Families with Lesbian or Gay Parents
Researchers estimate that as many as 14 million children in the United States have lesbian or gay parents (Patterson, 1992). The majority of these children were born while their biological parents were still in heterosexual marriages and then one parent subsequently came out as gay or lesbian. An increasing number of lesbians, however, are using donor insemination to conceive biological children or are adopting or providing foster care for children. And more gay men are also adopting children, providing foster care, or fathering their own biological children.
Estimates of the numbers of children with gay or lesbian parents are probably low, because many parents conceal their homosexual orientation out of fear that they will lose custody, visitation, or adoption rights. Although different sexual orientations are becoming more widely accepted, many people still worry about whether gay and lesbian parents can give growing children a healthy environment. Discrimination also exists in the judicial system. In divorces, the gay or lesbian parent often loses primary custody of the children, and most states still discourage adoption by gay and lesbian adults.
Investigating the effects of gay and lesbian parenting, psychologist Charlotte Patterson (1992) conducted a thorough review of the research and came to this important conclusion: "Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents" (p. 1036). In her review, Patterson found that children raised by lesbian or gay parents showed no disturbances in gender identity. Compared to children raised by heterosexual parents, they were just as happy with the gender to which they belonged and had no wish to be the opposite sex. Children showed no differences in their toy preferences, activities, interests, or occupational goals. They also showed no differences in favorite television programs, TV characters, or games. One study did suggest that children of lesbian mothers showed more "psychological femininity" than did children of heterosexual mothers (Rees, 1979).
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