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Children of same-sex parents fare as well as others, studies say

(SHUTTERSTOCK)

Though same-sex parents still face disapproval from some, the vast majority of research points to the same conclusion: Children raised by same-sex couples fare just as well as others. In the last few months, new studies have emerged to shine an even brighter light on same-sex parenting, lending further support to the consensus that the kids are indeed all right.

A study out of the University of Texas at Austin suggests that same-sex parents give their kids 40 percent more “focused” time (e.g., reading to them, playing with them, and other activities shown to be developmentally beneficial) than different-sex parents. The study, published in the journal Demography, was based on 2003-13 data from a time-diary survey conducted by the US Census Bureau. Researchers controlled for parental education, hours of work, kids’ ages, and other factors that are known to affect the amounts of time spent with children.

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The researchers found that women in same-sex and heterosexual relationships and men in same-sex relationships spend around 100 minutes of focused time with kids per day. Men in heterosexual relationships, by contrast, averaged 50 minutes per day. (Adding individual figures gave the totals for couples — for instance, 100 minutes plus 50 minutes equals 2.5 hours of child-focused time among heterosexual couples.)

Though the number of same-sex couples in the study was small — just 55 out of a total of around 44,000 — a strength of the study is that it uses a nationally representative sample, which can be less likely than other sampling methods to bias the results, noted lead author Kate Prickett, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Texas’s Population Research Center.

Many past studies of same-sex parents have similarly relied on modest sampling pools, in part because the number of families headed by same-sex partners who have raised their children from birth is small, Nathaniel Frank, a historian and frequent writer on LGBT equality and public policy, said by e-mail. Today, around 210,000 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a same-sex couple, while between 1.1 million and 2 million kids are being raised by a single lesbian, gay, or bisexual parent, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law.

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“With growing social and legal approval, that number may grow, or at least such families may become more visible, helping researchers to obtain more information about same-sex-headed households,” Frank wrote.

Frank leads a project at Columbia Law School that gathers peer-reviewed studies on the well-being of children with gay or lesbian parents. The project staff, along with experts at universities in the US and abroad, have identified 77 studies dating to 1980. Of these studies, just four concluded that kids of same-sex parents face disadvantages, and these studies did not control for family stability, a factor known to affect kids’ outcomes, Frank noted.

“As our site shows, there are at least 73 peer-reviewed studies across 30 years showing that children of same-sex parents fare no worse than their peers,” Frank wrote. “That makes for an unprecedented scholarly consensus, whatever limits there are to any individual study.”

A separate review of research from the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Oregon reached a similar conclusion. Analyzing 19,000 peer-reviewed studies and articles dating from 1977 to 2013, the researchers found that while there was disagreement on the effect of same-sex parenting in the 1980s, a consensus had formed by 2000 that there is no difference in psychological, behavioral, and educational outcomes between children of same-sex and different-sex parents.

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A number of child-focused organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have long supported gay and lesbian parenting. In a 2013 policy statement, lead authors Dr. Benjamin Siegel of Boston Medical Center and Dr. Ellen Perrin of Tufts Medical Center wrote: “Children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”


Ami Albernaz can be reached at ami.albernaz@gmail.com.