The Sexual Continuum

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25 year-long study finds children with lesbian parents may be better adjusted

New study on lesbian moms

A new study published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics followed a group of children born to lesbian mothers for nearly 25 years to chart their psychological health and development. Previous studies have found no significant differences in psychological health between children reared by lesbian or heterosexual parents [1-4]. This led the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue a report in support of same-sex parents raising children [5].

This new study, by Dr. Gartell and Dr. Bos, was launched in 1986 with a goal of following children of planned lesbian families into adulthood. They described the families as "planned" because the children were conceived with donor insemination opposed to being conceived with a man from a previous relationship. After nearly 25 years, the authors have reported the results on the psychological adjustment of the offspring. They measures psychological adjustment with the widely used and validated Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Compared to established norms, the children of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence. They were rated significantly lower in social problems, rule breaking, and aggressive problems.

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Why did these children with lesbian mothers report less problematic behaviors? The authors suggest that this may be explained by the disciplinary styles used in lesbian mother households. These mothers reported using verbal limit-setting more often with their children. Other studies have found lesbian mothers to use less power assertion (i.e. coercion and critical interactions) and greater involvement, both of which have been found to be associated with healthier psychological adjustment in children.

While this study is impressive in following 93% of the initially recruited families for up to 24 years, there were limitations just like in any study. The participants were not randomly selected and the information on psychological adjustment was only provided by the mothers. A more comprehensive assessment approach would have included reports from the children themselves and possibly another source like teachers.


Dr. Mustanski is the Director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can follow his work on the program's webpage. You can follow the Sexual Continuum blog by becoming a fan on Facebook.

References

1. Golombok S, Perry B, Burston A, Murray C, Mooney-Somers J, Stevens M, et al. Children with lesbian parents: a community study. Dev Psychol. 2003;39(1):20-33.
2. Tasker F, Golombok S. Adults raised as children in lesbian families. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 1995;65(2):203-15.
3. Golombok S, Tasker F, Murray C. Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1997;38(7):783-91.
4. Bos HM, van Balen F, van den Boom DC. Child adjustment and parenting in planned lesbian-parent families. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2007;77(1):38-48.
5. Perrin EC, Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family H. Technical report: coparent or second-parent adoption by same-sex parents. Pediatrics. 2002;109(2):341-4.

 

 

Brian Mustanski, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at Northwestern University and the founding Director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program.

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