Research on Children of Gay and/or Lesbian Families (page 2)
Researchers have compared children of homosexual parents to children of heterosexual parents in many areas of personal and social development. There is no evidence in current research that children of gay or lesbian parents or families have any more problems than do children of comparable circumstances in heterosexual families (Patterson, 1992; Golombok, 2003). Both groups fall within normal patterns.
Specifically, there are no significant differences between these two groups of children in sexual identity. This includes gender identity, gender role behavior, and sexual orientation or preference. Gender identity refers to a person's self-identity as male or female. Gender role behavior identifies a person's activities, toys, or occupation as masculine or feminine according to a person's culture. Sexual orientation refers to a person's choice of sexual partners, which could be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual (Patterson, 1992; Patterson and Chen, 1997). In twelve studies of over 300 children of gays and lesbians, no evidence was found for significant disturbances of any kind in their sexual identity (Patterson, 1992). The fear that these children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse either by their parent or parent's acquaintances is not valid (Finklelhor and Russell, 1984; Jones and McFarrlane, 1980; Sarafino, 1979; Groth and Birnbaum, 1978).
Other areas studied included self-concept, locus of control (meaning internally or externally motivated), development of moral judgment, and intelligence. None of this research showed any significant differences between children of gays and lesbians and children of heterosexual parents (Huggins, 1989; Green, et al., 1986, Patterson, 1992).
Social relationships, both with adults and with their peers, showed no significant differences between the two groups (Patterson, 1992; Golombok, Spencer, and Rutter, 1983; Green, et al., 1986). However, a study on children's social relationships with their noncustodial fathers showed that most children of lesbian mothers had some contact with their fathers while most children with heterosexual mothers had not seen their fathers within the year (Golombok, et al., 1983). In addition, Kirpatrick (1987) found that lesbian mothers and their children interacted with more adult male family friends, including relatives, than did heterosexual single mothers and their children.
When children are given accurate information about their parent's sexual orientation in early childhood, they make a better adjustment and their self-esteem is higher (Huggins, 1989). Early to middle adolescence is an especially difficult time to deal with this or any other identity problem (Paul, 1986). In a survey of young adults, many responded that they had never known anyone else with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual parent (Paul, 1986). Obviously, children in nontraditional families have some different experiences from children in mainstream families just as do children growing up in cities or rural areas or in diverse climates and terrains. Children of lesbian, or gay parents were found to be more tolerant and more comfortable in a multicultural environment than children from heterosexual families (Clay, 1990). Perhaps their different experiences contributed to their greater acceptance of differences.
Most of the research has been limited to groups of lesbian mothers and their children in the United States, mostly White, well educated, and middle to upper middle class. They have been compared to single divorced heterosexual mothers and their children of similar circumstances. However, a new study comparing lesbian-mother-families with both two-parent and one-parent heterosexual families found children in the lesbian families to be well-adjusted and their findings were similar to previous research.
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