Thursday, September 16, 2010

The kids are all right - By Sadie F. Dingfelder – Monitor - December 2005, Vol 36, No. 11

Research shows that families headed by gay and lesbian parents are as healthy as traditional families, but misperceptions linger.

Most of the parenting challenges Steven James, PhD, faces are pretty ordinary. For one, James's usually studious son Greg, 9, has recently been refusing to do his geography homework. "He's just not that interested in memorizing states and capitals," says James, who chairs the psychology and counseling program at Vermont's Goddard College.

However, as gay parents, James and his partner, Todd Herrmann, PhD, have some fears that don't keep most other parents up at night. The biggest one, says James, is that their sons, Greg and Max, 4, might be taken away from them if they travel to a hostile place. James and Herrmann's adoption of the two boys is not legally recognized in 11 states and many countries, and as a result they can't safely visit one set of grandparents.

"My dad and his wife were here to visit a few months ago and they asked: 'Why not bring the boys to Oklahoma?' I had to explain: 'Your laws don't respect our adoption. Your state could put the boys into foster homes without any say from me or you,'" says James…

…"Sexual orientation has nothing to do with good parenting," notes Armand Cerbone, PhD, who reviewed research on gay and lesbian parenting as chair of APA's Working Group on Same-Sex Families and Relationships.

Challenging assumptions

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the three decades of research showing that children of gay or lesbian parents are just as mentally healthy as children with heterosexual parents, notes Cerbone. One such study, published in Child Development (Vol. 75, No. 6, pages 1,886-1,898) in 2004, compares a group of 44 teenagers with same-sex couples as parents with an equal number of teenagers with opposite-sex couples as parents. All participants were part of a national, randomly selected sample of teenagers from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

"There were very few group differences between the kids who had been brought up by same- or opposite-sex parents," says Patterson, who conducted the research with students Jennifer Wainright and Stephen Russell, PhD, now an associate professor of sociology at the University of Arizona. One group difference that Patterson was surprised to find: Children of gay and lesbian parents reported closer ties with their schools and classmates. However, says Patterson, the difference was small and needs to be studied further.
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Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.

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