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:
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
This research summary was based on the following literature reviews and studies:
- the Victorian Law Reform Commission Occasional Paper Outcomes for children born of Assisted Reproductive Technologies in a Diverse Range of Families, written by Dr Ruth McNair (2004).
- the Australian Psychological Society’s paper Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Parented Families A Literature Review prepared for The Australian Psychological Society by Elizabeth Short, Damien W. Riggs, Amaryll Perlesz, Rhonda Brown and Graeme Kane (2007) See http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/LGBT-Families-Lit-Review.pdf
- Guasp, A (2010), Different families: The experiences of children with lesbian and gay parents, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge. Available on the Stonewall website http://www.stonewall.org.uk/what_we_do/research_and_policy/4171.asp
- Gartrell, N and Bos, H (2010), ‘US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents’, Pediatrics, published online June 7, 2010. See http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/06/07/peds.2009-3153
Find out more
You can find publications and reports relevant to rainbow families by searching the following research Clearinghouses. Try keywords such as “same sex parenting”, “lesbian-headed families”, “lesbian parents” or “gay dads”.