Children’s development is not negatively impacted by having same-sex parents compared to heterosexual parents and the child may even be better off, according to new research. The analysis, which covered 34 previous studies, backs up previous findings that children can flourish under both same- and different-sex families, disputing the idea that it damages their development.
While the researchers found no adverse effects from single-sex parents, they did find significant impacts from stigma and poor social support for those families.
"This review showed that most of the family outcomes are similar between sexual minority families and heterosexual families,” write the authors.
“Research on sexual minority parents and their children has broadened our understanding of contemporary family life, and has added to our understanding of parenting and child development.”
The research looked to dive into the common idea among homophobic campaigners that families “require” a male and female as parents to bring up a child, and that without them, the child will be worse off than their peers. This has been refuted many times, but continues to be a widely held belief among “traditionalists”.
Scouring different scientific journals for papers that looked at family outcomes between sexual minority and heterosexual parents, the authors identified 34 articles to analyze, which was narrowed down to 16 once they had controlled for covariables. The meta-analysis covered a number of metrics, including parent-child relationships and child psychological adjustment, looking for the clear difference many vehemently believe to exist.
They discovered that in parent-child relationships and psychological adjustment, families with sexual minority parents actually performed better than heterosexual parents, but there were some downsides.
In couple relationship satisfaction, parental mental health, parenting stress, and family functioning, the sexual minority parents had worse outcomes, which suggest that the families are not impacting the child, but other factors may be exacting a toll on the parents. These outcomes were correlated with social risk factors, such as poor social support and discrimination that the family may face. The findings suggest that children may be thriving in spite of social pressure placed on the parents.
“Sexual minority parent groups showed higher levels of parent-child relationship quality, such as higher levels of warmth, greater amounts of interaction and more supportive behaviour, when compared with the heterosexual parent groups,” wrote the authors, as reported by The Guardian.
The researchers hope that the findings can lead to better support for sexual minority parents and a reduction in stigma associated with them, including influencing policy and laws within communities.
The study is published in the journal BMJ Global Health.