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Childhood Studies Gay and Lesbian Parents
by
Anna Malmquist, Karin Zetterqvist Nelson

Introduction

Research on gay and lesbian parenthood is diverse, covering a wide range of topics approached from different theoretical perspectives and using different methodological approaches. The research area is relatively young, having started in the 1970s and expanded slowly at first, growing into a large research field today. At first, research was often initiated in response to issues regarding care of children. In the 1970s, after divorces from their children’s fathers, lesbian mothers were legally compelled to fight for custody of their children. Because of prevailing heterosexist prejudices and strong heteronormative notions of parenthood and family life, lesbian motherhood and gay fatherhood were persistently called into question, both in legal and social contexts. The alleged risk was that children’s psychosocial health was at stake. Such concerns triggered a range of outcome studies in which the psychosocial health and development of children with gay and lesbian parents were examined. The “child outcome” issue is a strand of research that still thrives today, although the context has changed. Contemporary outcome studies often focus on lesbian couples having children through assisted reproduction. Some research projects are also designed so that lesbian couples are compared to heterosexual couples in the same situation. Today, lesbian and gay parenthood is seen as a diverse category. It demonstrates various routes to parenthood for lesbian and gay persons or couples who wish to form families with children. This development reflects a broader social change, in which alternative ways of forming families have become more acceptable and recognized both at a sociopolitical level and in the general public. In a parallel development to the child outcome studies, sociological and anthropological approaches to gay and lesbian parenthood have evolved. In this direction, topics such as family practices, relations with the surrounding society, and legal and sociopolitical dimensions of gay and lesbian parenthood have been explored, often using a qualitative approach. In addition, children’s own voices and perspectives have been taken into account beyond the structured interviews and questionnaires often used in the child outcome studies. In a broad perspective, irrespective of the disciplinary perspective and the methodological approach taken, the research field is marked by a strong recognition of gay and lesbian rights. It does not exclude the presence of conflict. Queer theory has contributed to question previous certainties concerning parenthood. Gendered parenthood and heteronormativies have consequently been highlighted. Conceptualizations such as transgender parenthood, bisexual parenthood, and queer families illuminate how a category such as “gay and lesbian parents” has to be broadened to also encompass bisexual, transgendered, and queer parenthood, or basically what is captured in the acronym LGBTQ-parenthood, meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer parenthood.

General Overviews

Anthologies and books providing literature reviews of research on gay and lesbian parenthood reflect the diversity of contemporary research perspectives. Goldberg 2010 provides a broad overview of psychological research on parents and children, including critical dimensions drawing on feminist and queer theories. Tasker and Bigner 2007 is an anthology (copublished as the Journal of GLBT Family Studies 3.2–3 [2007]), which offers an overview of different family forms and discussions of specific issues. Hicks 2011, by a British sociologist, summarizes and discusses important insights from research on LGBTQ (see Introduction) family practices, which mainly draws on sociological theory. In Takâcs and Kuhar 2011, an anthology dealing with gay and lesbian parenting, research on family practices in different European countries is discussed by contributors from these countries. An anthropological perspective is taken in Weston 1991, a classic book on gay and lesbian families, in which the conceptualization of gay and lesbian families as “chosen families” was coined. Golombok 2000 focuses on parenting in various family forms and demonstrates how outcomes of parenting are related to relational skills rather than specific family forms.

  • Goldberg, Abbie E. Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1037/12055-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this comprehensive overview of current research, important insights and conclusions in psychological research on lesbian and gay parenthood are presented.

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  • Golombok, Susan. Parenting: What Really Counts? London: Routledge, 2000.

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    In this book, Golombok compares parenthood in different settings, such as adoption families and planned lesbian-parent families. The author shows how outcome of parenthood is a relational skill, beyond structural family aspects.

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  • Hicks, Stephen. Lesbian, Gay, and Queer Parenting: Families, Intimacies, Genealogies. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230348592Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book offers an updated view of contemporary LGBQ family practices from sociological perspectives, including interactionist, feminist, discursive, and queer theories. The engagement with theories is combined with empirical studies of the “messy world of everyday lives.”

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  • Takâcs, Judit, and Roman Kuhar, eds. Doing Families: Gay and Lesbian Family Practices. Ljubljana, Slovenia: Peace Institute, 2011.

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    In this anthology, the possibilities and obstacles in the (un)doing of LGBT families with respect to specific national contexts in Europe are discussed. It provides important insights into contexts that are covered infrequently in the Anglo-Sachsian research tradition.

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  • Tasker, Fiona, and Jeremy J. Bigner, eds. Gay and Lesbian Parenting: New Directions. Binghamton, NY: Haworth, 2007.

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    This book contains contributions from many well-known researchers (Golombok, Pattersson, Bigner, Tasker, etc.). It provides a rich overview of contemporary findings and issues, such as reproductive alternatives, against the backdrop of historical overviews of a growing research field (copublished as a special issue of Journal of GLBT Family Studies 3.2–3 [2007]).

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  • Weston, Kath. Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

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    Weston’s book draws on ethnographic studies and interviews from San Francisco in the 1980s. The book discusses how lesbians and gay men build their own kinship networks as an alternative to the often conflict-ridden relations of their “biological” families.

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Decision-Making Processes

For gay and lesbian individuals and couples who plan to have children, a number of possible routes to parenthood may be considered. Looking specifically at women or lesbian couples, they face a range of aspects in relation to both the type of reproductive technique and the kinds of relational ties in the family to be (biological, genetic, legal, and social). One route is to have assisted reproduction, either at a fertility clinic or through self-insemination at home. Sperm donors can be chosen from among friends or acquaintances of the family, or they may be unknown to the parents and offspring, such as when a sperm bank is used. Some clinics also offer identity-release donors, so it is possible for offspring to contact donors once they reach adulthood. Another route is to have foster children or to apply for adoption. Mezey 2008 and Chabot and Ames 2004 provide insights into the complexities of decision-making processes overall. Donovan and Wilson 2008 focuses on women who conceive at fertility clinics as they negotiate relational ties. Other issues arise specifically in relation to the choice of having children through self-insemination. If a lesbian couple chooses to involve a known man or a male gay couple for self-insemination, they encounter issues relating to the status of this person or couple in the coming family. Donovan 2000 outlines questions that need to be answered: Will the person (and possibly his partner) take the role of an active father to the child, will he be presented as a good friend to the family, or will he remain an unknown donor to the child? Decision-making processes are also determined by structural frames in various nation-states, such as sociopolitical context, social conventions, and cultural frames, which are discussed in Ryan-Flood 2009, a comparative study of lesbian couples in Sweden and Ireland. From gay men’s point of view, a wish to become parents implies other options and other kinds of negotiations, which are described in Berkowitz and Marsiglio 2007. Routes to parenthood for gay men imply options such as surrogacy, adoption, or aligning with a single woman or a female couple to have children through insemination. Wells 2011 looks at the issue of adoption, while Dempsey 2010 addresses families in which gay men and lesbians parent together (see also Gay Fatherhood).

  • Berkowitz, Dana, and William Marsiglio. “Gay Men: Negotiating Procreative, Father, and Family Identities.” Journal of Marriage and Family 69.2 (2007): 366–381.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00371.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, nineteen childless gay men and twenty gay men who are fathers are interviewed about issues concerning procreative consciousness in relation to structural and social opportunities and constraints. The conclusion adds to discussions of new forms of family arrangements and diversity of family practices.

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  • Chabot, Jennifer M., and Barbara D. Ames. “‘It Wasn’t Like ‘Let’s Get Pregnant and Go Do It’:’ Decision Making in Lesbian Couples Planning Motherhood via Donor Insemination.” Family Relations 53.4 (2004): 348–356.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0197-6664.2004.00041.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, analysis of interviews with ten lesbian couples is carried out. Drawing on feminist theory, the process from starting to plan for children, choosing a donor, and becoming pregnant is outlined and discussed in depth.

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  • Dempsey, Deborah. “Conceiving and Negotiating Reproductive Relationships: Lesbians and Gay Men Forming Families with Children.” Sociology 44.6 (2010): 1145–1162.

    DOI: 10.1177/0038038510381607Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses the results from an Australian study, based on in-depth interviews with twenty lesbians and fifteen gay men. The aim was to explore the manner in which women and men collaborate in having children. Results indicate that gay men sometimes wish for a higher degree of involvement than the women are prepared to understand.

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  • Donovan, Catherine. “Who Needs a Father? Negotiating Biological Fatherhood in British Lesbian Families Using Self-Insemination.” Sexualities 3.2 (2000): 149–164.

    DOI: 10.1177/136346000003002003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article the role of the father is discussed in relation to self-insemination. The findings point out how many lesbians balance between a wish to involve an active father and the need to protect the integrity of the family.

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  • Donovan, Catherine, and Angelia R. Wilson. “Imagination and Integrity: Decision-Making among Lesbian Couples to Use Medically Provided Donor Insemination.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 10.7 (2008): 649–665.

    DOI: 10.1080/13691050802175739Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, lesbian couples’ decision-making processes are highlighted as an important moment of reflexivity in which a future family is imagined and the relational ties are considered, with due regard to the integrity of the lesbian couples’ relationship.

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  • Mezey, Nancy. New Choices, New Families. How Lesbians Decide about Motherhood. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

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    The book draws on an interview study. The participants were diversified with respect to social class, ethnicity, and race. The findings point out the role of historical circumstances in providing opportunities to create new kinds of families, but also the role of being privileged, or not, in creating a family.

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  • Ryan-Flood, Róisín. Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Families and Sexual Citizenship. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230234444Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book is based on a comparative study of lesbian mothers in Sweden and Ireland, focusing on a range of topics related to lesbian motherhood, including reproductive decision making and the negotiation of biology and kinship in lesbian families. Important aspects related to gender relations, sexuality, kinship, and citizenship are discussed.

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  • Wells, Gregory. “Making Room for Daddies: Male Couples Creating Families Through Adoption.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.1–2 (2011): 155–181.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2011.537242Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this interview study of ten gay male couples, a grounded theory approach is used to develop a theory of gay male–headed families. If gay fathers have previously been challenged by integrating the two opposing roles of father and homosexual man, the present study highlights how issues of recognition and support as legitimate parents have become more pertinent. Gay fathers are contributing to changing ideals concerning fatherhood and to new definitions of fatherhood.

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Child Outcome Studies

One of the first research projects on lesbian motherhood was initiated in the 1970s by the British researcher Susan Golombok and her research team. It was triggered by the legal questioning of lesbian parenthood. In a longitudinal research project, Golombok compared lesbian mothers to single heterosexual mothers with regard to the children’s psychological health. The first results were published in a well-cited article, Golombok, et al. 1983. The results demonstrated how mothers’ sexual orientation did not adversely affect children’s psychological development and social well-being. Similar conclusions were drawn in a range of other studies carried out during the ensuing decades, as exemplified by Patterson 1992; Anderssen, et al. 2002; Tasker 2005; and Tasker and Patterson 2007. In a follow-up study, Golombok and Badger 2010, children and mothers from the first study were examined once more, with the children now entering adulthood. In the 1990s the so-called gayby boom—with many lesbian couples having children through assisted reproduction—implied a broadening of the research field; see, for example, Bos and van Balen 2010. Fertility clinics allowed comparative studies in which same-sex parents and heterosexual parents were closely followed through their years as families. Studies from the United States (e.g., Gartrell and Bos 2010) have triggered further research, resulting in a large number of studies, as have several European studies (e.g., Vanfraussen, et al. 2003, cited under Children with Lesbian Mothers). In the larger interview studies, the children’s own responses have been given more space as they have grown older. However, the child outcome research has been criticized by sociologists who argue that in order to promote lesbian and gay equality and counteract homophobic reactions, outcome researchers have consistently stressed sameness in the comparison between heterosexual and homosexual parents (see Stacey and Biblarz 2001, cited under Critical Issues and Public Debates).

  • Anderssen, Norman, Christine Amlie, and André Ytterøy. “Outcomes for Children with Lesbian or Gay Parents: A Review of Studies from 1978–2000.” Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 43.4 (2002): 335–351.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9450.00302Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this review of studies on children with gay and lesbian parents, the authors conclude that these children are comparable to children with heterosexual parents. In the conclusion, some specific aspects apply to the context of lesbian and gay families, such as children’s awareness of lesbian and gay relationships, heterosexism, and homophobia.

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  • Bos, Henny, and Frank van Balen. “Children of New Reproductive Technologies: Social and Genetic Parenthood.” Patient Education and Counseling 81.3 (2010): 429–435.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.pec.2010.09.012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, different forms of families created through new reproductive technologies (NRTs) are discussed with regard to parental skills. The parents in the “NRT families” show high emotional involvement, while the children do not differ from children in “natural conception” families.

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  • Gartrell, Nanette, and Henny Bos. “US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents.” Pediatrics 126.1 (2010): 28–36.

    DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3153Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The findings in this study of teenaged children raised in lesbian-parent families indicate higher healthy psychological adjustment and improved social academic competence when compared to their age-matched counterparts (e.g., in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth).

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  • Golombok, Susan, Ann Spencer, and Michael Rutter. “Children in Lesbian and Single-Parent Households: Psychosexual and Psychiatric Appraisal.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 24.4 (1983): 551–572.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1983.tb00132.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article draws on one of the first studies in the field of outcome research, triggered by the issue of care and custody. Lesbian mothers are examined and compared to heterosexual single mothers with regard to child outcomes.

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  • Golombok, Susan, and Shirlene Badger. “Children Raised in Mother-Headed Families from Infancy: A Follow-Up of Children of Lesbian and Single Heterosexual Mothers, at Early Adulthood.” Human Reproduction 25.1 (2010): 150–157.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dep345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents the results from a longitudinal study in which the psychological well-being of children from lesbian-headed families, single heterosexual mothers, and two-parent heterosexual families has been studied and compared since infancy. The young adult children with lesbian mothers did not deviate from the other groups.

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  • Patterson, Charlotte J. “Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents.” Child Development 63.5 (1992): 1025–1042.

    DOI: 10.2307/1131517Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the first review articles presenting evidence on the psychological and social development of children in gay and lesbian families. The article identifies a range of important topics to explore, such as the emergence of different kinds of lesbian and gay families.

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  • Tasker, Fiona. “Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children: A Review.” Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 26.3 (2005): 224–240.

    DOI: 10.1097/00004703-200506000-00012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this review of articles, the findings of twenty-three studies on children with lesbian and gay parents are examined. The children did not experience any adverse outcomes compared to children with heterosexual parents.

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  • Tasker, Fiona, and Charlotte Patterson. “Research on Gay and Lesbian Parenting: Retrospect and Prospect.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 3.2–3 (2007): 9–34.

    DOI: 10.1300/J461v03n02_02Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This review describes the research area in detail, showing the diversity and depth of knowledge. The authors also discuss the implications of different methodological approaches, as well as the contributions by quantitative and qualitative studies.

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Gay Fatherhood

Research on gay fatherhood is a small field compared to studies on lesbian motherhood, even though the number of studies on gay fatherhood has increased considerably since 1990. While the early research on lesbian motherhood mainly addressed questions of children’s psychological outcomes (see Child Outcome Studies), research on gay fatherhood has had a different development. The first studies carried out in this field drew on qualitative interview studies with gay fathers (for a review, see Bozett 1989, by an important pioneer in this area). In the decades that followed, the number of studies grew and a broader image of gay fatherhood began to appear. However, while heterosexuality implies fatherhood for most men, gay men are often socially and culturally regarded as “childless” (see, e.g., Lewin 2009). In many ways, gay fathers with a “passion for parenthood” are more exposed to discrimination than lesbian mothers, according to Stacey 2005. One issue recurring in the questioning of gay fathers is that their children also may come out as gay, something anti-gay debaters value as negative. However, Bigley, et al. 1995, a well-cited article, shows that such environmental influence is low. In research on fatherhood, gay fathers provide clear resistance to the gendered and heteronormative notions of parenthood (mother femininity/father masculinity). Gay men’s wish to have children and, later, their daily practice of caring for and raising children opposes dominant notions of mothers as caregivers and fathers as breadwinners, as well as the notion of gay masculinity (see Armesto 2002, as well as Armesto and Shapiro 2011). Gay fathers have different routes to parenthood, such as surrogacy (Greenfeld and Seli 2005) or kinship relations with lesbians (Bos 2010). Routes to fatherhood are also discussed under the section Decision-Making Processes. Gay foster parents and adoptive parents and their challenges have been studied by a range of researchers, cited under Welfare Services.

  • Armesto, Jorge C. “Developmental and Contextual Factors That Influence Gay Fathers’ Parental Competence: A Review of the Literature.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity 3.2 (2002): 67–78.

    DOI: 10.1037/1524-9220.3.2.67Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this review article, Armesto presents previous research on gay fathers, with a specific focus on the ability to deal with stressors due to homophobic surroundings and fears of stigmatization.

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  • Armesto, Jorge C., and Ester R. Shapiro. “Adoptive Gay Fathers: Transformations of the Masculine Homosexual Self.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.1–2 (2011): 72–92.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2011.537202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this smaller study of five couples of adoptive gay fathers, Armesto and Shapiro present narratives about changing identities and the crafting of new definitions of homosexual masculinity.

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  • Bigley, J. Michael, David Bobrow, Marilyn Wolfe, and Sarah Mikach. “Sexual Orientation of Adult Sons of Gay Fathers.” Developmental Psychology 31.1 (1995): 124–129.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.31.1.124Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a well-cited article dealing with the issue of gay fathers’ influence on their sons’ sexual orientation. The results show low environmental influence on the children.

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  • Bos, Henny H.M.W. “Planned Gay Father Families in Kinship Arrangements.” In Special Issue: Gay and Lesbian Parented Families: Translating Research into Practice. Edited by Jennifer Power and Amaryll Perlesz. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy 31.4 (2010): 356–371.

    DOI: 10.1375/anft.31.4.356Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, gay-father families are compared to fathers from heterosexual families. Results from data collected by means of questionnaires did not show significant differences between the groups concerning the father-child relationship (emotional involvement and parental concern), parental burden, or the children’s well-being. However, the gay fathers reported experiences that are interpreted in terms of “minority stress.”

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  • Bozett, Frederick W. “Gay Fathers: A Review of the Literature.” In Homosexuality and the Family. Edited by Frederic W. Bozett, 137–162. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1989.

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    This is one of the first reviews of the research, in the 1980s, on gay fatherhood. Most reviewed studies deal with gay men who had children in heterosexual relations, and their ways of dealing with identity and disclosure.

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  • Greenfeld, Dorothy and Emri Seli. “Reproduction in Same Sex Couples: Quality of Parenting and Child Development.” Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology 17.3 (2005): 309–312.

    DOI: 10.1097/01.gco.0000169109.92752.70Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, fifteen gay male couples seeking parenthood through assisted reproductive technology (ART) are examined regarding medical and psychological aspects of the process. A total of nine couples completed the treatment, and babies have been born to seven. The results are instructive for professional groups counseling gay men planning to become fathers through ART.

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  • Lewin, Ellen. Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226476599.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this book, Lewin expands her studies of lesbian parenthood to gay parenthood. The book outlines one dimension of gay culture, namely, gay parenthood, challenging the idea that parenting is assimilation to heterosexist society. Instead, she shows how gay fathers resist and reconstrue notions of parenthood and fatherhood.

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  • Stacey, Judith. “Gay Parenthood and the Decline of Paternity as We Knew It.” Sexualities 9.1 (2005): 27–55.

    DOI: 10.1177/1363460706060687Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, the American sociology scholar Judith Stacey analyzes the narratives of gay men dealing with the wish for children, as well as decision making in planning for parenthood.

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Family Practices

Lesbian- and gay-parent families are created in a wide variety of forms and show various ways of negotiating close relations of both a biological and social character (see Weeks, et al. 2001). Against this backdrop, it is important to understand “family” as something that is continuously performed—“doing family”—rather than a specific structure—“the family.” The term “family practices” draws on sociological theories of family life. This section covers topics on gay and lesbian parenthood related to studies of lived experiences in everyday practices, mainly underpinned studies based on qualitative methodologies. Lesbian and gay parents’ lived experiences are shaped by the sharing of the same gender but nonsharing of biological ties (and sometimes nonsharing of legal bonds), which is discussed in Gabb 2005 and Mallon 2004. An egalitarian ethic in lesbian families, with equal parenting responsibility and shared household tasks, has been noted in many studies (Dunne 2000, see also the section Child Outcome Studies). However, such equality is challenged in a qualitative study, Downing and Goldberg 2011. Downing and Goldberg show how tasks and positions are negotiated in ways that both transgress and accept traditional heterosexual gender patterns. Another study, Riggs, et al. 2010, highlights the gendered aspects of sharing and nonsharing gender positions, between children and their same-sex parents. However, lesbian and gay family formation in practice is not always groundbreaking and challenging, which is discussed in Folger 2008. Folger illuminates how transgressions of traditional values are intertwined with traditional ways of creating family relations. Taylor 2009 focuses on a dimension of lesbian and gay families that is not always apparent, namely issues relating to social class. For studies more specifically reflecting children’s and adolescents’ own perspectives on their lived experiences and practice, see the sections Children with Lesbian Mothers and Children with Gay Fathers.

  • Downing, Jordan B., and Abbie E. Goldberg. “Lesbian Mothers’ Constructions of the Division of Paid and Unpaid Labor.” Feminism & Psychology 21.1 (2011): 100–120.

    DOI: 10.1177/0959353510375869Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, the division of paid and unpaid labor in lesbian parenting couples’ households is related to each person’s position as biological or nonbiological parent. Even though the informants in this study rarely highlight biology as a salient factor, a pattern of role-related division is seen when several families are compared.

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  • Dunne, Gillian A. “Opting into Motherhood: Lesbians Blurring the Boundaries and Transforming the Meaning of Parenthood and Kinship.” Gender & Society 14.1 (2000): 11–35.

    DOI: 10.1177/089124300014001003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article draws on a study of thirty-seven lesbian couples with children. Their everyday life and experiences have been thoroughly studied with respect to division of household work and parental responsibilities. The findings demonstrate viable ways of doing family and negotiating biological and social bonds as a viable alternative to heterosexual parenthood.

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  • Folger, Tor. “Queer Nuclear Families? Reproducing and Transgressing Heteronormativity.” Journal of Homosexuality 54.1–2 (2008): 124–149.

    DOI: 10.1080/00918360801952028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, based on interviews with lesbian and gay parents, the ways in which the parents both challenge and adjust to traditional family patterns and values are outlined. The “in-between” gay and lesbian family category destabilizes previous fixed and universal categories of “heterosexual nuclear family” and “the authentic child-free homosexual.”

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  • Gabb, Jacqui. “Lesbian M/Otherhood: Strategies of Familial-Linguistic Management in Lesbian Parent Families.” Sociology 39.4 (2005): 585–603.

    DOI: 10.1177/0038038505056025Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article focuses on the nonbiological mother in lesbian families. The author shows how this specific position is a challenge, in light of the ideological status of biological motherhood. Children in the families showed creative and inclusive ways of linguistically dealing with the presence of two mothers, avoiding ideological traps.

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  • Mallon, Gerald P. Gay Men Choosing Parenthood. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    In this book, Mallon sets out to answer questions about the pursuit of becoming a gay father. The book draws on interviews with twenty gay men about their lived experiences of becoming fathers. Questions about the effects of fatherhood on them as gay men and about the meaning of social support groups are discussed, among other topics.

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  • Riggs, Damien W., Paul H. Delfabbro, and Martha Augoustinos. “Foster Fathers and Carework: Engaging Alternate Models of Parenting.” Fathering 8.1 (2010): 24–36.

    DOI: 10.3149/fth.0801.24Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article draws on a study of gay and heterosexual foster fathers, interviewed individually or in focus groups. The results highlight how male foster parents in their parenting role have the opportunities to both recognize their identity as men and challenge destructive images of hegemonic masculinity. A child-oriented focus offers new ways to parent and avoiding gender-normative parenting.

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  • Taylor, Yvette. Lesbian and Gay Parenting: Securing Social and Educational Capital. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230244542Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taylor explores the intersections of social class and sexuality in lesbian and gay parents’ experiences, from planning to parent to the everyday practices of doing family. The book highlights how social class, social capital, and long-term prejudice still determine the everyday conditions for many gay and lesbian parents.

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  • Weeks, Jeffrey, Brian Heaphy, and Catherine Donovan. Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and Other Life Experiments. London: Routledge, 2001.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203167168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book draws on interviews with ninety-six informants. The topic is intimate nonheterosexual relations and the formation of a diversity of family ties. Based on extensive personal narratives discussed in relation to social theory, the book illuminates contemporary family practices in nonheterosexual relations.

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Children with Lesbian Mothers

The literature on children in mainly lesbian families, which involves children, is reviewed in the section Child Outcome Studies. The main questions concerned psychological outcome and well-being. During the early 21st century, some researchers turned their attention toward these offspring with a new interest, aiming to reflect the perspectives of the children themselves. Being brought up in nonheteronormative family constellations gives children unique experiences of family life. Children in lesbian and other nonheterosexual families, sometimes labeled “queer spawn,” may broaden the norms and shapes of families in general, and the LGBTQ community specifically (see Introduction). Through qualitative interview studies, voices of lesbian women’s offspring are heard in their own right, and in some quantitative studies, surveys have produced data on offspring experiences. One topic that has been explored concerns images of and curiosity about unknown sperm donors (Jadva, et al. 2010; Scheib, et al. 2005; Vanfraussen, et al. 2003). Other studies focus on experiences of openness and disclosure (Leddy, et al. 2012; Lubbe 2008; Vanfraussen, et al. 2002). Kuvalanka and Goldberg 2009 focuses on a second generation of queers, where queer youth who themselves have been growing up in lesbian families reflect on their experiences. Informants in most of these studies are adolescents and adults reflecting on their upbringing and present situation, while studies focusing on young children are rare (see Tasker and Granville 2011). Only studies focusing on participants with lesbian or bisexual mothers are covered in this section. However, several other studies include offspring in lesbian families alongside offspring in gay-father families. Such studies are collected and cited under Children with Gay Fathers.

  • Jadva, Vasanti, Tabitha Freeman, Wendy Kramer, and Susan Golombok. “Experiences of Offspring Searching for and Contacting Their Donor Siblings and Donor.” Reproductive BioMedicine Online 20.4 (2010): 523–532.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2010.01.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Donor Sibling Registry is a large registry where donor offspring can search for their (yet) anonymous donor and donor siblings. In this study, members of the registry reported curiosity and medical concerns as the main reasons people search for their donor or donor siblings. Among those who had found their donor or donor siblings, the majority reported that they kept regular contact and had developed positive relations.

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  • Kuvalanka, Katheriene A., and Abbie E. Goldberg. “‘Second Generation’ Voices: Queer Youth with Lesbian/Bisexual Mothers.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 38.7 (2009): 904–919.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10964-008-9327-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article explores experiences of LGBTQ youth with lesbian or bisexual mothers. Most of the participating youth reported positive support from their mothers when developing their own gender identity and sexuality. In spite of this, some had felt pressure from their surroundings in developing a normative sexuality and gender identity.

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  • Leddy, Anna, Nanette Gartrell, and Henny Bos. “Growing Up in a Lesbian Family: The Life Experiences of the Adult Daughters and Sons of Lesbian Mothers.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 8.3 (2012): 243–257.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2012.677233Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Young adults raised in lesbian families value the environment of love and acceptance in their immediate family. Through a US-based online questionnaire, young adults reported their experiences of childhood. The participants described mainly positive reactions to their families among peers, though they also reported experiencing stigma.

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  • Lubbe, Carien. “The Experiences of Children Growing Up in Lesbian-Headed Families in South Africa.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 4.3 (2008): 325–359.

    DOI: 10.1080/15504280802177540Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this South African study, eight children and adolescents with lesbian mothers were interviewed in depth about their experiences. The researcher meticulously describes different approaches in disclosure and nondisclosure, such as being sensitive to people’s different values before choosing to disclose or remain silent.

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  • Scheib, Joanna E., M. Riordan, and Susan Rubin. “Adolescents with Open-Identity Sperm Donors: Reports from 12–17 Year Olds.” Human Reproduction 20.1 (2005): 239–252.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deh581Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, children conceived with identity-release donors were asked about their interest in their donor’s identity. A vast majority of the participants reported that they were likely to contact the donor at the age of eighteen or older. The main reason was to learn something more about oneself; very few children search for a father-child relationship.

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  • Tasker, Fiona, and Julia Granville. “Children’s Views of Family Relationships in Lesbian-Led Families.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.1–2 (2011): 182–199.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2011.540201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, we learn how children between four and eleven years of age with lesbian parents perceive their families. The children in the study included a range of close biological and nonbiological relations, both adults and children, in their families.

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  • Vanfraussen, Katrien, Ingrid Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, and Anne Brewaeys. “What Does It Mean for Youngsters to Grow Up in a Lesbian Family Created by Means of Donor Insemination?” Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 20.4 (2002): 237–252.

    DOI: 10.1080/0264683021000033165Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this Belgian study of lesbian families who have conceived through donor insemination, quantitative measures of well-being are combined with qualitative questions of children’s experiences. Almost all participating children shared spontaneously with friends that they lived in two-mother households, and most friends reacted positively.

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  • Vanfraussen, Katrien, Ingrid Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, and Anne Brewaeys. “Why Do Children Want to Know More About the Donor? The Experiences of Youngsters Raised in Lesbian Families.” Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology 24.1 (2003): 31–38.

    DOI: 10.3109/01674820309042798Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The main reason for desiring more information about one’s donor is curiosity. In this Belgian study, interviews with children of lesbian mothers show that half of the children wanted more information about their anonymous donor, while the other half had no such interest.

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Children with Gay Fathers

This section highlights studies where children with gay fathers are present as active participants in their own right. In recent years, some scholars have explored experiences among children growing up in nonheterosexual families, with an interest in the perspectives of the offspring themselves. While several such studies with a focus on children in lesbian families have been published recently (see Children with Lesbian Mothers), perspectives of children in gay-father families have not been explored to any significant degree. Most studies cited in this section, therefore, include participants from both gay-father families and other non-heterosexual family constellations, such as lesbian families. Usually, participants are adolescents or adults reflecting on their childhood. Some of these studies aim to capture family and social experiences in a wide sense (Fairtlough 2008, Streib-Brziĉ and Quadflied 2012, Welsh 2011), while others focus on more specific aspects. Experiences of openness and disclosure are brought up by several scholars (Gianino, et al. 2009; Goldberg 2007; Tasker, et al. 2010) and one article (Goldberg, et al. 2011) deals with how young adults from LGBQ families (see Introduction) relate to LGBTQ communities. Additionally one study (Goldberg and Kuvalanka 2012) highlights these youngsters’ reflections on the political issue of marriage inequality. Altogether, these studies show LGBTQ children’s unique experiences of family life in a way that broaden norms and shapes of families in general, and of the LGBTQ community specifically.

  • Fairtlough, Anna. “Growing Up with a Lesbian or Gay Parent: Young People’s Perspectives.” Health and Social Care in the Community 16.5 (2008): 521–528.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00774.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of life stories written by young people growing up with a lesbian mother or a gay father are analyzed in this study. These life stories were previously published in anthologies and magazines with a focus on gay and lesbian parenting. Most youngsters share positive reflections about their parent and her or his sexuality.

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  • Gianino, Mark, Abbie E. Goldberg, and Terrence Lewis. “Family Outings: Disclosure Practices among Adopted Youth with Gay and Lesbian Parents.” Adoption Quarterly 12.3–4 (2009): 205–228.

    DOI: 10.1080/10926750903313344Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines what, when, and how youths in transracial or transcultural adoption to a lesbian or gay couple talk about their family with others. While the youths included described positive reactions when revealing that they were adopted, they were more careful about disclosing that their parents are of same sex.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie. “Talking About Family: Disclosure Practices of Adults Raised by Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Parents.” Journal of Family Issues 28.1 (2007): 100–131.

    DOI: 10.1177/0192513X06293606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article shows disclosure patterns in American adults who have grown up with lesbian, gay, or bisexual parents. Only a few subjects were not open about their family of origin, while most used their openness to educate others or to gauge if someone shared their values and was consequently worth getting to know better.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie, Lori A. Kinkler, Hannah B. Richardson, and Jordan B. Downing. “On the Border: Young Adults with LGBQ Parents Navigate LGBTQ Communities.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 59.1 (2011): 71–85.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0024576Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article investigates the relations with LGBTQ communities of young adults who have grown up with gay or lesbian parents. The article shows that while some informants look up LGBTQ communities without hesitation, others feel excluded or alienated once grown up.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and Katherine A. Kuvalanka. “Marriage (In)Equality: The Perspectives of Adolescents and Emerging Adults with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Parents.” Journal of Marriage and Family 74.1 (2012): 34–52.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00876.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In an ongoing debate in the United States, same-sex marriage is negotiated. In this study, adolescents and young adults who grew up with LGB-parents share their perspectives on marriage (in)equality, where several informants reveal how they have been negatively affected by the inequality.

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  • Streib-Brziĉ, Uli, and Christiane Quadflied, eds. School Is Out?! Comparative Study “Experiences of Children from Rainbow Families” Conducted in Germany, Sweden, and Slovenia. Berlin: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2012.

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    In this report, a comparative study of children from LGBTQ families from three European countries is presented. The results describe how schools are not prepared to deal with differences in family formations. Many children are careful when disclosing information about their families.

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  • Tasker, Fiona, Helen Barrett, and Federica De Simone. “‘Coming out Tales’: Adult Sons and Daughters’ Feelings about Their Gay Father’s Sexual Identity.” In Special Issue: Gay and Lesbian Parented Families: Translating Research into Practice. Edited by Jennifer Power and Amaryll Perlesz. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy 31.4 (2010): 326–337.

    DOI: 10.1375/anft.31.4.326Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, children from previous heterosexual relationships share their reflections about how they learned that their father was gay. The interviewees reveal a complexity of emotions when they learned to accept their father’s sexual orientation, on the one hand, but found it hard to be open in a social context, on the other.

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  • Welsh, Majorie G. “Growing Up in a Same-Sex Parented Family: The Adolescent Voice of Experience.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.1–2 (2011): 49–71.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2010.537241Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This phenomenological, interpretative analysis of fourteen American adolescents with gay or lesbian parents aims to give voice to the adolescents’ own experiences. The narrations cover a range of subjects, including developing a sense of self and coming out.

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Legal Aspects

Legal regulations on same-sex couples and parenting families differ significantly across the world. While some Western liberal states and countries allow same-sex marriage, adoption, second-parent adoption, fostering, and assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs) such as donor insemination, donor in vitro fertilization (IVF), oocyte donation, and surrogacy, others strictly forbid one or more of these family-making practices. Several researchers address these differences in a US context (Baumle and Compton 2011, Bernstein and Reimann 2001). Because some countries do not have restrictions on specific ARTs, inhabitants of more restrictive areas travel for the desired treatment. Creating families through adoption or ARTs means biological, social, and legal aspects of parenthood often do not coincide. Studies show how same-sex families thereby call for new regulations and conventions to establish legal bonds between nonbiological parents and children (Callus 2012, Surtees 2011, Tobin and McNair 2008). In early research on gay and lesbian parenthood, custody cases were often a point of departure (Patterson 2009, Rivers 2010, see also Ritenhouse 2011). During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, gays and lesbians were questioned in court as appropriate parents. Laws and policies are, however, highly changeable, and several Western countries have undergone rapid changes over the past two decades in regulation of same-sex relations and parenthood. As a result, scientific publications examining the legal aspects of same-sex parenting tend to become obsolete within a short time.

  • Baumle, Amanda K., and D’Lane R. Compton. “Legislating the Family: The Effect of State Family Laws on the Presence of Children in Same-Sex Households.” Law & Policy 33.1 (2011): 82–115.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9930.2010.00329.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Legislation regarding same-sex families differs widely across the US states. While some states allow same-sex marriage, adoption, and assisted reproduction, others prohibit one or more of these possibilities. In this article, anti-gay and pro-gay state laws are compared with regard to the presence of children in same-sex households, showing that formal law seems to have little impact on presence of children.

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  • Bernstein, Mary, and Renate Reimann. Queer Families: Queer Politics: Challenging Culture and the State. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

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    This anthology, with an American context, provides an overview of various topics relating to the interplay between queer families, politics, and culture. The legal dimension of lesbian and gay parenthood is a recurrent theme in several of the contributions.

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  • Callus, Thérèse. “A New Parenthood Paradigm for Twenty-First Century Family Law in England and Wales?” Legal Studies 32.3 (2012): 347–368.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-121X.2011.00224.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lesbian couples conceiving with known sperm donors set the focus of this article, which addresses issues concerning legal parenthood. Should biology, intention to parent, or function as a parent be considered in granting legal parenthood? Callus suggests that a formally recognized intention is central for such decisions.

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  • Patterson, Charlotte J. “Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents: Psychology, Law, and Policy.” American Psychologist 64.8 (2009): 727–736.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.64.8.727Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, Patterson discusses the implications of psychological research when issues regarding child custody are on the agenda in legal contexts. The author shows how the research field has centered on comparative aspects, in which simplified categorizations of sexual orientation (hetero/homo) obscure the complexity and variability within and between categories.

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  • Ritenhouse, Damon. “What’s Orientation Got to Do With It?: The Best Interest of the Child Standard and Legal Bias against Gay and Lesbian Parents.” Journal of Poverty 15.3 (2011): 309–329.

    DOI: 10.1080/10875549.2011.589260Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    When parenting lesbian or gay couples separate, custody disputes can appear. This article examines legal biases that these parents face when litigating child custody cases. A number of court cases are analyzed.

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  • Rivers, Daniel. “‘In the Best Interests of the Child’: Lesbian and Gay Parenting Custody Cases, 1967–1985.” Journal of Social History 43.4 (2010): 917–943.

    DOI: 10.1353/jsh.0.0355Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, historian Rivers examines the early history of lesbian and gay custody conflicts from 1967 to 1985. A total of 122 cases in which lesbian or gay parenting was an issue are examined. The study adds an important historical dimension to the research field of lesbian and gay parenting.

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  • Surtees, Nicola. “Family Law in New Zealand: The Benefits and Costs for Gay Men, Lesbians, and Their Children.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.3 (2011): 245–263.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2011.564945Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article deals with legal implications in New Zealand for gay men and lesbians who decide to parent together. The author suggests that an identification in law of more than two parents, in some cases, would benefit these families.

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  • Tobin, John, and Ruth McNair. “Public International Law and the Regulation of Private Spaces: Does the Convention on the Rights of the Child Impose an Obligation on States to Allow Gay and Lesbian Couples to Adopt?” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 23.1 (2008): 110–131.

    DOI: 10.1093/lawfam/ebn020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article draws on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to examine whether same-sex adoption is in the best interests of the child. Basing their conclusion on empirical research on gay and lesbian families, the authors state that there is no reason to regard sexual orientation as relevant in adoption considerations.

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Critical Issues and Public Debates

This section includes publications that address questions on the research area of gay and lesbian families, as such. As reflected in the section Child Outcome Studies, a main focus in this field has been comparing lesbian-headed (and, sometimes, gay father–headed) families with the families of heterosexual couples. In this section, critical examinations of these very comparisons are discussed. Stacey and Biblarz 2001, a well-cited article by American sociologists, discusses how the “no difference” claim in comparisons between LGBT parents and heterosexual parents is an effect of defensive researchers responding to a heteronormative society, with researchers downplaying results actually showing differences among children. This article was followed by other critical contributions by both sociologists and psychologists. Hicks 2005 disputes Stacey and Biblarz’s interpretation of previous research findings, while Clarke 2002 and Clarke 2008 present the outcome approach to lesbian and gay parenting as a separate era in this research field. Nine years after their groundbreaking article, Biblarz and Stacey published a new piece of work (Biblarz and Stacey 2010), in which they review previous studies on child outcome in gay, lesbian, and heterosexual families, claiming that the gender of parents has a minor impact on children’s psychological adjustment. Moreover, articles that analyze public debates on gay and lesbian parenting, by lay people, politicians, and in the mass media, also fall under this section heading. Such debates are generally analyzed in relation to heteronormativity, demonstrating how the heterosexual nuclear family forms a normative core ideal (Anderssen and Hellesund 2009, Clarke and Kitzinger 2005, Hosking and Ripper 2012).

  • Anderssen, Norman, and Tone Hellesund. “Heteronormative Consensus in the Norwegian Same-Sex Adoption Debate?” Journal of Homosexuality 56.1 (2009): 102–120.

    DOI: 10.1080/00918360802551597Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article focuses the same-sex adoption debate featured in Norwegian newspapers for the five-year period prior to same-sex adoption becoming legal in that country. Based on both pro- and anti-gay pieces, the authors argue that the heterosexual nuclear family forms an ideal standard for adoption in the debate.

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  • Biblarz, Timothy J., and Judith Stacey. “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?” Journal of Marriage and Family 72.1 (2010): 3–22.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00678.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article discusses gender in parenting. Child outcomes and parenting skills reported in previous studies are critically compared for lesbian, gay male, and heterosexual parents raising children in couples or as single parents. The results show that the gender of parents has little impact on children’s psychological adjustment.

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  • Clarke, Victoria. “Sameness and Difference in Research on Lesbian Parenting.” In Special Issue: Social Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Issues in Europe: The State of the Art. Edite by Adrian Coyle and Sue Wilkinson. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 12.3 (2002): 210–222.

    DOI: 10.1002/casp.673Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article addresses the core question in lesbian family research on differences and similarities between lesbian and heterosexual families. It is argued that scholars take four different standpoints on differences, with each standpoint based on a specific political and theoretical point of departure.

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  • Clarke, Victoria. “From Outsiders to Motherhood to Reinventing the Family: Constructions of Lesbian Parenting in the Psychological Literature—1886–2006.” Women Studies International Forum 31.2 (2008): 118–128.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.wsif.2008.03.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Constructions of lesbian parenting have undergone changes in psychological research since the 1970s. Clarke concludes that psychological research must be continuously scrutinized and challenged regarding how and why lesbian-parent families are examined, highlighting the regulatory role of psychological research in shaping and reinforcing social values.

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  • Clarke, Victoria, and Celia Kitzinger. “‘We’re Not Living on Planet Lesbian’: Constructions of Male Role Models in Debates about Lesbian Families.” Sexualities 8.2 (2005): 137–152.

    DOI: 10.1177/1363460705050851Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In an analysis of television talk shows and documentaries, this article shows how lesbian parents answer to criticism brought up against their families, in particular the criticism that the children are “missing out” when not relating to a paternal role model.

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  • Hicks, Stephen. “Is Gay Parenting Bad for Kids? Responding to the ‘Very Idea of Difference’ in Research on Lesbian and Gay Parents.” Sexualities 8.2 (2005): 153–168.

    DOI: 10.1177/1363460705050852Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author highlights the complexity of gender and sexuality, and criticizes both Christian anti-gay and liberal pro-gay scholars for focusing on the “very idea of difference” between children in same-sex and different-sex families.

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  • Hosking, Gipsy, and Margie Ripper. “In the Best Interests of the (Silenced) Child.” Australian Feminist Studies 27.72 (2012): 171–188.

    DOI: 10.1080/08164649.2012.648261Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article highlights how the “best interests of the child” is rhetorically drawn in debates on same-sex marriage in Australia. While opponents to same-sex marriage raise concerns about gay and lesbian parents, the voices of children themselves are more often not part of the debates.

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  • Stacey, Judith, and Timothy Biblarz. “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?American Sociological Review 66 (2001): 159–183.

    DOI: 10.2307/2657413Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors of this well-cited article challenges previous research on lesbian and gay parenting, claiming that differences in child outcomes with regard to gender development and sexual orientation have been downplayed.

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Attitudes toward Gay and Lesbian Parents

In mainstream psychology, attitudes are generally regarded as cognitive features, measurable through surveys or possible to capture in interviews. Attitude surveys constitute a research field on its own, within psychology, where attitudes toward sexual minority groups have been a recurring theme. In this section, studies are highlighted that investigate attitudes toward gay and lesbian parents and their children. These attitudes differ across the planet and between different target groups. Hollekim, et al. 2012 is a survey of Norwegians’ attitudes toward gay and lesbian parenting, showing that Norwegians are less positive toward same-sex parenting than same-sex marriage. Other researchers are interested in comparing attitudes between groups rather than between issues. Morse, et al. 2007 shows that women and younger people in Australia are more positive than others in that country toward same-sex parenting. Similarly, females were shown to have more positive attitudes in a survey of American school psychologists (Choi, et al. 2006). Furthermore, negative attitudes are correlated to religious beliefs, a result also found in a survey of American hospital staff (Chapman, et al. 2012) and a survey among American heterosexual adoptive parents (Averett, et al. 2011). Besides surveys, attitudes may also be captured through interviews. Rincon and Lam 2011, an interview study of US Latina mothers, shows that although these women have had limited experience of Latina lesbian families, they see no problems with such a family form.

  • Averett, Paige, Amy Strong-Blakeney, Blace A. Nalavany, and Ryan D. Scott. “Adoptive Parents’ Attitudes towards Gay and Lesbian Adoption.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.1–2 (2011): 30–48.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2011.537211Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attitudes toward, and beliefs about, gay and lesbian parenthood have been investigated in a number of studies, often using surveys to grasp people’s feelings and attitudes. This article focuses on attitudes toward adoptive same-sex parents among respondents who are adoptive parents themselves.

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  • Chapman, Rose, Rochelle Watkins, Tess Zappia, Shane Combs, and Linda Shields. “Second-Level Hospital Health Professionals’ Attitudes to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents Seeking Health for Their Children.” Journal of Clinical Nursing 21.5–6 (2012): 880–887.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2011.03938.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this Australian study, a questionnaire was distributed to hospital medical and nursing staff. The results show that attitudes toward LGBT parents differed significantly between those who had LGBT friends and those who did not. Attitudes were also significantly related to personal religious beliefs. Whether the professional had or had not cared for a child with LGBT parents did not a have significant impact on his or her attitudes.

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  • Choi, Hee-sook, Candrice A. Thul, Kenneth S. Berenhaut, Cynthia K. Suerken, and James L. Norris. “Survey of School Psychologists’ Attitudes, Feelings, and Exposure to Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children.” Journal of Applied School Psychology 22.1 (2006): 87–107.

    DOI: 10.1300/J370v22n01_05Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    American school psychologists in this survey study generally claim to have positive attitudes toward gay and lesbian families. However, as the study shows, there are differences between regions, and female psychologists are generally more positive compared to their male colleagues.

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  • Hollekim, Ragnhild, Hilde Slaatten, and Norman Anderssen. “A Nationwide Study of Norwegian Beliefs About Same-Sex Marriage and Lesbian and Gay Parenthood.” Sexuality Research and Social Policy 9.1 (2012): 15–30.

    DOI: 10.1007/s13178-011-0049-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this large questionnaire study, Norwegian lay people expressed their attitudes toward same-sex marriage and parenting. Despite both same-sex marriage and parenting being legally granted in Norway, participants were more positive toward marital than parenting rights.

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  • Morse, Charmaine N., Suzanne McLaren, and Angus J. McLachlan. “The Attitudes of Australian Heterosexuals toward Same-Sex Parents.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 3.4 (2007): 425–455.

    DOI: 10.1300/J461v03n04_04Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines attitudes toward gay and lesbian parents among heterosexuals in Australia. The findings suggest that male gender and higher age are related to more negative attitudes.

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  • Rincon, Maria, and Brian Trung Lam. “The Perspectives of Latina Mother on Latina Lesbian Families.” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 21.4 (2011): 334–349.

    DOI: 10.1080/10911359.2011.555641Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study, fifteen Latina mothers living in the United States were interviewed regarding their attitudes toward Latina lesbian families. Though most interviewees did not personally know any Latina lesbian family, they reported that they did not see anything wrong with such families.

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Relations Outside the Immediate Family

This section includes research that deals with gay and lesbian families’ social relations outside the immediate family. Relations and negotiations with, and feelings toward, extended families and families of origin have been the focus of several studies. Almack 2008 examines British lesbian parents’ negotiations with their families of origin. While some parents are in close contact with their families of origin, others are not. Having supportive relations, with an extended family or with colleagues, may be of high relevance, since this support is correlated to mental health for both lesbian and gay couples (Goldberg and Smith 2011). Another important relation outside the immediate family is that between a parenting couple, the child, and a sperm donor. Riggs 2008 approaches this issue from the donors’ point of view in an interview study. Among the studies cited below, relations in urban and rural residential communities, neighborhoods, and friendships are also examined. Several studies deal specifically with same-sex parents who live in nonmetropolitan or rural communities (Oswald and Lazarevic 2011; Puckett, et al. 2011). Experiences of discrimination and heterosexism/heteronormativity are discussed. Short 2007 shows how lesbian couples find different strategies to avoid discrimination. Research mainly focusing on relations within the immediate gay and/or lesbian family can be found under the heading Family Practices. Studies that primarily deal with social encounters with formal institutions are listed under Welfare Services and Health-Care Services.

  • Almack, Kathryn. “Display Work: Lesbian Parent Couples and Their Families of Origin Negotiating New Kin Relationships.” Sociology 42.6 (2008): 1183–1199.

    DOI: 10.1177/0038038508096940Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    When a child is born to a lesbian couple, kin relationships are sometimes negotiated. In some cases, the family of origin may be in close relations with the pregnant couple and, later, their child. In others, there is little or no contact with the families of origin.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and JuliAnna Z. Smith. “Stigma, Social Context, and Mental Health: Lesbian and Gay Couples Across the Transition to Adoptive Parenthood.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 58.1 (2011): 139–150.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0021684Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study combining interview and questionnaire data, the mental health of lesbian and gay preadoptive parents is related to their social contexts. It is noted that higher support from colleagues and family is correlated to lower symptoms of depression and anxiety.

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  • Oswald, Ramona Faith, and Vanja Lazarevic. “‘You Live Where?!’ Lesbian Mothers’ Attachment to Nonmetropolitan Communities.” Family Relations 60.4 (2011): 373–386.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2011.00663.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This survey study examines lesbian mothers’ attachment to their residential community. Mothers in nonmetropolitan communities are more strongly attached to their community if they have frequent contact with their family of origin and close LGBT friendship relations.

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  • Puckett, Julia A., Sharon G. Horne, Heidi M. Levitt, and Teresa Reeves. “Out in the Country: Rural Sexual Minority Mothers.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 15.2 (2011): 176–186.

    DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2011.521101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, outness, social stigma, and social support are compared between US rural and US urban mothers in same-sex relationships. It is shown that rural mothers are exposed to more discrimination from strangers, and that children in rural areas are less likely to be open to classmates’ parents.

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  • Riggs, Damien. “Lesbian Mothers, Gay Male Sperm Donors and Community: Ensuring the Well-Being of Children and Families.” Health Sociology Review 17.3 (2008): 226–234.

    DOI: 10.5172/hesr.451.17.3.226Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    When lesbian couples want to become parents, some choose to find a known sperm donor to help them conceive. This article gives the donor’s point of view and is based on interviews with twenty-one Australian men who donated sperm to lesbians. Challenges and negotiations between the donor and recipient are outlined.

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  • Short, Liz. “Lesbian Mother Living Well in the Context of Heterosexism and Discrimination: Resources, Strategies and Legislative Change.” Feminism & Psychology 17.1 (2007): 57–74.

    DOI: 10.1177/0959353507072912Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this large, qualitative study, in-depth interviews were conducted with sixty-eight lesbian mothers and mothers-to-be in Australia. The study calls for pro-lesbian legislative changes. Yet the author shows how the interviewees used different strategies to resist heterosexism and discrimination.

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Welfare Services

A large number of studies concern gay and lesbian families’ contacts and encounters with welfare services and health care. For this section, a list of studies has been compiled that explore welfare services from the perspective of gay and lesbian parenting. When deciding to create a family through adoption or fostering, same-sex couples and single LGBTQ-identified persons (see Introduction) encounter social welfare institutions (e.g., adoption agencies), which play a crucial role in the family-making process. Mallon 2011 outlines a detailed description of this process, focusing particularly on the home study assessment. Several studies depart from the parents’ point of view, exploring their experiences of the adoption process (Ross, et al. 2008; Ross, et al. 2009; Ryan and Whitlock 2007). Positive experiences of encounters with competent professionals are well documented, alongside several studies reporting experiences of discrimination, labeled as “homophobia,” “heterosexism,” or “heteronormativity.” Some studies explore emotional experiences of the adoption process, and a few investigate parents’ negotiation strategies to avoid discrimination (Ryan and Berkowitz 2009). Social support has been shown important to avoid parental stress among gay adoptive fathers (Tornello et al. 2011). In addition to these studies focusing on parents’ experiences, Hicks 2008 examines the perspective of social workers, discussing their experiences of same-sex couples in adoption and fostering. Parenting through adoption has been practiced among gays and lesbians predominantly in parts of the United States and Canada, as reflected in the studies cited below. This section also includes a few studies that explore encounters with social workers in other contexts, such as intimate partner violence (Hardesty, et al. 2011). For studies dealing with medical health care institutions, such as fertility clinics and those dealing with maternity care, see Health-Care Services.

  • Hardesty, Jennifer L., Ramona F. Oswald, Lyndal Khaw, and Carol Fonseca. “Lesbian/Bisexual Mothers and Intimate Partner Violence: Help Seeking in the Context of Social and Legal Vulnerability.” Violence Against Women 17.1 (2011): 28–46.

    DOI: 10.1177/1077801209347636Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article draws on findings from the first study ever to examine experiences of exposure to intimate partner violence among lesbian mothers. The article reports on when these mothers define a situation as intolerable, and it describes their help-seeking patterns.

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  • Hicks, Stephen. “Gender Role Models . . . Who Need ’Em?” Qualitative Social Work 7.1 (2008): 43–59.

    DOI: 10.1177/1473325007086415Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article deals with social workers’ perception of children’s need for gender role models. When lesbian and gay couples apply for adoption or fostering, the absence of one sex in their relationship may be put forward as an obstacle.

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  • Mallon, Gerald P. “The Home Study Assessment Process for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Prospective Foster and Adoptive Families.” Journal of GLBT Family Studies 7.1–2 (2011): 9–29.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2011.537229Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, the process for same-sex couples becoming adoptive or foster parents is outlined in detail, with special emphasis on the home study assessment process.

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  • Ross, Lori E., Rachel Epstein, Scott Anderson, and Allison Eady. “Policy, Practice, and Personal Narratives: Experiences of LGBTQ People with Adoption in Ontario, Canada.” Adoption Quarterly 12.3–4 (2009): 272–293.

    DOI: 10.1080/10926750903313302Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Same-sex adoption has been permitted in Ontario since 2000. In this article, parents’ narratives about the adoption process are presented. While some families experienced heterosexism at adoption agencies, others gained support from their agencies to avoid homonegativity at a system level.

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  • Ross, Lori E., Rachel Epstein, Corrie Goldfinger, Leah Steele, Scott Anderson, and Carol Strike. “Lesbian and Queer Mothers Navigating the Adoption System: The Impacts on Mental Health.” Health Sociology Review 17.3 (2008): 254–266.

    DOI: 10.5172/hesr.451.17.3.254Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a small Canadian study of lesbian and queer mothers’ experiences of adoption. The interviewees describe the adoption process as an emotional roller-coaster ride, with encounters with various forms of homophobia and heterosexism along the way.

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  • Ryan, Maura, and Dana Berkowitz. “Constructing Gay and Lesbian Parent Families ‘Beyond the Closet.’” Qualitative Sociology 32.2 (2009): 153–172.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11133-009-9124-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article combines findings from a study on gay fatherhood and another study on lesbian motherhood. Using interview data, the authors show how the parents navigate welfare and health care institutions, such as adoption agencies and fertility clinics, to avoid discrimination.

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  • Ryan, Scott, and Courtney Whitlock. “Becoming Parents: Lesbian Mothers’ Adoption Experiences.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 19.2 (2007): 1–23.

    DOI: 10.1080/10538720802131642Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this US survey study, ninety-six lesbian adoptive parents report on their experiences of the adoption process, which were positive overall.

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  • Tornello, Samantha L., Rachel H. Farr, and Charlotte J. Patterson. “Predictors of Parenting Stress among Gay Adoptive Fathers in the United States.” Journal of Family Psychology 25.4 (2011): 591–600.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0024480Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article presents results from a large study of 230 adoptive gay fathers in the United States. The average level of parenting stress was below “clinical levels,” but some factors accounted for variations in the group: social support, child age at placement and at the time of the study, and, finally, stigma sensitivity.

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Health Care Services

A great number of studies focus on gay and lesbian families’ contacts and encounters with health care services. A range of studies explore health-care services from the perspective of gay and lesbian parenting. Since gays and lesbians commonly become parents through assisted reproduction or adoption, health-care institutions as well as welfare services often take a concrete part in the family-making process. For studies dealing with nonmedical welfare institutions such as adoption agencies, see Welfare Services. McManus, et al. 2006 provides an overview of previous studies in this field, showing that positive experiences of health care and encounters with competent care providers are well documented, alongside several findings that report experiences of discrimination, labeled as “homophobia,” “heterosexism,” or “heteronormativity.” Lee, et al. 2011 examines parents’ negotiation strategies to avoid discrimination, highlighting how parents prefer framing negative experiences as resulting from bad personal chemistry rather than being expressions of heteronormativity. Negotiation strategies are also outlined in McNair, et al. 2008. Several of the studies cited below conclude with recommendations for how health-care professionals could improve their treatment of lesbian or gay individuals. Lesbian mothers’ health-care experiences are explored far more than those of gay fathers. However, Greenfeld and Seli 2011 focuses on gay men who seek assisted reproduction through surrogacy and egg donation. Studies dealing with health status among lesbian parents note that higher levels of anxiety and depression are reported among lesbian mothers than among heterosexual mothers (Ross, et al. 2007; Steele, et al. 2008; Wilton, et al. 2001). Such findings are regularly related to experiences of, and worries about, discrimination. Peel 2010 addresses the tragic of pregnancy loss in lesbian women, showing that lengthy time in achieving pregnancy may complicate bereavement.

  • Greenfeld, Dorothy A., and Emre Seli. “Gay Men Choosing Parenthood through Assisted Reproduction: Medical and Psychosocial Considerations.” Fertility and Sterility 95.1 (2011): 225–229.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.05.053Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study explores conditions for gay male couples turning to a fertility clinic in Connecticut for assisted reproduction. The participants aimed for fatherhood through IVF with a gestational carrier and an oocyte donor.

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  • Lee, Elaine, Julie Taylor, and Fiona Raitt. “‘It’s Not Me, It’s Them’: How Lesbian Women Make Sense of Negative Experiences of Maternity Care: A Hermeneutic Study.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 67.5 (2011): 982–990.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05548.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a small British study on how lesbian women handle negative encounters in maternity care. The study informants tended to explain these negative encounters with personality features or organizational pressure rather than considering heterosexism.

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  • McManus, Alison J., Lauren P. Hunter, and Hope Renn. “Lesbian Experiences and Needs During Childbirth: Guidance for Health Care Providers.” Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing 35.1 (2006): 13–23.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2006.00008.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this review article, the literature concerning lesbians’ experiences of care during childbirth is reviewed and summarized, with implications for care providers.

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  • McNair, Ruth, Rhonda Brown, Amaryll Perlesz, Jo Lindsay, David De Vaus, and Marian Pitts. “Lesbian Parents Negotiating the Health Care System in Australia.” Health Care for Women International 29.2 (2008): 91–114.

    DOI: 10.1080/07399330701827094Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this grounded theory study, twenty Australian lesbian families were interviewed about their experiences with the health care system. The article presents different approaches to disclosure, and strategies used to avoid heterosexism.

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  • Peel, Elizabeth. “Pregnancy Loss in Lesbian and Bisexual Women: An Online Survey of Experiences.” Human Reproduction 25.3 (2010): 721–727.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dep441Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pregnancy loss is often a harsh and distressful experience for adults. When living in a same-sex relationship, the complex process and lengthy time in achieving a pregnancy may amplify emotions of bereavement. This study includes sixty female respondents to an online survey, from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia.

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  • Ross, Lori E., Leah S. Steele, Corrie Goldfinger, and Carol Strike. “Perinatal Depressive Symptomology among Lesbian and Bisexual Women.” Archives of Women’s Mental Health 10.2 (2007): 53–59.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00737-007-0168-xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reports that lesbian mothers and prospective mothers had significantly higher scores on a depression rating scale compared to heterosexual women.

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  • Steele, Leah S., Lori E. Ross, Rachel Epstein, Carol Strike, and Corrie Goldfinger. “Correlates of Mental Health Service Use among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Mothers and Prospective Mothers.” Women and Health 47.3 (2008): 95–112.

    DOI: 10.1080/03630240802134225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article reports on LGB mothers seeking mental health services, most of whom were satisfied with the treatment provided. Women with low “outness” levels were more likely to report mental health service use. The study was conducted in Canada and included sixty-four women.

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  • Wilton, Tamsin, and Tara Kaufmann. “Lesbian Mothers’ Experiences of Maternity Care in the UK.” Midwifery 17.3 (2001): 203–211.

    DOI: 10.1054/midw.2001.0261Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this British study, fifty lesbian women were asked about their experiences of maternity care. Even though most of the participants had appreciated the care provided, many reported high levels of anxiety related to implications of disclosure.

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LAST MODIFIED: 05/28/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791231-0082

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