From the Science News January, 1995
An increasing number of homosexual men and women in the United States raise children, whether as a result of artificial insemination, adoption, or winning custody of youngsters conceived during previous heterosexual relationships. Considerable social and legal controversy surrounds this, trend, much of it focused on whether homosexual parents can raise well-adjusted children.
Three new studies, published in the January Developmental Psychology, suggest that neither the absence of a father nor the presence of homosexual parents interferes with a child's emotional development. Moreover, a large majority of the sons of men who now classify themselves as homosexual are themselves heterosexual, contrary to popular notions that homosexual parents groom their offspring for a corresponding sexual orientation.
The latter finding comes from a study of 55 homosexual or bisexual men who reported the sexual orientation of their 82 sons age 17 or older. J. Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and his coworkers recruited the fathers through ads in homosexual publications and also contacted 43 of their sons. The sons' self-ratings of sexual orientation nearly always agreed with their fathers' ratings of them, so Bailey's group included in its analysis all of the fathers' ratings (except for those of seven men who were uncertain of their sons' sexual orientation).
Of the 75 sons included in the analysis, 7 (9 percent) were homosexual or bisexual. This proportion exceeds the 2 percent to 5 percent rate of homosexuality thought to occur in Western societies, but it falls far below levels of homosexuality found in male identical and fraternal twins (SN: 1/4/92, p.6). An inherited influence on sexual orientation may slightly boost the incidence of homosexuality in sons of homosexuals, the researchers propose.
Homosexual sons had not lived longer with their fathers than had heterosexual sons. Thus, imitation of homosexual fathers or parental encouragement to try homosexuality apparently played no role in sons' sexual orientation, the scientists hold.
The second study, directed by psychologist David K. Flaks of St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, N.J., found healthy and largely equivalent emotional and behavioral adjustment in 3- to 9-year-old children of 15 lesbian couples and 15 heterosexual couples. Both groups of parents reported largely satisfying relationships and substantial knowledge of effective parenting skills. Lesbian couples were located through a lesbian-mother support group and, like the heterosexual couples, consisted mainly of two wage earners.
The third investigation involves 26 lesbian couples with 4- to 9-year-old children conceived through artificial insemination. Psychologist Charlotte J. Patterson of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville reports that the women display a high degree of satisfaction with their relationships, based greatly on an equal division of household tasks and responsibility for family decisions. Still, the biological mothers spent more time at home and fewer hours at paid employment than their partners.
Patterson also notes that children of these lesbian couples show good psychological health, compared to same-age children in 11 heterosexual couples with similar backgrounds and incomes.
"Studies to date show few differences among children of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples," writes Diana Baumrind, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, in an accompanying comment. However, the data remain limited, since investigations focus on small numbers of couples who have not been selected at random and who have not been interviewed extensively or observed interacting with their children, Baumrind cautions.