The number of same-sex parents in the US has increased significantly in recent years. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, there are currently 594,000 same-sex couple households in the US, of whom around 27% have children.
Most studies investigating the health and well-being of children within same-sex parent families have found they fare just as well as children from families with different-sex parents.
However, the researchers of this latest study – including Dr. Henry Bos of the University of Amsterdam – note that the results of many of these studies “relied on convenience samples and/or fertility recruitment,” causing many people to question their accuracy.
Furthermore, many individuals continue to believe that children fare better when being raised by parents of different sexes, despite evidence to the contrary.
For their study, Dr. Bos and colleagues analyzed data from the National Survey of Child Health, from which they identified 95 female same-sex parent households and 95 different-sex parent households with children aged 6-17 years.
Both groups were matched for parent and child characteristics, and the families were considered stable, meaning they had no history of family instability – such as divorce or separation – since the birth or adoption of their child.
The team notes that male same-sex parent households were excluded from the analysis due to an insufficient sample size; only eight could be identified.
Child outcomes no different for children with same-sex parent families
Through a telephone interview with one parent per household, the researchers gathered information on the general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior and learning behavior of each child.
The team also assessed levels of parental stress, the relationship quality between partners and the quality of parent-child relationships.
When it came to child outcomes, the researchers identified no differences in the general health and well-being of children from same-sex parent families, compared with those from different-sex parent families.
Among both groups, a more positive parent-child relationship was linked to better general health and coping and learning behaviors, while a better partner relationship was associated with fewer emotional difficulties among children.
Same-sex parent families did report experiencing higher levels of stress than different-sex parent households, but the researchers note that this had no impact on child outcomes.
“These findings are relevant to clinicians, public policy analysts, litigators and legislators who are consulted on matters pertaining to same-sex parent families,” note the authors.
Findings ‘highlight the need to move beyond anti-LGBT politics’
In a commentary for the study, Nathaniel Frank, PhD, director of the What We Know Project at Columbia Law School in New York, NY, says the findings “highlight the need to move beyond anti-LGBT politics,” adding:
“The study corroborates the ‘no differences’ conclusions that have been reached by at least 73 other scholarly studies. The scientific debate over the politics of gay parenting is over, and equal treatment has won.”
Dr. Bos and colleagues say further studies should investigate what causes the higher stress levels identified among same-sex parents. They hypothesize that one underlying cause may be the “cultural spotlight” that these parents are subject to.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on the results of the most inclusive study to date on how sexuality and gender affects friendship.