Children of lesbian parents do better than their peers
The children of lesbian parents outscore their peers on academic and social tests, according to results from the longest-running study of same-sex families.
The researchers behind the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study say the results should change attitudes to adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples, which is prohibited in some parts of the US.
The finding is based on 78 children who were all born to lesbian couples who used donor insemination to become pregnant and were interviewed and tested at age 17.
The new tests have left no doubt as to the success of these couples as parents, says Nanette Gartrell at the University of California, San Francisco, who has worked on the study since it began in 1986.
Compared with a group of control adolescents born to heterosexual parents with similar educational and financial backgrounds, the children of lesbian couples scored better on academic and social tests and lower on measures of rule-breaking and aggression.
A previous study of same-sex parenting, based on long-term health data, also found no difference in the health of children in either group.
"This confirms what most developmental scientists have suspected," says Stephen Russell, a sociologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Kids growing up with same-sex parents fare just as well as other kids."
The results should be considered by those who oppose the right of gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, adds Gartrell. A handful of states, including Florida, prohibit same-sex or unmarried couples from adopting, although many of the state laws are being challenged in the courts.
"It's a great tragedy in this country," says Gartrell. "There are so many children who are available for adoption but cannot be adopted by same-sex couples."
Over 100,000 children are awaiting adoption in the US, says the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and advocacy organisation based in New York. The institute estimates that just 4 per cent of all adopted children – around 65,000 – live with gay or lesbian parents, despite research suggesting that same-sex couples may be more willing than heterosexual couples to adopt.