Same Sex Parenting and Your Child’s New Best Friend

Finding children with same sex parents studying alongside your own these days is not an unusual occurrence. However the prevalence of this trend does seem to be stirring up some debate.

The primary concerns that seem to be voiced by parents of heterosexual parents is that of whether the children of same sex parents will have an ‘unhealthy’ effect on their children? Will such children and their parents influence another child’s gender preference? Will such children demonstrate uncommon violent behavior? Are the children of same sex parents emotionally stable? Will children of same sex parents bring issues such as drug dependence and social disorder into the school environment?

The question therefore is ‘are children of same sex parents ‘suitable’ friends for your children’?

Whilst the questions is a prevalent one today there is, in fact, little conclusive data available on the success of same sex parenting. It would seem that there have actually been relatively very few studies and most of the studies that have been carried out are considered not relevant due to non-conforming study conditions, e.g. one study compared children who had lived initially in heterosexual relationships to children who had always lived with same sex parents. Furthermore most of the studies that have been carried out have been done so by groups who have a vested interest in the results and therefore the results are contradictory. Finally there seems to be very little up to date information (e.g. new information for 2008 / 2009) and little data available that is derived from the United States. This lack of information is also surprising when you consider how much emphasis is placed by politicians and organizations about the emotional impact of single parent families on children.

The fact that there is so little study data originating from the United States is particularly surprising when you consider that same sex parents are considered to be such an established group in today’s American society. Whilst yet again the data seems to be in need of refreshing and most dates back to the ‘2000 U.S. Census'; The Child Welfare Information Gateway suggests that 8 – 10 million children are being raised in the United States by people who consider themselves to be homosexual. The 2000 U. S. Census also stated that, 33% of female, same-sex couple households and 22% of male, same-sex couple households reported at least one child under the age of 18 living in the home.

Even with such little date available there are still proponents of both sides of the argument. One such argument is presented in a report from January 2004, entitled ‘Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time For Change’, prepared by the American College of Pediatricians, whose mission is supposedly “to enable all children to reach their optimal, physical and emotional health and well-being.”

The report stated that there is sound evidence that children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle may be at increased risk for emotional, mental, and even physical harm and that violence among homosexual partners is two to three times more common than among married heterosexual couples. It further stated that children reared in homosexual households are more likely to experience sexual confusion, practice homosexual behavior, and engage in sexual experimentation. Adolescents and young adults who adopt the homosexual lifestyle, like their adult counterparts, are at increased risk of mental health problems, including major depression, anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, substance dependence, and especially attempts at suicide.

Professor Bradley P. Hayton in his ‘To Marry or Not: The Legalization of Marriage and Adoption of Homosexual Couples’ agreed with much of the above report and went on to state that “Homosexuals… model a poor view of marriage to children. They are taught by example and belief that marital relationships are transitory and mostly sexual in nature”.

Bradley apparently also thought that same sex parents were detrimental to children because apparently male homosexuals have a significantly reduced life expectancy; children will experience difficulties in the area of sexual identity and be influenced in sexual orientation and gender role behavior.

However those on the other side of the argument, including sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz in the ‘American Sociological Review in 2001′ suggested that from 21 studies of children that they were aware of, children raised by homosexual parents were no more likely to suffer from psychological problems than kids raised in heterosexual homes. In fact, as Stacey concluded “there was a very strong consensus that kids turned out about the same,” and ultimately, these findings were generally endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and other mainstream organizations.

Charlotte Patterson author of ‘Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents’, has gone on to state that sexual identities, including gender identity, gender-role behavior, and sexual orientation, develop in much the same way among children of Lesbian mothers as they do among children of heterosexual parents.

Studies of other aspects of personal development, including personality, self-concept, and conduct, similarly reveal few differences between children of same sex partners and children of heterosexual parents.

Perhaps William Meezan and Johnathan Rouch, who are openly gay authors that advocate same sex marriage summed the whole situation up best in their paper ‘Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America’s Children’ published in 2005 when they stated that “the effects of same-sex marriage on children is a question that cannot be settled by any amount of armchair theorizing!” They went on to state that “there are plausible arguments on all sides of the issue, and as yet there is no evidence sufficient to settle them… The costs and benefits of same-sex marriage and child rearing cannot be weighed if it cannot be tried-and, preferably, compared with other alternatives.”

Perhaps to the above is the most conclusive comment on the subject at the moment and the reality is that only time will tell.

If research proves anything then there is indeed a need for some definitive studies following large numbers of children over a lengthy period of time but in the meantime unless there is ever substantive and conclusive evidence to suggest otherwise then it is up to the individual parent to make the best decision for their own child.

However, in making those decisions one should remember that we are the ‘care-takers’ of the next generation – surely it is imperative that we teach all children, irrespective of the ethnicity; culture; skin color; religion or sexual preference to behave towards others in a considerate, kind and just manner in much the same way as I am sure we would wish them to behave towards our children.