Multiple studies have been conducted over the years, countless research has been carried out and endless debates have been had, all to show one thing: That the children of gay parents do just as well as the children of straight parents.
The myth that kids need a mum and a dad to have a fulfilled childhood has been repeatedly, conclusively disproved – so why is it still so pervasive?
Such views are ultimately rooted in outdated notions of what constitutes a good upbringing, stemming from conservative ideals of the ‘nuclear family’, with a mum, a dad, and 2.4 children.
In many cases, objection to LGBT families is motivated by homophobia as well – a belief that there is something different, and therefore undesirable or lacking, about gay parenting.
But last year, researchers conducted one of the most.comprehensive studies into same-sex parenting that has ever been carried out.
Scientists looked into more than three decades worth of peer-reviewed research into how the children in same-sex-parented families did in comparison to their peers from opposite-sex-parented families.
The wide-ranging study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia in October 2017, found what had already been shown in multiple previous studies – that the kids do just as well.
Among the studies reviewed were the 2017 public policy research portal at Columbia Law School in the US, which itself looked at 79 studies investigating the well-being of children raised by gay parents; a 2014 American Sociological Association review of more than 40 studies, which found that children fared just as well in a number of areas; and the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ review from 2013, which found that there was no evidence of harm
Numerous studies have found that children of same-sex parents fare very well (Picture: Getty Images)
Researchers behind the study, titled ‘The Kids are OK: it is Discrimination Not Same-Sex Parents that Harms Children’, said at the time: ‘The findings of these reviews reflect a broader consensus within the fields of family studies and psychology. It is family processes – parenting quality, parental well-being, the quality of and satisfaction with relationships in the family – rather than family structures that make a more meaningful difference to children’s well-being and positive development.’
They added that studies that had shown poor outcomes for LGBT-parented children had been widely criticised for their limited methodologies.
For example, one widely-cited Regnerus study was found to have looked at adults raised by an LGBT parent in any family configuration and compared them with adult children of heterosexual couples whose families were specifically only stable, two-parent set-ups, which would likely have distorted the outcomes.
Another study, conducted in 2014 by researchers at the University of Melbourne, found that children of same-sex couples actually fare better than their peers when it comes to physical health and social well-being.
‘It’s often suggested that children with same-sex parents have poorer outcomes because they’re missing a parent of a particular sex,’ lead researcher Simon Crouch wrote soon afterward. ‘But research my colleagues and I published in the journal BMC Public Health shows this isn’t the case.’
According to that study, children from same-sex families actually scored around 6% higher than their peers on general health and family cohesion, even when controlling for factors like parents’ education and household income. On most health measures, including emotional behavior and physical functioning, there was no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex parented kids.
Some research has even found that same-sex parents invest more time in their kids than their heterosexual counterparts (Picture: Getty Images)
And another study, published in 2015, concluded that same-sex parents actually invest more time in their children than straight parents. According to that research, lesbian mums spend around 40% more time doing activities with their kids, while gay dads spend as much time with their kids as straight mums – which is twice as much time as heterosexual dads.
‘Our study suggests that children with two parents of the same sex received more focused time from their parents – 3.5 hours a day, compared with 2.5 hours by children with different-sex parents,’ lead researcher Dr. Kate Prickett, from the University of Texas, said.
She added that the results could be down to the processes same-sex parents have to go through in order to have a child.
‘The ways that same-sex families come about, such as partnering with someone who already has a child, going through insemination or surrogacy, or adoption, suggest a strong desire to be a parent,’ she said.
However, most studies did find that the greatest barrier to a happy healthy life that children of LGBT parents face more than their peers is discrimination and bullying from other children and their teachers.
According to a Stonewall report, children from same-sex-parented families can sometimes ‘experience issues that stop them from fulfilling their potential’. ‘The use of casual homophobic language, in particular phrases such as “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” can be upsetting as it equates their family with something negative,’ it said. ‘Often schools aren’t good at responding to incidents. More than two in five primary schools and two in three secondary school staff say they don’t always respond when they hear homophobic language.’
More inclusion in schools can help combat discrimination (Picture: Getty Images)
One child experts spoke to, an eight-year-old boy called Mark, said he was teased by other kids because he has two mums.
‘Sometimes they say… you know, everybody’s got a dad, he must be dead or something,’ Mark said. ‘I say no, he’s not dead. Well, he’s not there, he’s never been there. All I’ve got is a donor dad and sometimes I get teased by them calling my dad a donor dad, donut dad.’
It added that some children of gay parents feel they have to keep their families a secret in order to avoid getting teased and bullied.
However, rather than preventing couples from adopting, the report suggests that better representation of LGBT families in schools and open discussions of different types of families can help prevent discrimination early on. Books that feature same-sex couples, for example, can help children realize that gay parents are no different to heterosexual ones.
In YouGov’s Teachers’ Report, published in 2009, around two-thirds of teachers in primary and secondary schools said their pupils had a positive reaction to discussing LGBT families, and only 3% reported a negative reaction. As a result, around 95% of primary school teachers said they would continue to openly discuss these issues.