The Effects of a Parent's Sexual Orientation on a Child

Non-traditional families have been thriving, as more lesbian and gay individuals and couples build their families through adoption. While growing numbers of private and public adoption agencies welcome gay and lesbian parents, these parents still face stereotypes and laws based on assumptions that sexual orientation affects a child’s healthy emotional development. Leading child welfare organizations support a growing body of research, which reveals that a child with same-sex parents will develop as well as children whose parents are heterosexual.

Research Finds No Difference

"Research has shown that the adjustment, development, and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation and the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish,” according to the report "Sexual Orientation, Parents, & Children" from the American Psychological Association 1. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents” found no difference between gay and heterosexual fathers in providing appropriate recreation, encouraging autonomy, or dealing with general problems of parenting 2. The AAP report also found no difference in the children of lesbian and heterosexual mothers on measures of self-esteem, measures of peer group relationships, behavioral difficulties, academic success and quality of family relationships.

Strengths of Lesbian and Gay Adoptive Families

Gay and lesbian individuals and couples are engaged and invested in the adoption process, and bring a range of strengths and capacities to the role of parents, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Information Gateway. Gay and lesbian parents embrace a broader definition of family, often because they might have faced discrimination from their family of origin in establishing their family of choice. Gay and lesbian parents also have a deep understanding of how it feels to be different and are able to advocate for fairness and equality for their family.

Benefits of Having Same-Sex Parents

Growing up with same-sex parents might also confer certain advantages on children. Children of lesbian parents saw themselves as more lovable, and parents and teachers regarded lesbian parents as more affectionate and protective of younger children, compared with children of heterosexual parents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics report 2. Compared with heterosexual fathers, gay fathers are more involved in their children's activities and place greater emphasis on guidance and the development of cognitive skills.

What's Best For All Children

Children in all family structures have better outcomes when parents share household and parenting responsibilities, and when conflict between partners is low. Parents and teachers rate children as better adjusted when their parents report greater relationship satisfaction, higher levels of love and lower interparental conflict. “Parents’ sexual orientation is much less important than having loving and nurturing parents,” stated the American Academy of Pediatrics 12.