Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents

Patterson, C. J.. (2009). Children of lesbian and gay parents: Psychology, law, and policy. American Psychologist, 22, 727-736.

Legal and policy debates concerning adoption, foster care, and custody by lesbian and gay parents have focused on three primary areas of concern about child development. These include the development of gender identity (the individual’s sense of being female or male), the development of gender roles (behavior that conforms to norms about how women and men should act), and the development of sexual orientation (the individual’s level of attraction toward own and/or different sex partners). Patterson (2009) reviewed the research literature on this topic, yet noted that such concerns inaccurately assume that nonheterosexuality constitutes disordered behavior. This review consistently revealed no major differences between children raised by same-sex couples as compared with children raised by heterosexual parents in terms of gender identity, gender role behavior, or sexual orientation. In addition, although a sizable number of children reported being teased about parents’ sexual orientation, no differences were found in terms of social adjustment or peer relationships. The author stated that these findings have led several professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, to denounce discrimination in terms of custody, foster care, adoption, visitation, and reproductive health services based on sexual orientation. One important difference did emerge in Patterson’s review — children raised by same-sex couples reported less sexual (anti-gay) prejudice than children raised by heterosexual parents.

Making Connections

Child rearing
Gender development
Gender identity
Gender roles
Sexual orientation
Social development

Media Supplement

In this NPR Talk of the Nation episode, Kids with Gay Parents, Neal Conan and guests discuss growing up with gay parents. [32 min 50 sec], the website for Abigail Garner’s book, Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is , provides resources for people who have parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.