Saturday, August 30, 2014

Largest-ever study of same-sex couples' kids finds they're better off than other children

MCT via Getty Images

The largest-ever study of same-sex parents found their children turn out healthier and happier than the general population.

A new study of 315 same-sex parents and 500 children in Australia found that, after correcting for socioeconomic factors, the children fared well on several measures, including asthma, dental care, behavioral issues, learning, sleep, and speech.

At the same time, two-thirds of the parents reported a perceived stigma on at least one issue tracked by the survey. These stigmas ranged from other people gossiping about an LGBT family to same-sex parents feeling excluded at social gatherings due to their sexual orientation.

Perceived stigmas were associated with worse scores for physical activity, mental health, family cohesion, and emotional outcomes. The stigmas, however, were not prevalent enough to negatively tilt the children's outcomes in a comparison to outcomes across the general population.

Study author Simon Crouch told ABC News in Australia that previous research suggests same-sex parents don't feel pressured into gendered roles, which lets them more freely adapt to the needs of the family.

"So what this means is that people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes, which is mum staying home and looking after the kids and dad going out to earn money," Crouch said. "What this leads to is a more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well-being."

The study, however, comes with some caveats. The findings are based on reports from parents who agreed to the survey, which could skew the results. The survey also focused on Australian same-sex parents, so there may be social and cultural factors at play that wouldn't apply perfectly to America's gay and lesbian parents. And the study doesn't compare same-sex parents directly with opposite-sex parents; it instead compares same-sex parents and their children to the general population.

Still, the Australian study is not the first to find the children of same-sex parents can fare just as well as other children. Previous research found lesbian parents can be just as capable as opposite-sex parents. The biggest hurdle against same-sex parents, other studies suggest, are typical parenting issues, such as financial security and the health of the child-parent relationship, instead of the parents' sexual orientation.

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