New Study Challenges a Common Stereotype About Same-Sex Parenting

Same sex marriage may be legal in the United States and many other countries, but the social battle that many homosexual and queer people face when it comes to having and raising a child is still steep and uphill. Anti-gay opponents generally fight bitterly and fiercely to make their points known.

A study by the University of Austin – often cited by conservative or religious organizations as the New Family Structure Study or the Regnerus Study – concluded in 2012 that children of same sex parents are more likely to suffer from mental health issues like ADD or depression, be arrested, smoke tobacco and marijuana, and be sexually molested, among other issues. The study is used frequently as ‘evidence’ in arguments by groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, two conservative Christian groups, as well as in political campaigns and personal debates. But new evidence has arisen which directly refutes these claims.

A New Study

An Italian study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics has released new evidence regarding the well-being of the children of same sex parents. Researchers interviewed and surveyed almost 400 families with heterosexual, gay, and lesbian parents to determine levels of family cohesion and functionality. Questions in the study, done at Sapienza University in Rome, first looked at factors such as age, socioeconomic status, education levels, and geographic location. Subjects were then tested on their confidence in their relationships and parenting abilities, and the children in the families were tested for levels of psychological adjustment.

The study concluded that children with heterosexual and same sex parents both functioned at about similar levels, and in fact, families with gay parents tended to report higher levels of family cohesion. The study took into account factors such as that families with same sex parents face different hardships than families with heterosexual parents due to teasing, bullying, and daily microaggressions. This differs greatly from the Regnerus Study, which misclassified a lot of its subjects and therefore skewed some information about family stability.

The results of this study from Sapienza are not an outlier. Many other prominent and scientific studies have also determined that there is no discernable difference in the well-being of children based on their parents’ sexual orientation or identity.

Impact of Research

The information obtained from this research is important, especially in a country like Italy, which legalized civil unions in 2016 but shows no sign of legalizing same sex marriage in the near future, likely in part due to the country’s association with the Catholic church and religion. The knowledge that children function much the same regardless of their parents’ sexuality is an important one, because anti-gay lobbyists can no longer use the safety of children to argue that gay and lesbian parents should not be able to conceive, adopt, or raise children of their own.

Researchers in this particular study were very careful to note that the information obtained was self reported, meaning it may be colored by the subjects’ own opinions or perceptions of what is most socially acceptable. But regardless of this fact, it’s an important step in the right direction, and those behind the study insist that the subject merits a lot more research and attention.

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