A study of families in the Netherlands indicates that children raised by lesbian couples “do not differ in well being or child adjustment compared with their counterparts in heterosexual-parent families.”
“The findings in the Dutch study are identical to those in a very large number of U.S. studies,” said Robert-Jay Green PhD, director of Rockway Institute, a national center for research and public policy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. “Children do well in loving families, regardless of whether there are two moms or a mom and a dad involved.”
The study was conducted by Henny Bos, Frank van Balen, and Dymphna van den Boom of the University of Amsterdam.
How the study was conducted
The study involved 100 heterosexual couples and 100 lesbian couples with children ages 4-8 who were raised by the couple since birth. The number of boys and girls in each of the comparison groups was almost identical. Child adjustment and parental characteristics were measured by questionnaires, family observations by researchers, and diaries kept by the parents regarding the amounts of time they spent in childrearing, household work, or paid work outside the home.
Highlights of findings
Among the most interesting findings, lesbian biological mothers were significantly more satisfied with their partners as a co-parent than were heterosexual mothers. The partners of lesbian biological mothers “are more committed as parents than are heterosexual fathers, that is, they display a higher level of satisfaction with their partner as co-parent and spend more time on child care and less on employment.”
Lesbian couples were significantly higher on strength of desire to have children than were heterosexual couples. There were significant differences in the division of family tasks, with both of the lesbian partners spending more time on household work and childcare, and less time at work outside the home, than the heterosexual fathers.
The differences between lesbian mothers and heterosexual fathers seemed to reflect known differences between women and men as parents rather than reflecting parents’ sexual orientations.
“These results on lesbian parents pique our curiosity for more data on gay male parents,” said Green. “Will gay fathers’ parenting styles turn out to be more like those of heterosexual fathers, heterosexual mothers, or some combination? One of Rockway’s planned research projects will shed light on that question in the future.”
Policy implications of the research
From a public policy perspective, the most important aspect of this research is that it found no significant differences in child adjustment between family types. In recent years, consistent research findings like these have led the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association to issue official policy statements supporting equal treatment of families headed by lesbian and gay parents.
This research was published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (2007, Vol. 77, No. 1, 38-48).
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