The Status of Children in Polyamorous Families

What does the research say?

Posted Sep 30, 2013

The children in the polyamorous families that participated in my 15-year study are generally in great shape: They are articulate and intelligent, precocious and thoughtful, poised and self-confident. Not that kids from poly families are perfect – they can be just as obnoxious, defiant, and irritating as children in other families. Even so, kids from poly families are a strikingly robust group, and my findings indicate three main reasons for that conclusion.

1. Optimistic Sample

In research speak, the group of people who participate in a research study is called the sample. The sample for my study of poly families was prone to be optimistc about polyamory for a couple of reasons. 

Volunteers

Cartoon people wearing shirts that spell out the word volunteers.

Generally people only participate in research if they want to, most research is completely voluntary.

Research Methods

The word research magnified on a page in a dictionary.

Committees called Institutional Research Boards (IRBs) regulate and monitor professors' research.

2. Race and Class Privilege

 

Privileges are often invisible to the people who have them, but painfully obvious to the people who do not have those privileges

The mainstream polyamorous communities in the United States, Australia, and Western Europe – the bastions of polyamorous life and research – are composed primarily of white, middle-class, highly educated people. Like other middle-class white people, poly parents pass their race and class privilege to their children. Kids whose parents have multiple graduate degrees (about 2/3 of the adults in my study had at least a masters degree, and almost half had a PhD) are already starting off with many advantages compared with children whose parents have less education.

3. It Really Does Take a Village

 

The dominant factor that encourages kids in poly families to be so articulate and thoughtful is the presence of numerous adults their lives. Multiple adults provide lots of attention, greater life experience, copious support, and abundant role models for children. Pooling their resources also allows adults to have more personal time, work more flexible hours, and get more sleep because there are multiple people around to take care of the children. Parents in the study reported that they felt more patient and had more energy for their children when they were well rested and had sufficient income – all of which benefitted their children.

 Adults and children boating on shallow green water, smiling.

Poly families are not perfect, and their kids experience some of the same problems common in other blended families (which I will blog about soon). For those poly folks who can find the right balance in their relationships, however, multiple-adult families can be extremely advantageous for children and adults.

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