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Gay Adoptive Fathers: What Does the Research Show?

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album
Reviewed by David Diehl, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and Suzanna Smith, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
This post is honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

With recent historic rulings on gay marriage and big changes in public opinion about the subject, it seems that America is becoming more welcoming to gay and lesbian families. However, families headed by gay fathers often still face significant prejudice. In addition to discrimination due to their sexual orientation, they may also encounter those who believe it isn’t possible to parent well without a “mom” in the home.

A recent small British study focused on the well-being, behavior, and adjustment of adopted children in families headed up by gay male couples, comparing it to that of adopted children raised by lesbian or heterosexual couples. There were about 40 couples in each group, and children were between the ages of 3 and 9.

The Numbers Look Good

On average, gay fathers were less depressed and less stressed about parenting and more responsive to and interactive with to their children than heterosexual parents. Interviews showed that they also tended to be warmer towards their children and less aggressive in their disciplinary methods than heterosexual parents. Meanwhile, the percentage of children whose parents rated them as having notably problematic behavior was about the same in all groups. Children in all three groups also showed similar levels of stereotypically gender-typed behavior.

Though this study was small, these gay fathers appeared to be providing a highly positive environment for their adopted children, with no negative consequences seen. These findings suggest that matching prospective gay fathers who wish to adopt with children across the country awaiting placement would be a win-win situation.

AAP: Gay Marriage Benefits Kids

Indeed, more than 100 scientific studies have found that most children raised in gay- and lesbian-headed families are “developmentally and socially well-adjusted” (Perrin, Siegel, & The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health,  2013, e1378). Researchers writing in the journal Pediatrics conclude that children’s well-being is affected far more by the strength of their family’s relationships than by the gender or sexual orientation of their parents. The well-known American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a statement supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage and affirming their belief that making marriage available to all strengthens families and benefits children’s development. It remains to be seen whether same-sex marriage will become a national reality, but this organization is standing behind its legalization.

(Photo credit: Gay Pride Parade NYC 2013- Happy Family by Bob Jagendorf. CC BY 2.0.)

References:

Golombok et al. (2013). Adoptive gay father families: Parent–child relationships and children’s psychological adjustment. Child Development. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12155

Perrin, E. C., Siegel, B. S., & The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2013). Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian. Pediatrics, e1374-e1383. http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-0376

 The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2013). Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian. Pediatrics, 827-830. http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-0377

(Originally published in a slightly different form as: Church, C. (2013). Gay adoptive fathers. [Radio broadcast episode]. Family Album Radio. Gainesville, FL:  University of Florida, and Church, C. (2013). Pediatricians’ group supports same-sex marriage legalization. [Radio broadcast episode]. Family Album Radio. Gainesville, FL:  University of Florida)