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Psychology Sexual Minority Parenting
by
Samantha Tornello, Rachel Riskind, Rachel Farr

Introduction

The study of sexual minority parenting is a relatively new area. Throughout this article, we will refer to individuals who are parents and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (conventionally abbreviated LGBTQ) or those who are parenting with a same-sex partner as “sexual minority parents.” Much of the literature in this area comes from psychology, often focusing on the development of children and parent experiences in these family systems. We will specify the samples examined in each commentary. First, we describe journals where this research often appears. Then we describe policy statements of US organizations regarding sexual minority parenting and relevant books in this area of research. Finally, we review primary areas of interest, such as pathways to parenthood and child development within sexual minority family systems. Overwhelmingly, the research on children reared by sexual minority parents shows no negative consequences of parents’ sexual orientation for their children’s development. Because this research area is only a few decades old, we specify many areas needing further research. The material we present can inform general knowledge and is also appropriate for use in undergraduate and graduate classrooms.

Journals

Empirical and conceptual peer-reviewed publications regarding sexual minority parenting appear in a variety of journals.

Sexual Minority Focused

The Journal of GLBT Family Studies is the only journal that directly focuses on individuals within and around family systems headed by sexual minority individuals. Journals that discuss sexual minority issues, such as the Journal of Homosexuality, the Journal of Lesbian Studies, and the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, sometimes discuss parenting and family issues among sexual minorities.

Family and Child Development Focused

Several additional journals do not focus specifically on sexual minority parenting but rather on children, families, or reproductive health. Research in this area has appeared in such journals as Child Development, Developmental Psychology, the Journal of Family Psychology, Adoption Quarterly, and Human Reproduction, among others. All these journals are avenues for disseminating information about sexual minority parenting.

Professional Association Policies

Parenting by sexual minority adults remains a controversial topic in the United States and around the world. However, many organizations have issued policy statements supporting the parenting rights of sexual minorities, such as the right to adopt children. Major medical, law, and child welfare organizations in the United States have stated that nonheterosexual parental sexual orientation does not appear to affect parenting quality negatively. Rather, lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents appear to be equally capable of raising healthy children. Many organizations endorse empirical research showing that parental sexual orientation has no negative impact on children’s development, such as the American Psychological Association (Paige 2005), the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Medical Association.

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2008. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender Parents Policy Statement.

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    The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) states that all parental rights should be based on the best interests of the child. This association denounces the use of parental sexual orientation as a category to deny parental rights.

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  • American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. 2002. Policy statement: Co-parent or second-parent adoption by same-sex parents. Pediatrics 109:339–340.

    DOI: 10.1542/peds.109.2.339Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In 2002 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement supporting the legal recognition of sexual minority parents. The committee states that there is no just reason to deny any parents, regardless of gender, the right to adopt child(ren) into their care. It reaffirmed this policy in February 2010.

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  • American Medical Association. 2004. AMA Policy Regarding Sexual Orientation.

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    The American Medical Association (AMA) has enacted a policy that supports adoption by sexual minority parents. This organization states that there is an array of scientific evidence that sexual minority parents and their children are not different from heterosexual parents and their children in terms of parenting and child development.

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  • Paige, R. U., ed. 2005. Proceedings of the American Psychological Association for the legislative year 2004: Minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Council of Representatives, February 20–22, 2004, Washington, DC, and July 28 and 30, 2004, Honolulu, Hawaii, and minutes of the February, April, June, August, October, and December 2004 meetings of the board of directors. American Psychologist 60:436–511.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.436Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The American Psychological Association (APA) has taken a position opposing all discrimination that deprives sexual minority parents of legal rights, benefits, and protections regarding their children. The APA states that no public policy or law should bar sexual minority parents from any of the legal rights of their heterosexual peers.

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Additional Organizations Supporting Rights of Sexual Minority Parents

Additional organizations also have policies that support sexual minority individuals’ parental rights, such as the American Anthropological Association, American Bar Association, American Psychiatric Association, Child Welfare League of America, and National Association of Social Workers.

Books

More books on sexual minority parenthood enter the market each year. Many provide self-help information for sexual minority parents as well as personal stories from them (Lev 2004, Mallon 2004) and their children (Garner 1999). Some books have reviewed the empirical research on sexual minority parenthood (Goldberg 2009, Tasker and Bigner 2007) rather than focusing on narratives or case studies. A complete list of books on sexual minority parenthood is beyond the scope of this bibliography, but a few popular choices are listed here.

  • Garner, Abigail. 1999. Families like mine: Children of gay parents tell it like it is. New York: HarperCollins.

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    This book contains narrative accounts of experiences of adult children who were raised by lesbian and gay parents. This is a great book for children of sexual minority parents, their parents, and anyone else who is interested in this subject.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E. 2009. Lesbian and gay parents and their children: Research on the family life cycle. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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    This book uses a life-span perspective to review the empirical literature surrounding sexual minority parenting. The author reviews qualitative and quantitative research from multiple disciplines on same-sex couples, transition to parenthood, parenting, and the experiences of children and adults raised by sexual minority parents.

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  • Lev, Arlene I. 2004. The complete lesbian and gay parenting guide. New York: Berkley.

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    This is a handbook for sexual minority parents and parents to be. This book is especially helpful for sexual minority individuals who are thinking about becoming parents. It can help prospective parents understand all of their options and learn about the experiences of similar couples.

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  • Mallon, Gerald P. 2004. Gay men choosing parenthood. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    This book is a collection of case studies and interviews of gay fathers from New York and Los Angeles. It is a nontechnical book, which makes it an easy read. The book includes examples of the journeys of gay men and their dreams of becoming fathers.

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  • Tasker, Fiona, and Jerry J. Bigner. 2007. Gay and lesbian parenting: New directions. New York: Haworth.

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    This book is a multidisciplinary examination of the field of sexual minority parenting. The book reviews important research and discusses future directions for the field. It is useful for professionals in psychology and those in related fields, such as social workers, clinicians, child care workers, and teachers.

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Empirical Reviews

Researchers have examined an array of issues surrounding sexual minority parenting and family systems. In this section are specific articles that are comprehensive reviews of the literature or meta-analyses of research in this area. Much of the literature in this area has examined children of sexual minority parents and the experiences of these parents. We list reviews under two major categories, dividing articles into those intended for social scientists and those intended for practitioners and policy makers.

For Social Scientists

The articles listed here review research on sexual minority parents and their children for audiences of social scientists. Allen and Burrell 1996 and Crowl, et al. 2008 report on meta-analyses that summarize the research to date on sexual minorities and their families. Patterson 2009 provides a helpful overview of the policy and legal issues surrounding sexual minority parenting. Anderssen, et al. 2002 reviews the literature specifically examining outcomes for children with lesbian or gay parents. Biblarz and Stacey 2010 provides a comprehensive review of the literature in this area, including a helpful table summarizing studies.

  • Allen, Mike, and Nancy Burrell. 1996. Comparing the impact of homosexual and heterosexual parents on children: Meta-analysis of existing research. Journal of Homosexuality 32:19–35.

    DOI: 10.1300/J082v32n02_02Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Meta-analysis of quantitative research found no differences based on parental sexual orientation regarding parenting styles, emotional adjustment, and sexual orientation of the children.

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  • Anderssen, Norman, Christine Amlie, and Erling A. Ytteroy. 2002. Outcomes for children with lesbian or gay parents: A review of studies from 1978 to 2000. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 43:335–351.

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

    Peer-reviewed synthesis finding that there were no differences between children of sexual minority parents and those of heterosexual parents with regard to children’s sexual orientation, gender role and identity, behavioral adjustment, cognitive functioning, experiences of stigmatization, and emotional functioning.

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  • Biblarz, Timothy J., and Judith Stacey. 2010. How does the gender of parents matter? Journal of Marriage and Family 72:3–22.

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

    Peer-reviewed synthesis of empirical research on the influences of parental gender and number that summarizes differences by family type in a succinct table. Number of parents and relationship quality seems to be more important for child and family outcomes than parental gender.

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  • Crowl, Alicia L., Soyean Ahn, and Jean A. Baker. 2008. A meta-analysis of developmental outcomes for children of same-sex and heterosexual parents. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 4:385–407.

    DOI: 10.1080/15504280802177615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Meta-analysis of nineteen studies that examined an array of aspects of children’s development and parent-child relationships in sexual minority parent families. Children and families are functioning well overall.

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  • Patterson, Charlotte J. 2009. Children of lesbian and gay parents: Psychology, law, and policy. American Psychologist 64:727–736.

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

    This is a helpful overview of the policy and legal issues that affect sexual minority parents. The review examines issues such as child custody and visitation, adoption and foster care, and legal recognition of same-sex couples. Discusses specific legal cases.

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For Practitioners and Policy Makers

The articles listed here review research on sexual minority parents and their children for audiences of medical and legal professionals. Greenfeld 2005 briefly reviews this area of research in a concise article intended to inform reproductive health practitioners who work with sexual minority clients. Hunfeld, et al. 2002 provides an older but more in-depth review of research in this area also targeted at health practitioners. Redding 2008 clearly articulates moral and legal arguments against legal recognition of sexual minority families and summarizes psychological research that might inform such decisions. Redding concludes that the law should legally recognize families with sexual minority parents. This article appeared in a legal journal and is targeted for an audience of lawyers and policy makers.

  • Greenfeld, Dorothy A. 2005. Reproduction in same-sex couples: Quality of parenting and child development. Obstetrics and Gynecology 17:309–312.

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    Peer-reviewed review article intended for an audience of reproductive health practitioners. Many same-sex couples are pursuing parenthood, often with the help of assisted reproductive technologies. Although few published studies have included gay fathers and their children, evidence suggests that children and adolescents raised by sexual minority couples are developing well.

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  • Hunfeld, Joke A. M., Bart C. J. M. Fauser, Inez de Beaufort, and Jan Passchier. 2002. Child development and quality of parenting in lesbian families: No psychosocial indications for a-priori withholding of infertility treatment; A systematic review. Human Reproduction Update 8:579–590.

    DOI: 10.1093/humupd/8.6.579Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Article intended for reproductive health practitioners. Concludes that parenting quality and child psychosocial adjustment in families headed by lesbian mothers are similar to those in families headed by two heterosexual parents. Implies that refusing infertility treatment to lesbian prospective mothers on the basis of children’s interests would be unwarranted.

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  • Redding, Richard E. 2008. It’s really about sex: Same-sex marriage, lesbigay parenting, and the psychology of disgust. Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy 15:127–193.

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    Review article targeted for readers of law journals. Describes the five most common concerns expressed by opponents of parenting by sexual minority adults, summarizing and analyzing relevant research. Argues that disgust responses to same-sex sexual practices lie at the heart of negative attitudes toward same-sex marriage and parenthood.

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Family Formation

The articles listed in this section review research on several aspects of family formation, including plans for parenthood and pathways to parenthood, such as adoption, foster care, donor insemination, and surrogacy. This body of research addresses legal, social, and psychological barriers to parenthood and psychological processes and decision making across the transition to parenthood among members of sexual minorities. Patterson and Riskind 2010 reviews research on family formation among sexual minority adults. The subsections provide specific information about the resources.

  • Patterson, Charlotte J., and Rachel G. Riskind. 2010. To be a parent: Issues in family formation among gay and lesbian adults. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 6:326–340.

    DOI: 10.1080/1550428X.2010.490902Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review of research on family formation among sexual minority adults. Discusses numbers of sexual minority parents, possible changes in pathways to parenthood, and plans for parenthood among childless sexual minority individuals.

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Plans for Parenthood

Few studies have addressed plans for parenthood among sexual minorities. Gartrell, et al. 1996; Gianino 2008; and Bos, et al. 2003 all studied retrospective reports of desire for parenthood among sexual minority adults who had achieved parenthood. These retrospective reports may be of most use to those who are interested in the desire for parenthood among those who have achieved it. Sbordone 1993; D’Augelli, et al. 2006–2007; Gates, et al. 2007; and Riskind and Patterson 2010 studied desires, expectations, and intentions to become parents among childless lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adults. These studies may be of most interest to those seeking to understand discrepant rates of parenthood between heterosexual and sexual minority adults. The studies reported in Gates, et al. 2007 and Riskind and Patterson 2010 are based on nationally representative US data, while Bos, et al. 2003 is based on a Dutch sample; the others included here are based on convenience or snowball US samples. Rabun and Oswald 2009 explores some of these issues in more depth and include a younger participant sample.

  • Bos, Henny M. W., F. van Balen, and D. C. van den Boom. 2003. Planned lesbian families: Their desire and motivation to have children. Human Reproduction 18:2216–2224.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deg427Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of Dutch families: one hundred with two lesbian mothers and one hundred with two heterosexual parents. Lesbian mothers had become parents after coming out as lesbians. Lesbian mothers in this study retrospectively reported stronger desire for parenthood and more time spent thinking about motivations for parenthood than did their heterosexual peers.

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  • D’Augelli, Anthony R., H. Jonathan Rendina, Katerina O. Sinclair, and Arnold H. Grossman. 2006–2007. Lesbian and gay youth’s aspirations for marriage and raising children. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling 1:77–98.

    DOI: 10.1300/J462v01n04_06Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of 133 sexual minority adolescents living in New York City. Many reported that future long-term relationships were extremely important, and a majority expected monogamy. Many males and a majority of females reported that they were very likely to marry. A large majority reported that they expected to become parents.

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  • Gartrell, Nanette, Jean Hamilton, Amy Banks, Dee Mosbacher, Nancy Reed, Caroline H. Sparks, and Holly Bishop. 1996. The national lesbian family study 1: Interviews with prospective mothers. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 66:272–281.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0080178Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of seventy lesbian couples and fourteen lesbian singles who were currently pregnant or pursuing donor insemination. In semistructured interviews, participants reported strong social support and desire to become parents, variation in donor preferences, some preference for female offspring, and concerns about antigay prejudice and discrimination.

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  • Gates, Gary J., M. V. Lee Badgett, Jennifer Ehrle Macomber, and Kate Chambers. 2007. Adoption and foster care by gay and lesbian parents in the United States. Los Angeles: Williams Institute, Univ. of California, Los Angeles.

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    Quantitative report of nationally representative data (US census, National Survey of Family Growth, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System). Many lesbians and gay men are parents or report the desire to become parents. Sexual minority parents raise 4 percent of adoptees in the United States and 3 percent of US foster children. Co-published with the Urban Institute, Washington, DC.

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  • Gianino, Mark. 2008. Adaption and transformation: The transition to adoptive parenthood for gay couples. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 4:205–243.

    DOI: 10.1080/15504280802096872Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of eight upper-middle-class male couples who had adopted children. Participants retrospectively reported that they had strong desires to parent but did not always expect it to happen because of logistic barriers and internalized stigma. Some reported experiences of antigay or antimale bias during and after adoption.

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  • Rabun, Carl, and Ramona F. Oswald. 2009. Upholding and expanding the normal family: Future fatherhood through the eyes of gay male emerging adults. Fathering 7:269–285.

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    Qualitative interviews with fourteen childless gay men ages eighteen to twenty-five years who intended to become fathers. Themes include concerns that children would be teased, realizations that gay and father identities are not mutually exclusive, importance of biological ties, support from friends and family, and legal barriers.

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  • Riskind, Rachel G., and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2010. Parenting intentions and desires among childless lesbian, gay, and heterosexual individuals. Journal of Family Psychology 24:78–81.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0017941Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative, nationally representative study of 294 childless lesbian, gay, and heterosexual individuals. Gay men and lesbians were less likely than matched heterosexual peers to report desire for parenthood. Gay men who did so were less likely than matched heterosexual men to express the intention to fulfill these desires.

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  • Sbordone, Albert J. 1993. Gay men choosing fatherhood. PhD diss., City Univ. of New York.

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    Quantitative dissertation comparing seventy-eight gay fathers to eighty-three gay nonfathers. Reports of childhood relationships with parents and intimacy and autonomy in families of origin were similar across groups. Fathers reported higher self-esteem and lower internalized stigma than did nonfathers. Self-esteem and internalized stigma were unrelated to parenting desires among nonfathers.

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Pathways to Parenthood

Some lesbian and gay adults marry a heterosexual partner, have children, and only later came out as lesbian and gay. Others come out at a younger age and become parents in the context of preexisting nonheterosexual identities. Those who come out earlier often consider a wider variety of routes to parenthood than do their peers who come out later in life. Some have explored adoption or foster care arrangements, and an increasing number of lesbians are using reproductive technologies, such as donor insemination, to become parents. Some gay men have become fathers via surrogacy, in which a woman agrees to carry the child, whose parents will be a gay man or male couple. Pathways to parenthood for sexual minority individuals vary in structure.

Former Heterosexual Relationships

Before the availability of reproductive technologies and adoption for sexual minority parents, many had children in the context of a former heterosexual relationship. These individuals would often get married, have children, and later realize that they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Patterson and Tornello 2011 examines pathways to parenthood of gay fathers in the United States and internationally in relation to fathers’ generational cohort. Much of the limited research in this area was conducted in the 1980s, and this line of research has greatly decreased subsequently. Overall, research regarding this pathway to parenthood focuses on different aspects of the family system, such as child development. Articles in other subsections overlap with this area.

  • Patterson, Charlotte J., and Samantha L. Tornello. 2011. Gay fathers’ pathways to parenthood: International perspectives. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung 7:103–116.

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    Study of 102 gay fathers from four primarily English-speaking countries outside the United States compared to a US group. Men under fifty years of age were more likely to achieve parenthood through adoption, foster care, or surrogacy than were men over age fifty.

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Adoption and Foster Care

Increasing numbers of sexual minority adults have adopted children, and many more have expressed a desire to do so (see Gates, et al. 2007, cited in Plans for Parenthood). Although adoptive families headed by sexual minority parents are a reality, there is continued controversy surrounding the adoption of children by sexual minority adults across the United States and across many other areas around the world. Variable laws, policies, and practices abound in managing the adoption of children by sexual minority adults, and the lack of clear policies and laws creates challenges for adoptive families with sexual minority parents and all those who work with them. A growing body of research regarding the adoption of children by sexual minority parents has begun to address debates about the adoption of children by sexual minority adults. Research results also influence policies and practices regarding adopted families and professionals working with them. Future research in this area will yield helpful information for adoptive families, policy makers, adoption professionals, and practitioners.

Experiences of Adoptive Sexual Minority Parents

Although adoption by sexual minority adults remains controversial in many places around the world, there are growing numbers of adoptive families headed by sexual minority parents. Gates, et al. 2007 indicates that sexual minority adults are raising 4 percent of all adopted children in the United States, and more than 2 million sexual minority adults report interest in adopting children. Sexual minority adoptive parents appear to share similar demographic characteristics with heterosexual adoptive parents, such as older age, high educational attainment, high socioeconomic status, and predominantly white racial identity (Gates, et al. 2007; Farr and Patterson 2009; Goldberg 2009a). A number of studies, such Goldberg, et al. 2009; Goldberg 2009b; and Goldberg and Smith 2009, have focused on the experiences of lesbian preadoptive couples. Mallon 2000; Downing, et al. 2009; Goldberg 2009a; and Farr and Patterson 2009 describe the experiences of gay adoptive fathers and lesbian and heterosexual adoptive parents. Sexual minority parents who pursue adoption may be motivated to do so for reasons similar to or different from those of heterosexual parents.

  • Downing, Jordan, Hannah Richardson, Lori Kinkler, and Abbie E. Goldberg. 2009. Making the decision: Factors influencing gay men’s choice of an adoption path. Adoption Quarterly 12:247–271.

    DOI: 10.1080/10926750903313310Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of thirty-two gay male couples pursuing adoption. Participants reported choosing an adoption path based on children’s likely age, race, and health, the expected length of wait, finances, legal restrictions, concerns about or desire for birth parent involvement, or a desire to work with a gay-friendly agency.

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  • Farr, Rachel H., and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2009. Transracial adoption by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents: Who completes transracial adoptions and with what results? Adoption Quarterly 12:187–204.

    DOI: 10.1080/10926750903313328Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of 106 lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive couples. Transracial adoptions were more common among sexual minority and interracial couples than among heterosexual and same-race couples, respectively. Child-centered reasons for adoption were associated with more transracial adoptions. Child and parent adjustment did not vary, however, with transracial adoptive status.

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  • Gates, Gary J., M. V. Lee Badgett, Jennifer Ehrle Macomber, and Kate Chambers. 2007. Adoption and foster care by gay and lesbian parents in the United States. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

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    Quantitative report of nationally representative data (US census, National Survey of Family Growth, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System). Many lesbians and gay men are becoming parents through adoption or the foster care system. In a nationally representative sample, researchers found that a sizable minority of sexual minority parents are currently raising adopted children (4 percent) and foster children (3 percent) in the United States. Co-published with the Williams Institute, Univ. of California, Los Angeles.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E. 2009a. Heterosexual, lesbian, and gay preadoptive parents’ preferences about child gender. Sex Roles 61:55–71.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11199-009-9598-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mixed-method nationwide study of sixty-one lesbian, forty-eight gay, and ninety-three heterosexual preadoptive couples. Gender preferences for adopted children were most common among gay men and heterosexual women. Heterosexual couples were more likely than sexual minority couples to prefer girls. Gender socialization concerns were related to gender preferences among sexual minority couples.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E. 2009b. Lesbian and heterosexual preadoptive couples’ openness to transracial adoption. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 79:103–117.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0015354Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mixed-method nationwide study of fifty-four lesbian and ninety-three heterosexual white preadoptive couples. Lesbian couples (91 percent) were more open than heterosexual couples (68 percent) to transracial adoption. Explanations for openness or resistance included levels of community diversity, family support, desire not to be overly selective, and consideration of challenges.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., Jordan B. Downing, and Hannah B. Richardson. 2009. The transition from infertility to adoption: Perceptions of lesbian and heterosexual preadoptive couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 26:938–963.

    DOI: 10.1177/0265407509345652Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of thirty lesbian and thirty heterosexual childless couples who attempted conception and then pursued adoption. Lesbians reported less commitment to biological parenthood and easier transitions to adoption. Across couple type, many reported that infertility led to stress and depression, while others reported that the experience strengthened their communication skills.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and JuliAnn Z. Smith. 2009. Predicting non–African American lesbian and heterosexual preadoptive couples’ openness to adopting an African American child. Family Relations 58:346–360.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2009.00557.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of forty-eight lesbian and sixty-five heterosexual non–African American couples waiting to adopt. Participants who were younger, white (rather than non–African American racial minorities), and lesbian and who perceived their neighborhoods as more diverse were more likely to report willingness to adopt an African American child.

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  • Mallon, Gerald P. 2000. Gay men and lesbians as adoptive parents. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 11:1–22.

    DOI: 10.1300/J041v11n04_01Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This qualitative study of sexual minority adoptive parents found that sexual minority adults adopt through private agencies or private arrangements with birth mothers and that they adopt for reasons that are both similar to and different from those of heterosexual adults.

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Barriers and Challenges

Although all prospective adoptive parents progress through a series of steps toward adoption, including a thorough application process, training and workshops for prospective parents, and a home study, sexual minority parents may face an additional set of challenges and barriers. Kaye and Kuvalanka 2006 and Ryan, et al. 2004 indicate that sexual minority parents are not welcome to adopt children in some US states. Moreover, Brodzinsky, et al. 2002 demonstrates that not all adoption agencies are open to working with sexual minority applicants. In studies reported in Downs and James 2006 and Mallon 2007, it has become clear that sexual minority parents frequently encounter discrimination from adoption agencies and their staff. Brooks and Goldberg 2001 and Mallon 2007 note that sexual minority prospective adoptive parents face greater barriers to adopting children as a result of informal agency practices, agency attitudes, and a lack of clear policies regarding sexual minority adoption. Ryan 2000 reports that homophobic attitudes among adoption social workers can be changed with education and training. Ryan and Whitlock 2007, a study of sexual minority adoptive parents, suggests that despite facing bias in the adoption process, sexual minority parents feel positive about their adoption experiences.

  • Brodzinsky, David M., Charlotte J. Patterson, and Mahnoush Vaziri. 2002. Adoption agency perspectives on sexual minority prospective parents: A national study. Adoption Quarterly 1:43–60.

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    This study was a survey of adoption agency policies toward sexual minority parents. Of 369 public and private adoption agencies throughout the United States, 60 percent of reporting agencies have accepted applications from sexual minority prospective adoptive parents, and 40 percent have placed children with sexual minority parents.

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  • Brooks, Devon, and Sheryl Goldberg. 2001. Gay and lesbian adoptive and foster care placements: Can they meet the needs of waiting children? Social Work 46:147–157.

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    In focus groups with adoption professionals and adoptive and foster parents, sexual minority adults reported more obstacles to adopting or fostering than did heterosexual adults—including negative agency attitudes and beliefs about sexual minority parenting and few formal policies about placement with sexual minority parents.

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  • Downs, A. Chris, and Steven E. James. 2006. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual foster parents: Strengths and challenges for the child welfare system. Child Welfare Journal 85:281–298.

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    Qualitative study of sixty lesbian, gay, and bisexual foster parents’ feelings of successes and challenges. Participants noted their satisfaction in their role as foster parents but also described barriers, such as discrimination, in their communication with the child welfare system.

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  • Kaye, Sarah, and Katherine Kuvalanka. 2006. State gay adoption laws and permanency for foster youth. Maryland Family Policy Impact Seminar.

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    Brief policy report reviewing adoption laws and policies in the United States. In states where adoption laws excluded sexual minority parents, more children remained in foster care. States with more “gay-friendly” laws had fewer children in foster care.

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  • Mallon, Gerald P. 2007. Assessing lesbian and gay prospective foster and adoptive families: A focus on the home study process. Child Welfare 86:67–86.

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    A review and practice assessment of sexual minority adults’ experiences of the adoption process focusing on the home study process. Mallon offers gay-affirmative guidelines and recommendations for social workers and child welfare professionals working with sexual minority clients, focusing on the best interests of the child.

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  • Ryan, Scott D. 2000. Examining social workers’ placement recommendations of children with gay and lesbian adoptive parents. Families in Society 81:517–528.

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    In a survey of eighty adoption social workers, African American identity and Christian upbringing were associated with greater homophobia and lower likelihood of recommending placement with sexual minority parents. These attitudes improved with training about lesbian- and gay-parent families and state adoption laws.

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  • Ryan, Scott D., Sue Pearlmutter, and Victor Groza. 2004. Coming out of the closet: Opening agencies to gay and lesbian adoptive parents. Social Work 49:85–95.

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    A review and policy article regarding the discrimination that sexual minority adults face throughout the adoption process. Describes recommendations for adoption agencies and professionals to help them work with sexual minority parents and work for the best interests of children.

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  • Ryan, Scott D., and Courtney Whitlock. 2007. Becoming parents: Lesbian mothers’ adoption experience. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services 19:1–33.

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

    This qualitative study explored the adoption experiences of ninety-six lesbian mothers. Interview questions included their sources of information, consultation, possible bias, adoption costs and time frames, and satisfaction with the process. Although the majority of participants admitted experiencing some bias, they also reported positive experiences and overall satisfaction.

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Unique Strengths

In debates about whether sexual minority adults should be able to adopt children, some have raised questions about the appropriateness or suitability of sexual minority parents adopting and rearing children. Research on adoptive families headed by sexual minority parents is increasing, and results to date have consistently shown that sexual minority adoptive parents make capable parents. Some studies have pointed to the unique strengths that sexual minority adults might offer as adoptive parents. In studies comparing sexual minority and heterosexual adoptive couples, Goldberg and Smith 2008 and Kindle and Erich 2005 report that sexual minority couples who adopt children enjoy levels of social support similar to those of heterosexual couples who adopt. In a qualitative study about sexual minority adoptive parents, Brown, et al. 2009 notes that sexual minority adoptive parents often experience unanticipated support from their families and community. In a study simultaneously exploring the experiences of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive couples, Goldberg, et al. 2010 reports that the same predictors of relationship quality for heterosexual couples apply to sexual minority couples across the transition to parenthood. Gay male couples might be at an advantage, since women reported the greatest declines in love and those in relationships with women reported the greatest ambivalence (Goldberg, et al. 2010).

  • Brown, Susanne, Susan Smalling, Victor Groza, and Scott Ryan. 2009. The experiences of gay men and lesbians in becoming and being adoptive parents. Adoption Quarterly 12:226–246.

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    Qualitative study of 182 sexual minority adoptive parents about their adoption experiences focusing on challenges, successes, and joys. Participants noted that they had faced discrimination and had few role models but they also had received unanticipated support from extended family and community.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and JuliAnn Z. Smith. 2008. Social support and psychological well-being in lesbian and heterosexual preadoptive couples. Family Relations 57:281–294.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00500.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of thirty-six lesbian and thirty-nine heterosexual couples waiting to adopt. Heterosexual couples reported greater social support from family than did lesbian couples, but reports of well-being and social support from friends did not differ by couple type. Past attempts to conceive via in vitro fertilization were associated with depression.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., JuliAnn Z. Smith, and Deborah A. Kashy. 2010. Pre-adoptive factors predicting lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples’ relationship quality across the transition to adoptive parenthood. Journal of Family Psychology 24:221–232.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0019615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of forty-four lesbian, thirty gay male, and fifty-one heterosexual couples across the first year of adoptive parenthood. All couple types reported declines in relationship quality. Women reported steeper declines in love. Those partnered with women reported the most ambivalence.

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  • Kindle, Peter A., and Stephen Erich. 2005. Perceptions of social support among heterosexual and homosexual adopters. Families in Society 86:541–546.

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    Examined social support among forty-seven sexual minority and twenty-five heterosexual adoptive parents. Results indicate no differences in overall levels of family support. Heterosexual adoptive parents relied more on family, but sexual minority adoptive parents did not rely more on friends to compensate.

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Reproductive Technologies

The articles listed in the subsections here review psychological research on families formed through Donor Insemination and Surrogacy, two routes to parenthood that can occur with the assistance of reproductive technologies. Donor insemination occurs when a man donates sperm to a woman who wishes to conceive and is not his sexual partner. Surrogacy occurs when a woman intentionally gestates and gives birth to a child whose biological father is not her sexual partner. In some cases, the surrogate is not the genetic mother of the child; with medical assistance, a man might fertilize the egg of a second woman and then place this egg in the surrogate’s womb. Therefore, it is possible for a child conceived through surrogacy to have a genetic mother in addition to a birth mother and a biological father; both the genetic mother and the birth mother are biological mothers. We provide specific information about the resources in each subsection.

Donor Insemination

Each of the articles listed here contributes information about lesbians who conceived or planned to conceive through donor insemination and in some cases information about their children. Donovan 2000 provides a British sociological perspective on donor choice and biological father involvement. Baetens and Brewaeys 2001 reviews the social science research on children born to lesbian mothers that was available at the beginning of the 21st century; that article may be most useful for health care providers interested in counseling lesbian couples. Vanfraussen, et al. 2001 explores children’s and lesbian mothers’ attitudes toward donor anonymity in a Belgian sample. This may be of interest to parents choosing between known or unknown donors and readers who contribute to reproductive health policies. Chabot and Ames 2004 provides the most in-depth discussion of key decisions lesbian mothers pursuing donor insemination must face. Steele, et al. 2008 describes mental health needs of Canadian nonheterosexual women pursuing parenthood and is likely to interest mental and reproductive health practitioners who want to improve their services. Two studies deal with disclosure of donor insemination and parental sexual orientation to children: Jadva, et al. 2009 examines the impact of telling children the details of their conception, and Stevens, et al. 2003 reports from interviews with lesbian mothers that the majority of these mothers’ children (five to nine years old) had learned of their parents’ sexual orientation and their conception.

  • Baetens, Patricia, and Anne Brewaeys. 2001. Lesbian couples requesting donor insemination: An update of the knowledge with regard to lesbian mother families. Human Reproduction Update 7:512–519.

    DOI: 10.1093/humupd/7.5.512Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Review of quantitative research regarding assumptions about lesbian parents. Includes discussion of reproductive health counseling for lesbian couples as opposed to single adults or heterosexual couples. Targeted for reproductive health providers.

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  • Chabot, Jennifer M., and Barbara D. Ames. 2004. It wasn’t “Let’s get pregnant and go do it”: Decision making in lesbian couples planning motherhood via donor insemination. Family Relations 53:348–356.

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

    Qualitative study of interviews and support group meetings with twenty lesbians who pursued donor insemination. Themes include desire for parenthood, searches for information, choosing a pathway to parenthood, choosing a biological mother, language used to refer to each mother, and the negotiation of lesbian motherhood in a heterocentric world.

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  • Donovan, Catherine. 2000. Who needs a father? Negotiating biological fatherhood in British lesbian families using self-insemination. Sexualities 3:149–164.

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

    Review article in a sociology journal, including some qualitative responses. Donovan argues that lesbian-parent families formed through donor insemination can challenge assumptions about gender and the importance of residential biological fathers. Focus on relevance for British policy.

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  • Jadva, Vasanti, Tabitha Freeman, Wendy Kramer, and Susan Golombok. 2009. The experiences of adolescents and adults conceived by sperm donation: Comparison by age of disclosure and family type. Human Reproduction 24:1909–1919.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dep110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Researchers compared individuals conceived by sperm donation by family type. Lesbian mothers told their children the details of their conception at a much younger age compared to single heterosexual mothers. Those who found out at an older age reported a more negative reaction to the disclosure.

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  • Steele, Leah S., Lori E. Ross, Rachel Epstein, Carol Strike, and Corrie Goldfinger. 2008. Correlates of mental health service use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual mothers and prospective mothers. Women and Health 47:1–19.

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    Quantitative study of sixty-four Canadian lesbian and bisexual women who were trying to conceive, were pregnant, or were new parents. Almost one of three women reported that their needs for mental health services had recently gone unmet. Almost one of four women reported that mental health providers assumed they were heterosexual.

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  • Stevens, Madeleine, Beth Perry, Amanda Burston, Susan Golombok, and Jean Golding. 2003. Openness in lesbian-mother families regarding mother’s sexual orientation and child’s conception by donor insemination. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 21:347–362.

    DOI: 10.1080/02646830310001622141Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interviews with thirty-eight lesbian mothers of children five to nine years old revealed that the majority had disclosed their sexual orientation to their children. All children who were aware of their parents’ sexual orientation or their own conception responded positively.

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  • Vanfraussen, Katrien, Ingrid Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, and Anne Brewaeys. 2001. An attempt to reconstruct children’s donor concept: A comparison between children’s and lesbian parents’ attitudes towards donor anonymity. Human Reproduction 16:2019–2025.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/16.9.2019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of forty-one Belgian children and adolescents conceived through donor insemination and their forty-five lesbian mothers. Roughly half of the children reported curiosity about their donors. Boys were more likely than girls to express curiosity about the donor’s identity. Mothers were less likely than children to report curiosity.

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Surrogacy

Research on the experiences of heterosexual parent families who have used surrogacy has been limited, and even less research has addressed the experiences of gay fathers who have used surrogacy. There are two main types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother (the woman who will carry the child) is artificially inseminated with sperm from the father or sperm donor. In this situation, the surrogate mother is biologically related to the child. In gestational surrogacy, a woman who will not be the surrogate donates an egg. This egg is then fertilized by donor sperm and implanted in the womb of a surrogate mother who will gestate the fertilized egg. In this situation, the surrogate has no genetic connection to the child. Nakash and Herdiman 2007 reviews cultural and legal differences across the world regarding the use of surrogacy but does not address sexual orientation. Greenfeld 2007 describes the desire of gay couples to have children and the ethics of supporting these patients in an article for reproductive health practitioners. MacCallum, et al. 2003 reports on interviews with heterosexual parents, and Mitchell and Green 2007 reports on sexual minority parents who were asked why they chose surrogacy and about their experiences with the surrogacy process. Bergman, et al. 2010 is the only study to date to examine specifically the transition to parenthood for gay fathers who became parents using surrogacy. Information in this area is sparse, and future research is sorely needed.

  • Bergman, Kim, Robert-Jay Green, Elena Padron, and Ritchie J. Rubio. 2010. Gay men who become fathers via surrogacy: The transition to parenthood. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 6:111–141.

    DOI: 10.1080/15504281003704942Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study examined the transition to parenthood of forty gay male couples who had children through the use of gestational surrogacy. After becoming parents, fathers reported increased closeness to family members, increased romantic and personal intimacy with their partners, and decreased closeness with friends without children.

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  • Greenfeld, D. A. 2007. Gay male couples and assisted reproduction: Should we assist? Fertility and Sterility 88:18–20.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2007.04.040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Peer-reviewed review article intended for an audience of reproductive health practitioners. Many gay men are interested in becoming parents, and some will do so through surrogacy. These fathers are highly motivated, but some fertility centers have reported that they do not welcome gay male patients.

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  • MacCallum, Fiona, Emma Lycett, Clare Murray, Vasanti Jadva, and Susan Golombok. 2003. Surrogacy: The experience of commissioning couples. Human Reproduction 18:1334–1342.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deg253Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of forty-two heterosexual parents who were interested in having a child through surrogacy. Addresses motivations to use surrogacy, experiences with the surrogacy process before and after the child’s birth, and disclosure to others regarding the surrogacy process.

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  • Mitchell, Valory, and Robert-Jay Green. 2007. Different storks for different folks: Gay and lesbian parents’ experiences with alternative insemination and surrogacy. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 3:81–104.

    DOI: 10.1300/J461v03n02_04Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of the experiences of gay and lesbian individuals during decision making and use of reproductive technology.

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  • Nakash, Ali, and Julia Herdiman. 2007. Surrogacy. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 27:246–251.

    DOI: 10.1080/01443610701194788Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is a helpful overview of cultural and legal issues surrounding surrogacy in several countries: the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, and some European countries.

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Child Outcomes

Debates surrounding sexual minority parenting have often centered on the development of children with sexual minority parents. Some have raised questions about whether sexual minority adults can provide their children with adequate parenting, appropriate role models, and effective socialization, particularly in terms of gender development and sexual identity. Research has addressed these questions, and the literature has been clear: children with sexual minority parents develop similarly to their peers with heterosexual parents in terms of psychological adjustment, gender development, cognitive abilities, socioemotional development, relationships with peers, and sexual orientation and identity. Further information about child outcomes is available in the Empirical Reviews section.

Early Childhood

Researchers examining early childhood development among children with sexual minority parents have often focused on behavioral adjustment. In a national longitudinal study of lesbian mothers who had used donor insemination to have children, Banks, et al. 2000 reports that lesbian mothers had no concerns about their five-year-old children’s health, development, or peer relationships. In a study comparing the development of young children adopted by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples, Farr, et al. 2010 notes that all children on average were reported to have few behavior problems. There were no differences in children’s behavioral adjustment as a function of parental sexual orientation. Children’s gender development has also been at the center of debates about sexual minority parenting. Early childhood is an important period of development, as differences in gender role behavior emerge by the time children begin preschool. In Farr, et al. 2010, a study of adoptive families headed by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents, preschool-age children were found to be developing typically in terms of gender role behavior and socialization. This study is noteworthy, as biological relationships between parents and children were not a confounding variable in this study. Rather, all children had been placed with their adoptive parents early in life. Furthermore, both sexual minority parents in same-sex couples provided reports in this study. In another study specifically including lesbian and heterosexual parents and their young children, Fulcher, et al. 2008 reports that all children were similarly aware of gender stereotypes and agreed that gender transgressions were negative. There were no differences among children with lesbian or heterosexual parents in terms of children’s gender role behavior or characteristics. Sutfin, et al. 2008 reports on a unique study of children’s beliefs about gender in families with lesbian and heterosexual parents. The researchers found that children with lesbian mothers had less traditional beliefs about gender and less gender-stereotypical bedroom decor than did children with heterosexual parents, but the degree to which children’s environments were gender-stereotyped mediated child and parent attitudes. In sum, as with other studies of children reared by sexual minority parents, young children appear to develop similarly to their peers reared by heterosexual parents.

  • Banks, Amy, Amalia Deck, Nanette Gartrell, Jean Hamilton, N. Reed, and C. Rodas. 2000. The National Lesbian Family Study 3: Interviews with mothers of five-year-olds. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 70:542–548.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0087823Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interviews with lesbian mothers who had conceived children through donor insemination. Most mothers had no concerns about their children’s health, development, or peer relationships. The majority of families were functioning well. Those who were not had experienced stressors, such as death, divorce, or illness in the family, since the last interview.

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  • Farr, Rachel H., Stephen L. Forssell, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2010. Parenting and child development in adoptive families: Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science 14:164–178.

    DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2010.500958Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of 106 adoptive families with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents revealed no significant differences in preschool-age children’s gender development as a function of parental sexual orientation. Rather, girls and boys demonstrated significantly different characteristics and preferences for toys and activities as typical of their gender.

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  • Fulcher, Megan, Erin Sutfin, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2008. Individual differences in gender development: Associations with parental sexual orientation, attitudes, and division of labor. Sex Roles 58:330–341.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9348-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Researchers compared children raised by heterosexual parents and children raised by lesbian mothers regarding their awareness and preference for gender-stereotyped behavior. All children were equally aware of gender stereotypes and were stereotypical in current activities and future occupational goals. In addition, all children viewed gender transgression as negative.

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  • Sutfin, Erin L., Megan Fulcher, Ryan P. Bowles, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2008. How lesbian and heterosexual parents convey attitudes about gender to their children: The role of gendered environments. Sex Roles 58:501–513.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9368-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A mixed-method study examining gender beliefs and environment of children from families headed by lesbian couples and heterosexual couples. Children raised by lesbian mothers had less traditional gendered beliefs and less gender-stereotyped environments. Children’s environments mediated gendered behavior for children and parents.

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Middle Childhood

The articles in the subsections that follow review research on several aspects of the development of children in middle childhood (roughly ages five to twelve) with lesbian or gay parents. Topics include the psychosocial and intellectual development of adoptive children and those conceived through donor insemination, children’s gender development, and children’s experiences with heterosexism and teasing. This body of research primarily describes similarities among children raised by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents, although a few differences crop up. Each subsection provides specific information about the resources.

Psychosocial and Intellectual Development

The articles listed here review research on the psychosocial development of children in middle childhood with lesbian or gay parents. Articles are categorized by pathway to parenthood: adoption or donor insemination. Brewaeys, et al. 1997 includes a Dutch sample and an objective measure of parenting knowledge. Chan, et al. 1998, a study of children conceived by lesbian or heterosexual mothers, is notable for its multiple reports, use of a systematic sampling frame, and inclusion of both number and gender of parents as predictors. Fulcher, et al. 2006 provides a concise review of findings from the Contemporary Families Study, pulling from multiple published empirical papers. Fulcher, et al. 2002 examines contact with men and with biological and nonbiological grandparents among children with lesbian mothers. Gartrell, et al. 2006 describes rates of abuse and general psychosocial development in a national US sample of children of lesbian mothers. Bos, et al. 2008 provides a unique comparison of Dutch and American children and attends to cross-national differences. Erich, et al. 2005 reports the first study to examine children adopted by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. Tan and Baggerly 2009 is unique in its focus on Chinese girls adopted by single mothers, heterosexual couples, and lesbian couples. Averett, et al. 2009 reports on the largest study to date regarding adoptive families that examines an array of child outcomes in relation to parental sexual orientation.

  • Averett, Paige, Blace Nalavany, and Scott Ryan. 2009. An evaluation of gay/lesbian and heterosexual adoption. Adoption Quarterly 12:129–151.

    DOI: 10.1080/10926750903313278Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examined outcomes of 1,384 children (n = 380, 1.5 to 5 years old; n = 1,004, 6 to 18 years old) with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents. Controlling for child age, sex, preadoptive experiences, and family income, children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors were unrelated to parents’ sexual orientation.

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  • Bos, Henny M. W., Nanette K. Gartrell, Frank van Balen, Heidi Peyser, and Theo G. M. Sandfort. 2008. Children in planned lesbian families: A cross-cultural comparison between the United States and the Netherlands. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 78:211–219.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0012711Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mixed-method study of ten-year-old children with lesbian mothers: seventy-eight American and seventy-four Dutch. Dutch children reported greater disclosure and fewer experiences with peer homophobia. Dutch mothers reported fewer child emotional and behavior problems. Child reports of experiences with peer homophobia partially accounted for cross-national differences in child psychosocial adjustment.

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  • Brewaeys, Anne Marie, Ingrid Ponjaert, E. V. Van Hall, and Susan Golombok. 1997. Donor insemination: Child development and family functioning in lesbian mother families. Human Reproduction 12:1349–1359.

    DOI: 10.1093/humrep/12.6.1349Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of Dutch donor-insemination families with lesbian or heterosexual parents. Quality of parental couple relationship, mother-child interaction, children’s perceptions of parents, child adjustment, and gender role development were similar across family type. Child interactions with social mothers (nonbiological mothers) were of higher quality than child interactions with heterosexual fathers.

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  • Chan, Raymond W., Barbara Raboy, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 1998. Psychosocial adjustment among children conceived via donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Child Development 69:443–457.

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    Quantitative study of psychosocial adjustment of elementary school–age children. All children had been conceived through donor insemination. There were no differences in children’s psychosocial development, as reported by children’s teachers or parents, by family type, or by number of parents in the household.

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  • Erich, Stephen, Patrick Leung, and Peter Kindle. 2005. A comparative analysis of adoptive family functioning with gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parents and their children. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 1:43–60.

    DOI: 10.1300/J461v01n04_03Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of seventy-two adoptive lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents and their 111 children. Children’s adjustment and parents’ perceptions of social support from extended family did not vary as a function of parental sexual orientation.

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  • Fulcher, Megan, Raymond W. Chan, Barbara Raboy, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2002. Contact with grandparents among children conceived via donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Parenting: Science and Practice 2:61–76.

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    Quantitative study of families participating in the Contemporary Families Study who conceived through donor insemination (see Fulcher, et al. 2006 for sample details). Amount of child-grandparent contact and contact with adult men was similar regardless of parental sexual orientation. However, children in both groups had more frequent contact with genetic grandparents than with nongenetic grandparents.

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  • Fulcher, Megan, Erin L. Sutfin, Raymond W. Chan, J. E. Scheib, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2006. Lesbian mothers and their children: Findings from the Contemporary Families Study. In Sexual orientation and mental health: Examining identity and development in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Edited by Allen N. Omoto and Howard S. Kurtzman, 281–299. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    DOI: 10.1037/11261-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Book chapter review of findings from the Contemporary Families Study of eighty lesbian and heterosexual parent families formed through donor insemination. Parent and child adjustment, couple relationship satisfaction, and networks of supportive adults were similar regardless of parental sexual orientation. Family process variables were strong predictors of child outcomes.

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  • Gartrell, Nanette, A. D. Deck, C. Rodas, Heidi Peyser, and A. Banks. 2006. The USA national lesbian family study: Interviews with mothers of 10-year-olds. Feminism and Psychology 16:175–192.

    DOI: 10.1177/0959-353506062972Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interviews were conducted with seventy-eight ten-year-old children who were raised by lesbian mothers and had been conceived through donor insemination. Children raised by lesbian mothers had lower rates of physical and sexual abuse and were functioning well psychologically and socially compared to national norms.

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  • Tan, T. Xing, and Jennifer Baggerly. 2009. Behavioral adjustment of adopted Chinese girls in single-mother, lesbian-couple, and heterosexual-couple households. Adoption Quarterly 12:171–186.

    DOI: 10.1080/10926750903313336Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examined behavioral adjustment among ninety-three Chinese girls (mean age 5.5 years) adopted by single heterosexual mothers, lesbian couples, and heterosexual couples. Children’s behavioral adjustment was not statistically different by family type. In two exceptions, children in single-mother households scored lower than did their peers from lesbian-couple households.

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Experiences with Heterosexism and Teasing

Much of the research on middle childhood has focused on psychosocial or gender development, although there is an increasing literature regarding the experiences of these children. Two studies deal with these issues. Litovich and Langhout 2004 examines young children’s experiences with heterosexism in their daily lives due to having lesbian mothers. Vanfraussen, et al. 2002 examines the experiences of children who were conceived via donor insemination specifically regarding teasing and disclosure surrounding their family system. Neither study found that children’s family systems had a large or negative impact on their lives.

  • Litovich, Marianna L., and Regina Day Langhout. 2004. Framing heterosexism in lesbian families: A preliminary examination of resilient coping. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 14:411–435.

    DOI: 10.1002/casp.780Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of six girls ages seven to sixteen years and their lesbian mothers. Although mothers initially claimed that their children had minimal experiences with heterosexism, semistructured interviews led them to recall incidents that the researchers considered to be examples of heterosexism. Themes include children’s coping and parental preparation for heterosexist incidents.

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  • Vanfraussen, Katrien, Ingrid Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, and Anne Brewaeys. 2002. 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 20:237–252.

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

    Mixed-method study of forty-one Belgian children and adolescents with lesbian mothers and a matched group of forty-one peers with heterosexual parents. Amount of teasing did not differ by family type. Groups were similar on a variety of measures of psychosocial outcomes as reported by children, parents, and teachers.

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Gender Development

The articles listed here review research on the gender development of children in middle childhood with lesbian mothers. To date no published empirical research has addressed the gender development of children in middle childhood with gay fathers. Kirkpatrick, et al. 1981 is notable for its early publication date and its focus on children of single mothers. Bos and Sandfort 2010 extends this area of research by studying gender development in a slightly older sample of Dutch children, also finding significant differences between children of lesbian and heterosexual parents.

  • Bos, Henny M. W., and T. G. M. Sandfort. 2010. Children’s gender identity in lesbian and heterosexual two-parent families. Sex Roles 62:114–126.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11199-009-9704-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compared Dutch children from lesbian families and heterosexual families. Children with lesbian parents felt less pressure to conform to gender norms, were less likely to express superiority of their own gender, and were more likely to express uncertainty regarding future heterosexual romantic relationships.

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  • Kirkpatrick, Martha, Catherine Smith, and Ron Roy. 1981. Lesbian mothers and their children: A comparative survey. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 51:545–551.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.1981.tb01403.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comparison of children currently living with their mother as a single heterosexual parent and those living with their mother as a single lesbian parent. Children’s gender development did not significantly differ by family type.

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Adolescence and Adulthood

Two major areas of interest have emerged regarding the development of adolescents and adults raised by sexual minority parents. The first area is overall adjustment, which includes psychological development, peer relationships, attachment styles, school achievement, self-esteem, and so on. The second is psychosexual development, which includes gender role behavior, sexual identity, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, romantic attraction, and romantic relationships. Much of this research has failed to discover differences based on parental sexual orientation, but there are some notable and distinct features of these families.

Psychosocial Development

Much of the research on adolescents raised by sexual minority parents has focused on children raised by lesbian mothers, not gay fathers (Patterson and Riskind 2011). Wainright and Patterson 2006; Wainright and Patterson 2008; and Wainright, et al. 2004 study a matched, nationally representative sample of children being raised by different-sex and female same-sex parents. Tasker and Golombok 1995 studies psychological well-being, family relationships, and formation of friendships and intimate relationships among children raised in heterosexual- or lesbian-headed households. Gartrell and Bos 2010, a longitudinal study, reports that children of lesbian mothers performed slightly better, compared to national norms, on measures of academic achievement and social competence. In an additional study of families headed by single heterosexual mothers, two heterosexual parents, and lesbian mothers, researchers found no differences among young adults’ psychological functioning as a function of family type (Golombok and Badger 2010). Erich, et al. 2009 is the first study to investigate the attachment style of adopted children as function of family type, specifically families headed by lesbian, gay, or heterosexual parents. To date the research on adolescents raised by sexual minority parents has consistently failed to find that parental sexual orientation has any negative impact on children’s adjustment.

  • Erich, Stephen, Heather Kanenberg, Kim Case, T. Allen, and T. Bogdanos. 2009. An empirical analysis of factors affecting adolescent attachment in adoptive families with homosexual and straight parents. Children and Youth Services Review 31:398–404.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2008.09.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of 154 adoptive families with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents and their 210 adolescent children revealed that secure attachment style was unrelated to parental sexual orientation. Rather, across all families attachment predicted adolescents’ life satisfaction, parents’ relationship satisfaction with their child, number of prior placements, and adolescents’ current age.

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  • Gartrell, Nanette, and Henny M. W. Bos. 2010. US national longitudinal lesbian family study: Psychological adjustment of 17-year-old adolescents. Pediatrics 126:1–9.

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    Adolescents with lesbian mothers scored significantly higher on academic and social competence and lower on externalizing problems compared to national norms. Overall, these children seem to be well adjusted and in some ways better than the national norms.

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  • Golombok, Susan, and S. Badger. 2010. Children raised in mother-headed families from infancy: A follow-up of children of lesbian and heterosexual mothers, at early adulthood. Human Reproduction 25:150–157.

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

    Longitudinal study comparing families headed by single heterosexual mothers, two heterosexual parents, and lesbian mothers. Researchers found no differences between the parents’ quality of parenting and the young adults’ psychological functioning by family type.

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  • Patterson, Charlotte J., and Rachel G. Riskind. 2011. Adolescents with lesbian or gay parents. In Textbook of Adolescent Health Care. Edited by M. Fisher, R. Kreipe, and W. Rosenfeld, 1–4. Chicago: American Academy of Pediatrics.

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    Book chapter reviewing research on adolescents with lesbian or gay parents targeted toward pediatricians. Adolescent children of sexual minority parents sometimes encounter antigay prejudice and discrimination, but there is no evidence that this negatively affects their overall adjustment. No reliable differences distinguish children raised by lesbian and heterosexual parents.

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  • Tasker, Fiona, and Susan Golombok. 1995. Adults raised as children in lesbian families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 65:203–215.

    DOI: 10.1037/h0079615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Longitudinal study examining the psychological well-being, family relationships, and formation of friendships and intimate relationships among individuals raised in lesbian families. Sample included twenty-five young adults from lesbian families and twenty-one raised by single heterosexual mothers.

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  • Wainright, Jennifer L., and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2006. Delinquency, victimization, and substance use among adolescents with female same-sex parents. Journal of Family Psychology 20:526–530.

    DOI: 10.1037/0893-3200.20.3.526Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Adolescents’ overall adjustment was similar across family type (two female parents or one male and one female parent). However, adolescents who reported closer relationships with their parents had lower rates of delinquent behavior and substance abuse. Overall, quality of parent-child relationship was more predictive of negative behaviors than was family type.

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  • Wainright, Jennifer L., and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2008. Peer relations among adolescents with female same-sex parents. Developmental Psychology 44:117–126.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.117Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using the same matched sample of adolescents from the study reported in Wainright and Patterson 2006, researchers found that both groups were developing normally on both self-report and peer-report measures of relations with peers. In addition, both groups had average peer relationship quality in the normal range.

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  • Wainright, Jennifer L., Stephen T. Russell, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2004. Psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships of adolescents with same-sex parents. Child Development 75:1886–1898.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00823.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study compared adolescents with female same-sex parents (n = 44) and different-sex parents (n = 44) matched from a national sample. Groups exhibited similar psychosocial development and school outcomes.

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Gender Development and Sexual Orientation

This is a relatively new area of study. Two longitudinal studies and two cross-sectional studies to date have found that children raised by sexual minority parents are no more likely than children raised by heterosexual parents to identify as lesbian, bisexual, or gay in adolescence. At the same time, both longitudinal studies found that adolescent girls raised by lesbian mothers, compared to children raised by heterosexual parents, were more likely to have engaged in same-sex sexual behaviors (Gartrell, et al. 2010; Golombok and Tasker 1996). In a qualitative study, Goldberg 2007 reports that adults with sexual minority parents expressed flexible ideas about gender and sexual orientation. Bailey, et al. 1995 examines the sexual orientation of a group of men who had been raised by gay fathers and reports no evidence that these men were more likely than men raised by heterosexual parents to identify as gay or bisexual themselves. More research is needed in this area.

  • Bailey, J. Michael, David Bobrow, Sarah Mikach, and Marilyn Wolfe. 1995. Sexual orientation of adult sons of gay fathers. Developmental Psychology 31:124–129.

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

    The largest study to examine the sexual orientation of men raised by gay or bisexual fathers. An overwhelming majority (more than 90 percent) of the sons were described by their fathers as heterosexual. Comparison of the heterosexual and gay or bisexual sons showed no clear differentiation between the two groups.

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  • Gartrell, Nanette K., Henny M. W. Bos, and N. G. Goldberg. 2010. Adolescents of the U.S. national longitudinal lesbian family study: Sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and sexual risk exposure. Archives of Sexual Behavior 11:1–11.

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    More girls than boys raised by lesbian mothers identified as bisexual, but only a small minority of the adolescents identified as predominantly or exclusively homosexual. Daughters of lesbian mothers were significantly older at the time of first sexual intercourse than a comparative national sample of adolescents.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E. 2007. (How) does it make a difference? Perspectives of adults with lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 77:550–562.

    DOI: 10.1037/0002-9432.77.4.550Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Semistructured interviews were conducted with adults raised by at least one sexual minority parent. Many of the adults felt that having a sexual minority parent made them more open-minded and tolerant of people who were different, and they felt that they had flexible ideas about gender and sexual orientation.

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  • Golombok, Susan, and Fiona Tasker. 1996. Do parents influence the sexual orientation of their children? Findings from a longitudinal study of lesbian families. Developmental Psychology 32:3–11.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.32.1.3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    There were no differences between adults raised by heterosexual and lesbian mothers in terms of adults’ sexual identity. In contrast, significantly more of the adult women raised by lesbian mothers had engaged in same-sex sexual behavior than had their peers who were raised by heterosexual mothers.

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Disclosure of Family Structure by Adolescents and Adults

Research has begun to address adolescents’ and adults’ disclosure of their parents’ sexual orientation to their peers and other important individuals in their lives. Gianino, et al. 2009 reports that there is a wide range of level of disclosure among a group of adolescents and young adults. Goldberg 2007 examines why or how adults raised by lesbian, gay, and bisexual sexual minority parents disclose their family system to individuals in their lives. Empirical research in this area is sparse.

  • Gianino, Mark, Abbie E. Goldberg, and Terrence Lewis. 2009. Family outings: Disclosure practices among adopted youth with gay and lesbian parents. Adoption Quarterly 12:205–228.

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

    Qualitative interviews with fourteen children ages thirteen to twenty years who had been adopted by lesbian or gay parents. Amount of disclosure varied among the adolescents.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E. 2007. Talking about family: Disclosure practices of adults raised by lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents. Journal of Family Issues 28:100–131.

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

    In a qualitative study of forty-two adults raised by sexual minority parents, those who disclosed their parents’ sexual orientation described a desire to educate others, a need to be honest and “open” within their current relationships, and a desire to exclude homophobic individuals from their lives.

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Parenting Dynamics

Since around 1990, parenting research has expanded to include sexual minority parents in addition to heterosexual parents. This area includes the study of Parenting Style and parenting approaches, parenting stress, disclosure to children about sexual minority identity, and overall Family Functioning in families headed by sexual minority parents. In two-parent families, Division of Labor has also been a variable of interest.

Division of Labor

Division of labor has been the most commonly studied aspect of coparenting among sexual minority couples. Research has addressed divisions of household labor, decision making, and for those couples with children, child care. Research in this area has been consistent, suggesting that sexual minority couples value egalitarian divisions of labor with few exceptions (Ciano-Boyce and Shelley-Sireci 2002, Goldberg and Perry-Jenkins 2007). In studies comparing lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples, sexual minority couples are more likely to report dividing tasks evenly, while heterosexual couples are more likely to report specialization, with women doing more housework and child care and men working more outside the home (Patterson, et al. 2004). These patterns are similar across couples with or without children. In couples with children, parents’ satisfaction with the division of labor arrangements predicts child adjustment (Chan, et al. 1998).

  • Chan, Raymond W., R. C. Brooks, Barbara Raboy, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 1998. Division of labor among lesbian and heterosexual parents: Associations with children’s adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology 12:402–419.

    DOI: 10.1037/0893-3200.12.3.402Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Thirty lesbian couples and sixteen heterosexual couples had conceived their elementary school–age children through donor insemination. Both couple types reported relatively egalitarian divisions of labor. Nonbiological (social) lesbian mothers participated in more child care tasks and were more satisfied with their current situation compared to heterosexual fathers.

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  • Ciano-Boyce, Claudia, and Lynn Shelley-Sireci. 2002. Who is mommy tonight? Lesbian parenting issues. Journal of Homosexuality 43:1–13.

    DOI: 10.1300/J082v43n02_01Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of eighteen lesbian adoptive mothers, forty-nine lesbian mothers who had conceived through donor insemination, and forty-four heterosexual adoptive parents. Lesbian participants reported more egalitarian divisions of child care. Lesbian adoptive mothers reported more egalitarian divisions of child care than did lesbian mothers who had achieved parenthood through donor insemination.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and Maureen Perry-Jenkins. 2007. The division of labor and perception of parental roles: Lesbian couples across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 24:297–318.

    DOI: 10.1177/0265407507075415Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mixed-method study of twenty-nine inseminating lesbian couples across the transition to parenthood. No differences in division of housework or between biological and social mothers. Biological mothers reported completing more child care than did social mothers were reported. Qualitative topics include efforts to reduce differences in closeness with the child and mechanisms of biological influence.

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  • Patterson, Charlotte J., Erin L. Sutfin, and Megan Fulcher. 2004. Division of labor among lesbian and heterosexual parenting couples: Correlates of specialized versus shared patterns. Journal of Adult Development 11:179–189.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:JADE.0000035626.90331.47Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examined divisions of labor of thirty-three lesbian couples and thirty-three heterosexual couples with children ages four to six years. Lesbian couples reported sharing both paid and unpaid work more equally than did heterosexual couples. Explanations of current divisions of labor varied by group.

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Perceived Parenting Ability

Limited research has examined perceptions of sexual minority parents’ parenting abilities and their potential impact on the family system. Goldberg and Smith 2009 examines the increase over time of self-reported parental skills for all family types, regardless of parental sexual orientation. Ryan 2007 reports that positive perceptions of sexual minority adoptive parents about their parenting skills are associated with more positive child outcomes.

  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and JuliAnn Z. Smith. 2009. Perceived parenting skill across the transition to adoptive parenthood among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples. Journal of Family Psychology 23:861–870.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0017009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of forty-seven lesbian, thirty-one gay, and fifty-six heterosexual adoptive couples revealed that overall all parents perceived their parenting skills as increasing over time (gay parents reported the most increases, lesbian parents the least). Conflict and expectations of doing more child care were associated with lesser increases in perceived skill.

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  • Ryan, Scott. 2007. Parent-child interaction styles between gay and lesbian parents and their adopted children. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 3:105–132.

    DOI: 10.1300/J461v03n02_05Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study of ninety-four adoptive families with sexual minority parents, perceptions of their parenting and parent-child relationships were positively associated with perceptions of children’s strengths and negatively associated with perceptions that children are difficult to care for.

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Parenting Style

Many studies have empirically addressed the debate about sexual minority adults’ capability and effectiveness as parents. Studies have examined parenting styles, parenting approaches, parenting stress, parent-child relationships, and other dynamics of parenting among sexual minority parents with biological children (Bigner and Jacobsen 1989; Bigner and Jacobsen 1992; Bos, et al. 2007; Burston, et al. 2003) and adopted children (Farr, et al. 2010).

  • Bigner, Jerry J., and R. Brooke Jacobsen. 1989. Parenting behaviors of homosexual and heterosexual fathers. In Homosexuality and the family. Edited by F. W. Bozett, 173–186. New York: Harrington Park.

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    A quantitative study, using self-report, compared heterosexual and gay fathers’ parenting styles. Gay fathers were stricter with their children, more responsive to their children’s needs, and more egalitarian in their responses to their children. Degree of fathers’ involvement with their children and levels of intimacy were similar across groups.

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  • Bigner, Jerry J., and R. Brooke Jacobsen. 1992. Adult responses to child behavior and attitudes toward fathering: Gay and non-gay fathers. Journal of Homosexuality 23:99–112.

    DOI: 10.1300/J082v23n03_07Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study researchers compared heterosexual and gay fathers on parental behavior and attitudes toward fathering. Groups’ parenting styles were indistinguishable, and both groups reported appropriate developmental attitudes about their role as a father.

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  • Bos, Henny M. W., Frank van Balen, and D. C. van den Boom. 2007. Child adjustment and parenting in planned lesbian-parent families. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 77:38–48.

    DOI: 10.1037/0002-9432.77.1.38Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compared one hundred lesbian social (nonbiological) mothers and one hundred heterosexual fathers. Lesbian social mothers reported more parental justification, more satisfaction with their partner as a coparent, more parental concern, and less power assertion. Parental characteristics predicted children’s adjustment, but family type did not.

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  • Burston, Amanda, Jean Golding, Susan Golombok, Clare Murray, Julie Mooney-Somers, B. Perry, and Madeleine Stevens. 2003. Children with lesbian parents: A community study. Developmental Psychology 39:20–33.

    DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.1.20Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comparisons of children raised in heterosexual-headed and lesbian-headed households regarding children’s adjustment, psychiatric diagnosis, and mother-child relationship quality revealed few differences between the different family types. Lesbian mothers were less likely to report corporal punishment and reported more imaginative play with their children.

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  • Farr, Rachel H., Stephen L. Forssell, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2010. Parenting and child development in adoptive families: Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science 14:164–178.

    DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2010.500958Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study of 106 lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples with young adopted children, parents in all groups reported similar parenting discipline techniques and levels of parenting stress. On average, parents demonstrated positive parenting approaches and low levels of parenting stress.

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Roles of Nonbiological Mothers and Men in Lesbian Families

A limited amount of research has examined the role of the nonbiological mother (also known as the social mother) within lesbian-parented families. Vanfraussen, et al. 2003 compares lesbian- and heterosexual-parented families created with the use of donor insemination. Specifically, the researchers compared children’s relationships with social mothers (nonbiological) to other children’s relationships with fathers; neither were biologically related to their children. In a study comparing social mothers and biological mothers, Bennett 2003 reports that all children had attachment to both of the mothers, although often the child had a primary bond with one of the mothers. Goldberg and Allen 2007 may be of interest to prospective lesbian mothers, academics, and policy makers interested in male involvement in lesbian-parented families. Clarke and Kitzinger 2005 codes transcripts from television talk shows and documentaries to examine the ways lesbian mothers explain the importance of male role models in their children’s lives.

  • Bennett, Susanne. 2003. Is there a primary mom? Parental perceptions of attachment bond hierarchies within lesbian adoptive families. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal 20:159–173.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1023653727818Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of fifteen international adoptive lesbian couples; all children had secure attachment with both mothers. In twelve of the fifteen families, children had a primary bond with one mother despite shared parenting and division of labor. Quality of parenting predicted attachment, but parental legal status did not.

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  • Clarke, Victoria, and Celia Kitzinger. 2005. “We’re not living on planet lesbian”: Constructions of male role models in debates about lesbian families. Sexualities 8:137–152.

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

    Qualitative study of transcripts from television talk shows and documentaries in the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand. Lesbian parents responded to claims that male role models are necessary in two ways: (a) describing the presence of male extended family and (b) describing children’s exposure to men in the world.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and K. R. Allen. 2007. Imagining men: Lesbian mothers’ perceptions of male involvement during the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family 69:352–365.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00370.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative study of thirty lesbian couples. Across the transition to parenthood, many became more flexible or deliberate about male involvement in their children’s lives. Many reported desire for this involvement and attributed this to social pressures, diversity, children’s male gender, and relationships with specific men (for example, brothers, fathers, and male friends).

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  • Vanfraussen, Katrien, Ingrid Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, and Anne Brewaeys. 2003. Family functioning in lesbian families created by donor insemination. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 73:78–90.

    DOI: 10.1037/0002-9432.73.1.78Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compared parents within the lesbian household and examined the role of the social parent in heterosexual- and lesbian-parented families who conceived through donor insemination. Social mothers were much more involved in the child’s activities than were fathers, but both enjoyed the same authority.

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Family Functioning

Researchers who study children raised by sexual minority parents have rarely employed a family systems perspective examining overall family functioning, family dynamics, and triadic interaction. Thus knowledge about overall family health and relationships in families with sexual minority parents is sparse. Several published studies, however, have addressed these topics, and more research in this area is in progress. Goldberg and Sayer 2006 reports the authors’ interest in within-couple changes during the transition to parenthood among lesbian couples. Bos, et al. 2004 examines experiences of stigma among children in lesbian-headed families and the impact they had on mothers’ experiences. Erich, et al. 2005; Leung, et al. 2005; Farr, et al. 2010a; and Farr, et al. 2010b all study sexual minority adoptive parents. They report that many factors, such as child behavioral problems, predicted family outcomes but parental sexual orientation did not. Golombok, et al. 1997 reports on interviews with heterosexual single mothers and both single and coupled lesbian mothers and compares various aspects of their family functioning and dynamics.

  • Bos, Henny M. W., Frank van Balen, and D. C. van den Boom. 2004. Minority stress, experience of parenthood, and child adjustment in lesbian families. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 22:291–304.

    DOI: 10.1080/02646830412331298350Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of one hundred Dutch lesbian couples with children ages four to eight years. While overall reports of minority stress (rejection, perceived stigma, and internalized stigma) were low, they were associated with parent reports of parental stress, parental justification, and child behavior problems.

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  • Erich, Stephen, Patrick Leung, and Peter Kindle. 2005. A comparative analysis of adoptive family functioning with gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parents and their children. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 1:43–60.

    DOI: 10.1300/J461v01n04_03Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study of seventy-two adoptive lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents and their 111 children, no significant differences in family functioning were found as a function of parental sexual orientation. Other demographic variables, such as child grade level and parents’ experience with fostering, were relevant to family functioning.

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  • Farr, Rachel H., Stephen L. Forssell, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2010a. Lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents: Couple and relationship issues. Journal of GLBT Family Studies 6:199–213.

    DOI: 10.1080/15504281003705436Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study of 106 lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive couples, the majority of couples had been in long-term relationships, had secure attachment styles, and reported satisfaction in their couple relationships. These results did not vary by sexual orientation. Couples’ sexual relationships, however, varied by couple type.

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  • Farr, Rachel H., Stephen L. Forssell, and Charlotte J. Patterson. 2010b. Parenting and child development in adoptive families: Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science 14:164–178.

    DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2010.500958Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study of 106 adoptive families headed by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples, family process rather than family structure was significantly associated with child outcomes. Greater parenting stress, less effective parenting, and less satisfaction in couple relationships were related to greater child behavior problems across all families.

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  • Goldberg, Abbie E., and Aline Sayer. 2006. Lesbian couples’ relationship quality across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family 68:87–100.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00235.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative study of twenty-nine lesbian couples who conceived through donor insemination across the transition to parenthood. Multilevel modeling revealed that personality and couple characteristics predicted changes in reports of love. Personality and expected social support predicted changes in reports of conflict. Reports of love decreased, and conflict increased with time.

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  • Golombok, Susan, Fiona L. Tasker, and Clare Murray. 1997. Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: Family relationships and the socioemotional development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 38:783–791.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01596.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using interview and questionnaire techniques, researchers compared children with single heterosexual and single or coupled lesbian mothers. Lesbian parents rated their children as experiencing more parental warmth and interaction and were more likely to describe their children as securely attached to their mother(s). Lesbian mothers reported experiencing greater mother-child interaction.

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  • Leung, Patrick, Stephen Erich, and Heather Kanenberg. 2005. A comparison of family functioning in gay/lesbian, heterosexual, and special needs adoptions. Children and Youth Services Review 27:1031–1044.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2004.12.030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this study of adoptive families with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents with children having special needs, the authors found no differences in family functioning as a function of parents’ sexual orientation. Higher family functioning was associated with adoptions of special needs, younger, and nondisabled children.

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LAST MODIFIED: 11/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199828340-0028

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