuals. Because of the lack of legal protection and rights some gay’s and lesbian’s choose to live a sort of double life to avoid harassment and interference in their family life.
This includes not even “coming out” at work, or even to some family and friends for fear of repercussions (Griffith, Hebl 2002). These conditions make it difficult for same sex couples to adopt and raise children openly within their communities even though research actually supports that they are equally effective and competent at parenting as heterosexual couples. That is another reason why legal protection would benefit the children of these same sex couples, because these families should be able to live openly and be able to participate in regular family traditions and celebrations ( Oswald, 2002 ).
Future Research In the future more research needs to be conducted to further determine how the children of same sex couples are affected psychologically from the discrimination that their parents face including not having equal rights. Having a family life that is markedly different from their peers, these children too most likely face harassment in the form of being teased or ostracized simply because they come from same sex families.
There might be psychological implications and if so these need to be defined. The information gathered based on empirical research can be used in several ways. First to further educate and enforce the facts which show that gay and lesbians parents are in no way less effective than heterosexual parents. Secondly this information that is gathered can be used in consideration towards gays and lesbians being deserving of equal rights as parents.
References Bailey, J.M; Gygax, L.; Linsenmeier, J.A.W.; Rieger, G. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity; evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology ; 44,1, 46-58. Bos, Henny M. W.; Van Balen, Frank; Van Den Boom, Dymphna C. (2004). Experience of parenthood, couple relationship, social support, and child-rearing goals in planned lesbian mother families. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry ; 469-761. Crawford, I.; Jordan, M.B.; McLeod, A.; Zamboni, B.D. (1999). Psychologists attitudes toward gay and lesbian parenting. Professional Psychology; Research and Practice; 30, 4, 394-401. Golombok, S.; MacCallum, F. (2004). Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: a follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry ; 50,8, 450-467 Golombok, S.; Tasker, F. (1996). Do parents influence the sexual orientation of their children? Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families. Developmental Psychology; 32, 1, 3-11.
References Golombok, S.; MacCallum, F. (2004). Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: a follow-up of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers at early adolescence. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry ; 50,8, 450-467 Golombok, S.; Tasker, F. (1996). Do parents influence the sexual orientation of their children? Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families. Developmental Psychology; 32, 1, 3-11. Griffith, K.H.; Hebl, M.R. (2002). The disclosure dilemma for gay men and lesbians; “Coming out” at work. Journal of Applied Psychology; 87, 6, 1191-1199. Heineman, T.V. (2004). A boy and two mothers: new variations on an old theme or a new story on triangulation? Psychoanalytic Psychology; 21, 1, 99-115 . Oswald, F.R. (2002). Inclusion and belonging in the family rituals of gay and lesbian people. Journal of Family Psychology; 16, 4, 428-436.
References Patterson, C.J. (2009). Children of lesbian and gay parents; psychology, law, and policy. American Psychologis t; 727-736. Patterson, C.J. (1995). Sexual orientation and human development: an overview. Developmental Psychology; 31, 1, 3-11. Patterson, C. J.; Russell S.T.; Wainright, J.L. (2004). Psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships of adolescent with same-sex parents. Journal of Child Development ; 375-382. Shiller, V.M. (2007). Science and advocacy issues in research of children from gay and lesbian parents. American Psychologist; 712-713.