Are Teens of Gay Parents Less Happy Than Their Peers?

What Women Really Think
Jan. 19 2012 1:12 PM

Are Teens of Gay Parents Less Happy Than Their Peers?

88000296
Two young protesters with their mothers during a gay rights rally in Hollywood

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images.

Over on the Washington Post’s parenting blog, Janice D’Arcy took on Rick Santorum’s recent assertion that being raised by same-sex parents “[robs] children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to” by way of pointing to a new study which shows that, in fact, having two mommies does nothing of the sort.

The main findings of the paper, “Quality of Life of Adolescents Raised from Birth by Lesbian Mothers: The US National Longitudinal Family Study,” are pretty straightforward. Psychologist Loes van Gelderen and his colleagues show that, within their sample, there are no significant differences in the self-reported quality of life between teens of lesbian moms and their straight counterparts. (If you want more info on the sample makeup and method, check out D’Arcy’s post or read the whole paper here [PDF].) Moreover, the researchers found that within the lesbian-parented group, other factors—such as knowing the sperm donor, being stigmatized by peers or having their mothers separate—did not significantly impact the teens’ quality of life.

Advertisement

While I’m not at all surprised by the central result (which confirmed on a great deal of previous research), I find some of the ancillary claims intriguing. Specifically, the study found that, in cases of divorce, almost three-quarters of lesbian parents retain joint custody, “whereas 65% of divorced American heterosexual mothers retain sole physical and legal custody of their children.” The authors speculate that the wellness of their sample group might relate in part to this continuation of shared parental responsibilities.

On a similar note, one might well expect that the hate speech and other discrimination many children of same-sex parents are likely to encounter in their communities would lead to a lower assessment of their quality of life, but lesbian mothers’ particularly close relationship with their children seemed to help train them to deflect such bullying, possibly even leading them to be stronger, more empathetic social actors in general.

This is all good news for those gay couples looking to adopt; without the canard of pseudo-science, social conservatives like Rick Santorum will have little else to lean on aside from outright bigotry.

If you are interested in more info on this topic (e.g. on how gay fathers fit in), check out this great literature survey [PDF] by the Australian Psychological Society.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.