There is a significant body of research from Australia and overseas that has compared the outcomes for children raised in same-sex and opposite-sex parented families. The research consistently shows that children raised in same-sex parented families do at least as well as children in opposite-sex parented families.

The following is a summary of what research tells us, with some references below:

About children

Studies show there is no difference between the children raised by same-sex and opposite-sex parents in terms of their:

  • intelligence and academic and physical competence, as measured by teachers
  • emotional function, either as children or adults – in particular, adult offspring of same-sex parents show no greater incidence of stress, anxiety or depression
  • psychological or behavioural development
  • sexual orientation – children raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to identify as lesbian or gay in adulthood than children raised by opposite sex parents.

About lesbian mothers

The research shows that lesbian parents:

  • tend to spend longer planning families and considering decisions about use of donors
  • are equally as nurturing as heterosexual mothers.
  • encourage relationships with grandparents and extended family and deliberately include male family members.
  • have no higher risk of mental health problems, including stress, anxiety, depression, than heterosexual mothers.
  • are almost universally honest with their children about the way they were conceived
  • tend to share parenting tasks in a flexible, supportive and egalitarian way which has a positive effect on outcomes for children.

About gay fathers

There is less research on outcomes for children raised by gay men, but what there is tells us that:

  • children of gay parents show no difference in emotional, psychological and behavioural development or in social activities, problem solving ability and levels of autonomy to that of children raised by opposite-sex parents
  • the sexual orientation of children is no different to that of children in opposite-sex parented families
  • gay fathers tend to be more egalitarian in the division of parenting roles and responsibilities than opposite sex parents

Relationships and bullying

  • Children of same-sex parented families often form positive relationships with their peers and extended family
  • In general, children of same-sex parents are no more stigmatised than other children however, there is evidence to suggest some children experience peer group hostility.
  • A number of studies have reported bullying of children of same-sex parents
  • Parents report a using range of methods to deal with bullying and overcome a homophobic environment.
  • Despite a significant level of bullying, children in same-sex families develop effective peer relationships and have the same levels of emotional functioning.
  • Children raised in same-sex families tend to demonstrate a greater acceptance of difference generally. Teachers report these children may be more tolerant, broad-minded and empathetic.

Raising children without a father

  • It is often argued that children raised in fatherless families do less well than children raised in families where there is a mother and a father. However, the studies from which these conclusions arise are about separated opposite-sex families where there has been conflict, economic disadvantage and, at times, violence.
  • Research in the field of family studies shows that the most important influence on children is family functioning (what goes on within a family), rather than family structure (the number and gender of the parents).
  • References

    This research summary was based on the following literature reviews and studies: