Despite all the hand-wringing from traditional family types, same-sex parents are just as capable as opposite-sex parents.
That's the big takeaway from a new study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. The researchers tapped into data from the National Survey of Children's Health to look at how the parents and their children fared. Although the analysis found that same-sex parents tended to report modestly more parenting stress, it found no difference in outcomes, such as general health and learning behaviors, among the children of opposite-sex and same-sex parents.
Why was there seemingly no strong link between parenting stress and children's outcomes? Researchers suggest other variables not noted in the study may mitigate the stress. For example, other studies have found that lesbian parents tend to worry about homophobia and stigmatization, so they seek more parenting services and counseling groups to ensure healthy child development — programs that could outweigh the effects of more parenting stress.
The study was somewhat limited. In an effort to control for as many variables as possible, the researchers "focus[ed] only on 2-parent families in which the offspring were reared since birth by parents who neither broke up nor got divorced." They also only compared same-sex and opposite-sex parents after controlling for certain characteristics, such as age, education, and location.
As a result of the controls, the study had one big limitation: It only looked at two-mom families, since the pool of two-dad families in the data was too small to be reliable.
The study also relied on survey data reported by one of the parents through a phone interview. It's possible that some of the self-reporting isn't completely reliable, especially since researchers looked at relatively small sample sizes of 95 same-sex and 95 opposite-sex couples.
Still, this isn't the first study to come out with these findings.
A 2014 review of the evidence by Bowling Green State University researchers found:
American children living within same-sex parent households fare just as well as those children residing within different-sex parent households over a wide array of well-being measures: academic performance, cognitive development, social development, psychological health, early sexual activity, and substance abuse. Our assessment of the literature is based on credible and methodologically sound studies that compare well-being outcomes of children residing within same-sex and different-sex parent families. Differences that exist in child well-being are largely due to socioeconomic circumstances and family stability.
Another 2014 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. (Although this study may be skewed by selection bias: The findings are based on reports from parents who agreed to the survey, and may be willing to participate because they have positive stories.)
So the general consensus of the research is that same-sex parents are just as capable as opposite-sex parents. The latest study, then, just adds more evidence in same-sex parents' favor.