What about the Children Raised by Gay Parents?

Examining The Data Behind Claims of “No Difference”

Many studies claim to show “no difference” in the outcomes of children raised by same-sex parents compared to those raised by heterosexual parents. Studies commonly cited in support of same-sex parenting are Reczek’s “Family Structure and Child Health; Does the Sex Composition of Parents Matter?” and Wainright, Russell, and Patterson’s study on adolescents with same-sex parents. However, these studies used flawed methodology, such as non-random samples, and the samples moreover were of fewer than 40 children whose parents were in a same-sex relationship, which guaranteed findings showing no statistically significant differences between same-sex and opposite-sex parenting. Furthermore, participants were recruited through networks of friends or through advocacy organizations that made the participants aware that the study’s purpose would be to investigate same-sex parenting. This, of course, as much as guaranteed biased responses and results.

European Gay Dads Study, 2023

A recent European study published in November 2023 examined 67 European gay-father families who had conceived through gestational surrogacy and 67 European heterosexual-parent families who had conceived via natural conception. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 10 years. The researchers “found” that gay fathers had children who were happier and more well-behaved and that their children showed fewer externalizing problems, such as aggression and rule-breaking, and fewer internalizing problems, such as anxiety and depression, than those with heterosexual parents. Further, the gay fathers self-reported that they had more effective parenting styles, greater co-parenting abilities, and higher relationship satisfaction than heterosexual parents. The study authors also concluded that when children did have internalized issues, it was due to having encountered homophobic microaggressions originating from outside the same-sex family structure.

This European study used the same faulty methodology as previous same-sex parenting studies. The study was completed via email questionnaire to those parents identifying themselves as the primary caregiver to their children. The questionnaire asked the parents directly about parenting styles, child behavioral issues, relationship satisfaction, and the impact of microaggressions on their families. All we know about these kids, therefore, are the fathers’ perceptions or projections about how these kids are faring. This research method potentially motivates gay fathers, who may feel social or emotional pressure to prove that their children are just as stable and well-adjusted as children in heterosexual families, to paint a rosier picture of their family dynamics than the whole truth would reveal. Not only was this self-reporting questionnaire completed by the couples themselves, but they were recruited through European surrogacy agencies, fertility clinics, and LGBTQ+ organizations.

So what do more rigorous studies show about how children of same-sex couples actually fare?

Regnerus Study, 2012

As quoted by psychiatrist Richard P. Fitzgibbons, sociologist Dr. Mark Regnerus

found that young-adult children (ages 18–39) of parents who had same-sex relationships before the subjects had reached the age of 18 were more likely to suffer from a broad range of emotional and social problems. The study is noteworthy for several reasons: (1) the study sample was large, representative, and population-based (not a small, self-selected group); (2) Regnerus collected the responses of adult children, rather than asking same-sex parents to describe how their young dependent children are doing; and (3) he was able to draw comparisons on up to 80 measures for children who had lived with (or who had) parents who fell into one of eight categories—intact families with both biological parents who were married to each other, lesbian mothers, gay fathers, heterosexual single parents, parents who later divorced, cohabiting parents, parents who adopted the respondent, and other (such as a deceased parent). The children of lesbians and gays fared worse than those in intact heterosexual families on 77 of the 80 outcome measures.

Sullins Study, 2014

Sociologist Dr. Paul Sullins collected data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which is one of the most exhaustive, expensive, and ongoing government research efforts undertaken to date, and he identified and assessed 20 randomly selected children with same-sex parents, culled from a pool of over 12,000 participants, to get an unbiased study of outcomes for kids with same-sex parents. He found that children in same-sex-parented households were likely to suffer emotional or behavioral difficulties at a rate of 9.3 percent, more than twice the 4.4 percent rate for children in dual-gender families; they experienced “definite” or “severe” emotional problems at a rate of 14.9 percent, versus 5.5 percent; they had been diagnosed with ADHD at a rate of 15.5 percent, versus 7.1 percent; they struggled with learning disabilities at a rate of 14.1, percent versus 8 percent; and they had received special education and mental health services at a rate of 17.8 percent, versus 10.4 percent.

What about the Children?

The authors of the European study reveal their own bias by stating that “prohibitions against surrogacy for gay males seem entirely based on prejudice, with no basis in social science research.” But regardless of what the authors perceived as reasons for prohibiting gay-male surrogacy, what we do know is that IVF and surrogacy have been shown to be harmful to children. We know about intellectual and developmental risks to children conceived through IVF, and we know about the risk of primal wound through the separation trauma of surrogacy; these realities are clear in social science research.

As surrogate-born Olivia states:

...in the womb, a baby creates a lot of links with its mother…This link is supposed to last after the birth, and it doesn’t… That is absolutely traumatizing for a newborn…We assume that the baby in the womb doesn’t feel anything, we assume that at birth kids don’t remember anything…Of course there’s a memory, of course there’s trauma…[people aren’t] willing to dig up the information and try to learn more about what happens in the womb and what happens at birth…

We also know that kids struggle with the divorce and remarriage of their parents when the new spouse is someone of the opposite sex, and we know that kids orphaned or abandoned and subsequently adopted by opposite-sex parents tend to suffer lasting effects from losing their parents. We also know that kids born through sperm and/or egg donation and raised by opposite-sex parents face identity struggles and genealogical bewilderment. All of these effects occur despite these children benefiting from the complementary relationship of a mother and a father. 

Children raised in same-sex homes are all either products of a divorce, were adopted, or were donor-conceived, yet we’re expected to believe that feelings of loss, abandonment, and identity struggle magically disappear when kids are raised by same-sex couples, despite their having the added disadvantage of missing the gender-specific benefits that come with being raised by a mother and father?

As Samantha stated about being raised by two fathers:

My formative years were almost entirely devoid of women. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a mother until I watched “The Land Before Time” at school. My 5-year-old brain could not understand why I didn’t have the mom that I suddenly desperately wanted. I felt the loss. I felt the hole. As I grew, I tried to fill that hole with aunts, my dads’ lesbian friends and teachers. I remember asking my first grade teacher if I could call her mom. I asked that question of any woman who showed me any amount of love and affection. It was instinctive. I craved a mother’s love even though I was well-loved by my two gay dads.

Defending children’s rights to their mothers and fathers grants them safety, identity, and the complementary gender balance that maximizes their psychological and physical development. Studies attempting to show “no difference” in the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples and children raised by their biological parents condone denying children their natural rights to be raised by their biological mothers and fathers. Children should never be deprived of these benefits in the name of “equality.” 

works for the children's rights organization Them Before Us. She holds a master's degree in Mental Health and Wellness with an emphasis in family dynamics and a graduate certificate in trauma-informed practice and is working towards a second masters in bioethics. She has written for various outlets on beginning and end-of-life issues, and has had articles published in The Times UK and The Scotsman through her work as a research associate for the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics.

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