APA Monitor: "The kids are all right"
The December, 2005 APA Monitor has an article The kids are all right about children with gay and lesbian parents. Highlights:
Families such as the James-Hermanns and the challenges they face are becoming increasingly common in the United States. The 2000 U.S. census estimated that 163,879 households with children were headed by same-sex couples. That number is likely to be much larger today, says Charlotte Patterson, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.
"More people are choosing to start families in the context of a gay or lesbian identity," she says...
But while gay- and lesbian-headed families face a slate of challenges that more traditional families avoid–from legal hassles and homophobia to everyday tasks, such as figuring out how to fill out school forms–research shows that the children with gay or lesbian parents do as well as children with heterosexual parents. Having a gay or lesbian parent doesn't affect a child's social adjustment, school success or sexual orientation, say researchers.
"Sexual orientation has nothing to do with good parenting," notes Armand Cerbone, PhD, who reviewed research on gay and lesbian parenting as chair of APA's Working Group on Same-Sex Families and Relationships.
Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the three decades of research showing that children of gay or lesbian parents are just as mentally healthy as children with heterosexual parents, notes Cerbone. One such study ... compares a group of 44 teenagers with same-sex couples as parents with an equal number of teenagers with opposite-sex couples as parents.
"There were very few group differences between the kids who had been brought up by same- or opposite-sex parents," says Patterson... One group difference that Patterson was surprised to find: Children of gay and lesbian parents reported closer ties with their schools and classmates. However, says Patterson, the difference was small and needs to be studied further.
Patterson's study debunks the myth that children of gay or lesbian parents have trouble developing romantic relationships due to a missing father- or mother-figure–a concern that judges making custody rulings have cited. Equal numbers of teenagers from each group reported that they had been in a romantic relationship in the previous 18 months. Participants from the two groups did not differ in grade point average, symptoms of depression or self-esteem.
On a less pleasant note:
In fact, an as-yet-unpublished study by Nanette Gartrell, MD, found that by age 10, about half of children with lesbian mothers have been targeted for homophobic teasing by their peers. Those children tended to report more psychological distress than those untouched by homophobia...
So, gay marriage would reduce psychological trauma for gays and their children by making homophobia less acceptable.
Researchers, too, can ameliorate the challenges such families face by continuing to dispel myths about lesbian and gay parents and by educating the public about their findings, notes Cerbone.
We all have our crosses to bear it would seem.