Brianna and Ava want to have children. However, Ava has some reservations because she’s unsure about how their children will be treated by others, and she wonders how her relationship with Brianna will impact their children in the long-term.
The answers aren’t 100%, but two researchers – Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz – were were interested in the lives of people in the community and examined the studies on the lives of children of LGB parents. They have shed some light on some important differences in the way children of same-sex parents are raised and the way they these children live. In their article, “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?” Stacy and Biblarz reviewed 21 studies and highlighted some of the differences.
Intuitively, it would make sense that any variation on the “norm” (a mother and a father) would result in differences in raising their children and how their children would turn out. For example, looking at what the researchers call gender role conformity, the authors found that children of LGB parents do not conform to the rigid roles that society has placed on the rest of us.
It makes sense that same-sex parents would have less gender role conformity. This is in part due to the fact that since we broke through culturally imposed barriers as children and adults, it makes sense that we wouldn’t place those same artificial standards on our children.
The researchers point out that, “Children of same-gender parents, and particularly with co-mother parents, develop in less gender-stereotypical ways than would children with two heterosexual parents.” In some ways, like in the areas of aggressiveness and play preferences, the sons of lesbian mothers behave less traditionally than those raised by heterosexual single mothers.
Daughters of lesbian parents also develop in less gender-stereotypical ways. In one study, when asked what they would like to do when they grow up, twice as many girls of lesbian parents said that they wanted to be in an occupation traditionally reserved for men than girls of heterosexual mothers .
In fact, Stacey and Biblarz note that sexual orientation and gender interact with one another. Two co-parenting women may create a synergistic way, which can bring more democratic, compatible, and shared parenting. They spend more time with children while tending to have a greater understanding of them. Children of same-sex parents report more closeness and communication between themselves and their parents.
The researchers found that social constraints based on heterosexism can affect the quality and length of same-sex relationships. The authors note that this inequity contributes to the problem that same-sex couples on average dissolve their relationships in less time than heterosexual marriages do.
As a discriminated against minority, we see the world through a different lens than heterosexuals do. Therefore, the children of LGB parents would of course be affected by heterosexism as well.
The other phenomenon that comes with heterosexism -homophobia- can occur in two major ways. Same-sex couples must deal with everything from stares at the grocery store to ostracism at schools, places of worship, etc. and denial of parental rights for a non-biological non-married parent. The other type of homophobia, internalized homophobia, is the swallowing of these societal messages. And everything from discussions about family planning to parenting can occur in this context.
In what may be the most controversial of the findings, there’s evidence that the sexual orientation of parents may influence the sexual orientation of their children. In one study that Stacey and Biblarz examined, significantly more young adults raised by lesbian parents reported engaging in same-sex relationships than young adults raised by heterosexual mothers.
However, there are two shortcomings in the study. The first problem is that the researchers in this particular study examined a small number of subjects (45 altogether), which affects the probability that their findings are accurate.
While these shortcomings may be corrected in the future, what should we as a community think about the possibility that people raised by LGB people are more open to same-sex relationships? Like many others, Ava worried about the possibility that, should one of their children turn out to be a sexual minority, that she and Brianna would be blamed for it. Should Ava be afraid that some people will use these findings and say “Aha! Children of same-sex couples are more willing to experiment with and develop same-sex relationships”, and therefore attempt deny us our rights?
Fortunately, more and more rational people are willing to see sexual minorities as entitled to the same rights that heterosexuals have. There may be a hereditary component to sexual orientation, which could answer the riddle of sexual orientation. But could it be that the adult-children of same-sex parents are simply more honest?
Ava ultimately decided that as we move toward a more progressive society, she has the choice to be open about who she loves, live with whom she wants to live, and to have children. Likewise, that is the choice for the rest of us.