Free Lesbian and Gay Couples as Parents Essay Sample

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The question on whether parents' sexual orientation has been raised in legal context and policy proceeding relevant to children which involves child adoption, and child custody. Several professionals in the fields of psychology, sociology, medicine, and law have also raised diverse views. It also invokes theoretical issues on whether a healthy human development demands that the children grow with parents who belong to different gender. This paper I will discuss some research intended to address the issue of child and gender- parenting. A wide variety of professional organizations have official positions recognizing the scientific research on GLB parents and stating that sexual orientation should not be a determinative factor in assessing the ability of individuals to raise children through adoption, foster care, or second parent adoptions. These positions typically address some combination of adoption, foster care, second-parent adoption, and co-parenting by GLB people.

Recent datasets show that many lesbians and gay men are already parents. An estimated 27 per cent of same-sex couples identified in Census 2000 have a child under 18 living in the home with them Data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), conducted by the National Centre for Health Statistics in 2002, show that over 35 per cent of lesbians aged 18-44 have given birth, compared with 65 per cent of heterosexual and bisexual women. Among gay men, 16 per cent have had a biological or adopted child compared to 48 per cent of heterosexual and bisexual men.

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This research owes its roots from studies which were focused on children who had been born from heterosexual marriages. After parental separation and divorce, many children in these families lived with divorced lesbian mothers. These studies were valuable in addressing concerns of judges who were required to decide divorce and child custody cases, but they left many questions unanswered. In particular, because the children who participated in this research had been born into homes with married mothers and fathers, it was not obvious how to understand the reasons for their healthy development. The possibility that children's early exposure to apparently hetero- sexual male and female role models had contributed to healthy development could not be ruled out.

In order to address the question of whether the offspring of lesbian or gay parents a study of children who had never lived with heterosexual parents had to be done. An early example was the Bay Area Families Study, in which they studied a group of 4- to 9-year-old children who had been born to or adopted early in life by lesbian mothers. Data were collected during home visits. Results from in-home interviews and also from questionnaires showed that children had regular contact with a wide range of adults of both genders, both within and outside of their families. The children's self-concepts and preferences for same-gender playmates and activities were much like those of other children their ages. Moreover, standardized measures of social competence and of behaviour problems, such as those from the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), showed that they scored within the range of normal variation for a representative sample of same-aged American children. It was clear from this study and others like it that it was quite possible for lesbian mothers to rear healthy children.

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Researchers compared development among children of divorced lesbian mothers with that among children of divorced heterosexual mothers and found few significant differences. This triggered a research carried out at sperm bank of California by Patterson, Chan and Raboy in year 1998 to 2005. They took a sample of 80 families, 55 headed by lesbian and 25 headed by heterosexual parents who filled various research questionnaires. Children of lesbian and heterosexual parents showed similar, relatively high levels of social competence, as well as similar, relatively low levels of behaviour problems on the parent child behaviour checklist form. These results also agreed with those from children teachers form. From these results, parental sexual orientation was not related to children's adaptation. It is however evident from this research, when parent-child relationships were marked by warmth and affection, children had the probability of developing well. Even as they provided information about children born to lesbian mothers, however, these new results also raised additional questions. Women who conceive children at sperm banks are generally both well-educated and financially stable. It was possible that these relatively privileged women were able to protect children from many forms of dis- crimination. What if a more diverse group of families were to be studied? In addition, the children in this sample averaged 7 years of age, and some concerns focus on older children and adolescents. What if an older group of youngsters were to be studied? Would problems masked by youth and privilege in earlier studies emerge in an older, more diverse sample?

This research was followed by a study that was based on representative samples. Data for this research was drawn from surveys and interviews completed by more than 12,000 adolescents and their parents at home and from surveys completed by adolescents at school. They also identified a group of 44 12- to 18-year-olds who lived with parents involved in marriage or marriage-like relationships with same-sex partners. Consistent with earlier findings, results of this work revealed few differences in adjustment between adolescents living with same-sex parents and those living with opposite-sex parents. There were no significant differences between teenagers living with same-sex parents and those living with other-sex parents on self-reported assessments of psychological well-being, such as self-esteem and anxiety; measures of school outcomes, such as grade point averages and trouble in school; or measures of family relationships, such as parental warmth and care from adults and peers.  Adolescents in the two groups were equally likely to say that they had been involved in a romantic relationship in the last 18 months, and they were equally likely to report having engaged in sexual intercourse. The only statistically reliable difference between the two groups-that those with same-sex parents felt a greater sense of connection to people at school- favoured the youngsters living with same-sex couples. There were no significant differences in self-reported substance use, delinquency, or peer victimization between those reared by same- or other-sex couples. These results also showed that the qualities of family relationships rather than the gender of parents' partners were consistently related to adolescent is therefore important to note that possible for children and adolescents who are parented by same-sex couples to develop in healthy directions.

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The fact that children of lesbian mothers generally develop in healthy ways should not be taken to suggest that they encounter no challenges. Many investigators have remarked upon the fact that children of lesbian and gay parents may encounter anti-gay sentiments in their daily lives. For example, in a study of 10- year-old children born to lesbian mothers, Gartrell, Deck, Rodas, Peyser, and Banks reported that a substantial minority had encountered anti-gay sentiments among their peers. Those who had had such encounters were likely to report having felt angry, upset, or sad about these experiences. Children of lesbian and gay parents may be exposed to prejudice against their parents in some settings, and this may be painful for them, but evidence for the idea that such encounters affect children's overall adjustment is lacking.

Although research to date has made important contributions, many issues relevant to children of lesbian and gay parents remain in need of study. Relatively few studies have examined the development of children adopted by lesbian or gay parents or of children born to gay fathers. Some notable longitudinal studies have been reported, and they have found children of same-sex couples to be in good mental health. Greater understanding of family relationships and transitions over time would, however, be helpful, and longitudinal studies would be valuable.

The findings are also beginning to address theoretical questions about critical issues in parenting. The importance of gender in parenting is one such issue. When children fare well in two-parent lesbian-mother or gay-father families, this suggests that the gender of one's parents cannot be a critical factor in child development. Results of research on children of lesbian and gay parents cast doubt upon the traditional assumption that gender is important in parenting. Our data suggest that it is the quality of parenting rather than the gender of parents that is significant for youngsters' development (Lamb, 2001).

Research on children of lesbian and gay parents is thus located at the intersection of a number of classic and contemporary concerns. Studies of lesbian- and gay-parented families allow researchers to address theoretical questions that had previously remained difficult or impossible to answer. They also address oft-debated legal questions of fact about development of children with lesbian and gay parents. Thus, research on children of lesbian and gay parents contributes to public debate and legal decision making, as well as to theoretical understanding of human development.