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social sciences

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Children of GLBTQ Parents  
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Although these issues were significant, she concluded that the "quality of the relationships in the household" was far more important for the children than the mother's sexual orientation. In this way, her initial research exemplified how some researchers sought ways to mitigate "societal " and help lesbian mothers and their children's teachers and therapists better assist their children adjust to their mother's coming out, divorce, and new lesbian relationships

Shifts in Research

As many scholars have noted, there were significant limitations in the early studies. For some, the heterosexual origins of these children raised questions about whether the results could be extrapolated to children who were adopted or conceived via artificial insemination. For others, the limited number of participants and sampling procedures undermined the studies' credibility.

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These criticisms prompted further research that focused more precisely on children who were born into same-sex families, most commonly to lesbian couples who had children through artificial insemination or adoption.

For example, in the 1990s Charlotte Patterson conducted the Bay Area Families Study, which examined the impact on children from the ages of 4 to 9 who had been adopted by or born to lesbian mothers. Like earlier studies, Patterson concluded that "it was quite possible for lesbian mothers to raise healthy children."

Acknowledging the sampling flaws in her initial work prompted Patterson and other researchers to continue developing studies that were based on more representative samples. Her work studying the development of children born from artificial insemination compared children conceived in lesbian and heterosexual families who had been clients of the Sperm Bank of California.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Patterson and colleagues were also able to study the impacts on adolescent children over longer periods of time. Similar to the results found by British scholars Susan Golombrok and her colleagues, such research has shown that children of lesbian mothers develop in healthy ways and are not harmed by having same-sex parents.

Gay Male Parents

Research on the children of gay men is much more limited, in part because in the 1970s and 1980s gay men who came out in heterosexual marriages and divorced were either less likely to fight for custody or simply were deemed unlikely or unfit parents in a system that favored women and heterosexuals.

Those gay men who did maintain ties with their children after coming out often faced difficult decisions as to when and how to disclose their sexual orientation to ex-wives and children. The need for such discretion may explain why fewer gay men were visibly parenting during this time.

Still, the few early studies of the children of gay fathers from previous heterosexual relationships suggest that a gay father's sexual orientation has little negative impact. Frederick Bozett argued that when a father comes out to his child in this situation, "there is little change in the father-child relationship." He, in fact, suggested that this step often resulted in a "more mutually intimate relationship."

Even in the past ten years, research on the children of gay men has been less robust than on the children of lesbian mothers. Scholars tentatively suggest that children raised by gay men are not negatively impacted, but too few studies have been completed to justify this conclusion with as much certainty as in the case of lesbian mothers.

But those studies that have been completed do suggest similar findings, especially on the effect of children's sexual orientation. According to a study conducted in the mid-1990s, in which 82 sons at least 17 years of age of 55 gay or bisexual men were interviewed, 9% of these sons were identified by their fathers as nonheterosexual and 91% as heterosexual, prompting the authors to conclude that the "large majority of sons of gay fathers are heterosexual."

Reviews of the Literature

As Charlotte Patterson has observed, viewed collectively "the results of existing studies . . . yield a picture of families thriving, even in the midst of discrimination and oppression."

Norwegian researchers conducted a review of studies completed from 1978 to 2000 and came to similar conclusions. Surveying 23 empirical studies, which in total included 615 children of lesbian mothers or gay fathers, ranging in age from 18 months to 44 years, Anderssen, Amlie, and Ytterøy concluded that their review "did not reveal evidence that children of lesbian mothers differed from other children on emotional adjustment, sexual preference, stigmatization, gender role behavior, behavioral adjustment, gender identity, or cognitive functioning."

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