Gay Adoption Pros & Cons

By Erica Loop
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The modern-day family doesn't always look like the stereotypical mom-dad-child picture. This includes single parents, blended families and same-sex couples with either biological or adopted children. Roughly 21 percent of same-sex couples with children have an adopted or step child, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey. That said, not everyone agrees that same sex couple adoption is always a positive. From legal issues to childhood outcomes, the public and the couples themselves may find both pros and cons to gay adoption.

Legal Issues

Unlike heterosexual married couples, adoption may prove more difficult in legal ways for gay parents. Same sex adoption laws vary by state. These variations may present obstacles or cause confusion for gay parents who are considering adoption. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to jointly petition for adoption, according to the Human Rights Campaign. This means that both partners can legally adopt the child. Other states have unclear or prohibitive laws. For example, as of 2014, unmarried individuals are not allowed to jointly adopt children (See References, 2). Mississippi and Utah both prohibit same sex, unmarried couples from adoption. State laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky and Nebraska allow gay individuals to adopt, but do not allow a second-parent adoption. Even though these restrictions contribute to the cons of becoming a gay parent, laws are not static and may change over time.

Child Development and Gay Parents

Even though public opinion about same-sex partnerships and marriage has come a long way in the past few decades, prejudice still exists. People who oppose homosexuality or homosexuals raising children may try to degrade same sex parents, saying that they can't raise children properly. In contrast, research shows otherwise. A study of 106 families that included gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples found that children of same sex couples were well-adjusted, according to an article in the journal Applied Developmental Science. The children in the study who were adopted as infants by same sex couples showed no significant difference in well-being or behavior than the children of heterosexual couples. This was based on parent and teacher reports. Instead of showing psychological distress or behavior issues that were greater than children on heterosexual couples, the adoptive children of gay parents thrived.

Sexual Orientation and Parenting

A major argument against same sex couple adoption is that gay parents are molesters or sexual deviants that will hurt or sway their children. This opinion isn't founded in research and can have a negative impact on gay adoptive families. The sentiment that homosexuals are pedophiles is anti-gay and contributes to the negative stereotypes of same sex parents. Likewise, the idea that gay parents will influence their children's sexual orientation is untrue. The same study that found that adoptive children of gay parents are well-adjusted also found that there was no gender orientation influence at play. The gender orientations of the children of both homosexual and heterosexual couples were equally influenced by a variety of factors. These included biological and social factors.

Competent Parents and Role Models

Whether you're looking at the child's general adjustment, behavioral issues or the provision of gendered role models, gay adoptive parents have just as much of a positive influence as heterosexual couples. In some cases, same sex parents may actually have a greater positive impact than their heterosexual counterparts. A study of gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples in the United Kingdom found that homosexual parents had better parenting practices and were often more competent than the traditional man-women families. Gay adoptive parents may face opposition against the idea of a single-sex couple taking on both traditional roles of mommy and daddy. There is little evidence to back up this assumption . Even though the man and the woman often take on different roles within a heterosexual couple, this doesn't necessarily impact gay adoptive couples in a major way. A study of different kinds of families found little significance in terms of the children's psychological adjustment, according to the Journal of Marriage and Family.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.