Why It’s Time to Learn More about the Children of LGBT Parents

two men with sonRegardless of how the Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage this week, it’s time to better understand the outcomes for children raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) parents, and the dynamics of their families. According to estimates based on combined data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the American Community Survey, and several state-level surveys, there are approximately two million children in the U.S. being raised by at least one LGBT parent. To put this number in perspective, there are more children being raised in LGBT families in the U.S. than the total populations of Wyoming, Vermont and North Dakota—combined. These children, and the families raising them, matter.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a technical report about promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian. In it they said (and we agree), that “all children have the same needs for, and the right to, nurturing, security, and social stability.” Because we’re researchers, we tend to prefer a data-informed approach to fulfilling the needs of these children.

For LGBT-parented families, though, data on how the children are doing are limited. Large, nationally representative datasets designed explicitly to examine the outcomes of children raised by LGBT parents are just beginning to be developed, although the amount of rigorous data and research is growing.[1],[2] As the American Sociological Association states in their brief to the Supreme Court, what does exist is decades of general social science research establishing that “positive child well-being is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources.”

As more states legalize same-sex marriage and public support continues to grow (according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 58 percent of Americans now believe same-sex marriage should be legal), it’s likely that more LGBT adults will start or grow their families. In fact, 51 percent of the 1,197 LGBT adults surveyed in a recent poll by The Pew Research Center said they either have kids now or want to in the future, and another 19 percent said they might want kids but aren’t sure yet. Being gay, transgender, lesbian, or bisexual seems to have no effect on that age-old phenomenon: the biological clock.

We’ve studied children from single-parent households and racially diverse households, children in foster care and those who were adopted, and children from all economic circumstances. In that research we’ve explored why various outcomes might exist for each group, and what policymakers and practitioners might do to address negative situations and promote positive outcomes. But in most research on children and families, the children of LGBT parents are conspicuously missing. It’s time to widen our net.

Rachel Gooze, Research Scientist and August Aldebot-Green, Communications Manager

 


 

[1] Potter, D. (2012). Same-sex parent families and children’s academic achievement. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74:556-571.

[2] Van Gelderen, L., Bos, H.M.W., Gartrell, N., Hermanns, J., & Perrin, E.C. (2012). Quality of life of adolescents raised from birth by lesbian mothers: the US National Longitudinal Family Study. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 33:1-7.

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