A new study that’s sure to stoke political fires about same-sex marriage indicates that children raised by lesbian parents do just as well, or not, as those raised by heterosexual parents.
Researchers from New York University conducted an analysis of essentially all of the research to-date on same-sex parenting. The bottom line result: kids in both heterosexual and lesbian households had similar levels of academic achievement, number of friends and overall well-being. (You can view the study online here in the Journal of Marriage and Family.)
Kids benefit most from “committed, stable, and responsible parenting,” in the words of lead researcher, Judith Stacey, and whether those parents are a man and woman or two women doesn’t seem to matter very much.
LiveScience summarized the study highlights:
In a study of nearly 90 teens, half living with female same-sex couples and the others with heterosexual couples, both groups fared similarly in school. Teen boys in same-sex households had grade point averages of about 2.9, compared with 2.65 for their counterparts in heterosexual homes. Teen girls showed similar results, with a 2.8 for same-sex households and 2.9 for girls in heterosexual families.
In another study, teens were asked about delinquent activities, such as damaging others’ property, shoplifting and getting into fights, in the previous year. Teens in both same-sex and heterosexual households got essentially the same average scores of about 1.8 on a scale from 1 to 10 (with higher scores meaning more delinquent behaviors).
A 2008 study comparing 78 lesbian families in the United States with their counterparts (lesbian households) in the Netherlands, showed American kids were more than twice as likely as the Dutch to be teased about their mothers’ sexual orientation.
These findings add support to previous research that’s found kids raised by same-sex partners generally do just as well in school as kids raised by heterosexual couples. One study in particular, which used Census data rather than smaller population samples (often criticized as “convenient samples”), looked at thousands of kids raised by same-sex parents and found no difference in grade retention (when a child gets held back in school) after accounting for demographics, such as income.
Quoting Michael J. Rosenfeld of Stanford University, who conducted the Census study:
Grade retention is a pretty strong predictor of problems later in life including dropping out of high school and mortality. LiveScience
Will these results convince critics of same-sex parenting to reevaluate their positions in light of the evidence? Probably not. As politically and religiously entrenched as this issue is, same-sex parenting opponents will likely view these results as another liberal social science volley.
But for everyone else seeking a statistically well-grounded perspective from which to view this issue, these are enlightening results.