Here’s some news that shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone with the merest soupcon of awareness: Same-sex couples make just as good parents as mixed-sex couples. Don’t take my word for it though; this has been extensively studied using rigorous, peer-reviewed science – and a new study, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, adds another familiar-sounding conclusion to the cornucopia.
Led by developmental psychologists at the Sapienza University of Rome and the University of Texas at Austin, a new paper found that, for the children of lesbian or gay parents, psychological adjustment is pretty much the same as children being raised by heterosexual parents.
The study, which looked at Italian families, included three separate groups of parents: 70 gay fathers with surrogacy-obtained children, 125 lesbian mothers who had children through donor insemination, and 195 heterosexual couples who had kids through spontaneous conception. All the children were 3 to 11 years old.
The parents then had to self-report various things about their family life. How successful were they acting as parents? How well was the family functioning? What were the children’s strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral traits like? When these answers were logged, careful statistical analysis was applied to the entire data set, and conclusions were drawn.
Although the difference between families were not significant, the team’s study explains that the “children of gay fathers and lesbian mothers were reported as showing fewer psychological problems than children of heterosexual parents.”
The authors of the new study, aware of misinformed familial policies in Italy, also stress that their work “warns policy makers against making assumptions on the basis of sexual orientation about people who are more suited than others to be parents or about people who should or should not be denied access to fertility treatments.”
The researchers also advise healthcare professionals that, upon encountering same-sex parent families with problematic children, they should not simply assume the issues are linked to the parents’ sexual orientation.
The study, admittedly, has a few shortcomings that the authors are clear about. This wasn’t a longitudinal study that looked at psychological development over time; instead, the survey answers, which were self-reported and potentially open to bias, were more like snapshots of those kids’ psychological states.
So yes, this isn’t a perfect study, but it almost doesn’t matter: this study doesn’t stand in isolation. It fits in with the results of dozens of pre-existing studies that have all approached the question differently and come to the same conclusion.
Take a huge review of a large body of research back in 2017, for example. This found that 95 percent of the 79 research studies they looked at showed no difference in the emotional, social, and educational development of the children raised by heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Noting that it was important to look at the 5 percent that did seem to show that a difference did exist, it turns out they were often authored by non-specialists in the subject or were badly designed and conducted.
This new study, then, adds another piece of evidence to a gigantic pile that clearly shows that kids see their parents, whomever they are, in the same way: as their guardians, regardless of their sexuality. Good parents are good parents, regardless of anything else. Love is love – science says so.
In fact, that huge 2017 review found that something else did in fact seriously impact the psychological development of kids of same-sex couples: prejudice, homophobia, and discriminatory rhetoric from others.