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Children of lesbian and gay parents essay

This recruitment strategy is considered acceptable given that few national surveys are large enough to include many children raised by same-sex parents. Relying on convenience samples means that the same-sex parents within these studies are not representative of all same-sex parents and represent only those who were targeted and agreed to participate, perhaps selective of the most highly functioning families.

Yet, this approach does provide key insights into a group that is challenging to capture in large-scale surveys. As shown in Table 1the studies focusing on children of lesbian and gay parents essay well-being are based on a wide range of sample sizes.

The sample sizes of same-sex parent families range from 14 Welsh 2011 to 3,502 Rosenfeld 2010 with studies including a median of 78 respondents and seven consisting of more than 100 children from same-sex parent families.

The range of sample sizes often rests on the methodological approach. Small sample sizes in quantitative surveys can be problematic because they may prevent distinguishing between key sources of variation that differentiate same-sex parent families, such as gender of parent, biological relationship of children to parents, and the time a child has spent in a particular family.

Another issue with small sample sizes is statistical inferences may be challenging or harder to detect and may be biased. These issues are recognized by authors, and they at times speak to the range of effect sizes that are detectable with their approach.

At the same time, smaller sample sizes in qualitative or observational data, as well as targeted surveys provide an in-depth assessment of specific family experiences that are unavailable in large-scale surveys. The majority of these studies are cross-sectional rather than longitudinal.

Longitudinal data collections permit temporal alignment of family experiences and child outcome indicators. An advantage of longitudinal data is that causal inferences regarding how family circumstances shape child well-being can be established.

However, longitudinal studies may suffer from issues of attrition and typically reference a specific cohort of respondents. Most cross-sectional work relies on measurement of current family structure and current indicators of well-being e. As shown in Table 1 a wide variety of data collection strategies has been employed to study child well-being in same-sex parent families. Academic Performance and Cognitive Development The academic performance of children raised by same-sex parents is similar to that of children raised by different-sex parents.

Most of the nationally representative studies have examined educational outcomes, such as grade retention, math and reading scores, academic achievement, grade point average, trouble in school, educational attainment, and school connectedness.

Rosenfeld 2010 relies on Census data to focus on grade retention among children living in stable same-sex and different-sex families. He finds that overall grade retention of children is highest in different-sex married parent families and lower among same-sex couples, separated or divorced parents, cohabiting parents, or never-married parents. Yet, the differences are due to parental socioeconomic status and not due to relationship type.

Research regarding grade retention utilizing Census data must limit their analyses to residentially stable families because retrospective family histories are not collected, making it impossible to assess family composition when the child was held back in school. Thus, the Allen et al. Fedewa and Clark 2009 use the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Cohort ECLS-K and report no significant differences in terms of academic achievement for first grade children based on family living arrangements in kindergarten.

Additionally, assessments of math and reading achievement scores in the ECLS-K data are similar among children through 8th grade in same-sex parent families and divorced, stepparent, single parent, cohabiting, and widowed families Potter 2012. Children who experienced same-sex parent families initially score lower in reading and math scores than children from two biological married families.

However, accounting for sociodemographic indicators explains the reading gap in same-sex and different-sex married parent families, and the association between family structure and math achievement is no longer statistically significant with the inclusion of number of family transitions Potter 2012. A similar set of results is observed among older children. The scores of school connectedness or social integration are initially significantly greater in female same-sex couple families, but again this difference is explained by the parental socioeconomic status.

Additionally, research based on small scale samples indicates similar cognitive development Lavner, Waterman and Peplau 2012 among children raised in same-sex and different-sex families.

Evidence from the series of Gartrell and colleagues papers using the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study NLLFS indicates similar educational outcomes among children who lived with same-sex lesbian parents compared with an age-matched representative sample of children Gartrell and Bos 2010 ; Gartrell et al.

A larger scale purposive sample of parents and children from same-sex parents Kosciw and Diaz 2008 indicates that gay and lesbian parents and children score at least as well on numerous indicators of educational achievement and involvement as parents and children reported in national studies. Social Development The social development of children raised by same-sex parents is similar to that of children raised by different-sex parents. Fedewa and Clark 2012 rely on the ECLS-K children of lesbian and gay parents essay and report no significant differences in first grade social adjustment based on whether they were living with different-sex or same-sex parents in kindergarten.

Wainwright and Patterson 2008 find that the number, support, and quality of peer relationships are similar for teens living in female, same-sex couple families, and those living with different-sex parents.

The one family type distinction found in female friend support was no longer statistically significant with the inclusion of sociodemographic indicators. Research based on the NLLFS indicates that adolescents of same-sex parents experienced fewer social problems than a nationally representative age-matched sample of American youths Gartrell and Bos 2010.

What can we learn from studies of children raised by gay or lesbian parents?

Psychological Well-Being In terms of psychological well-being, findings from nationally representative data indicate that adolescents in female, same-sex and different-sex couple families report similar scores on depressive symptoms and self-esteem Wainright et al. The presence of higher levels of anxiety found among children in female, same-sex couples no longer exist once parental sociodemographic indicators were accounted for Wainright et al. Further contrasts between the NLLFS respondents and a matched sample with heterosexual parents indicate similar scores on positive aspects of psychological adjustment van Gelderen et al.

Sexual Activity Based on evidence from nationally representative data, similar proportions of teenagers from female, same-sex couple and different-sex couple families have had a romantic relationship and sexual intercourse Patterson and Wainright 2012.

Yet, at the bivariate level no controls for socioeconomic status contraceptive use is lower in same-sex parent families than reported by adolescents in the NSFG Gartrell et al. In addition, none of the respondents in the NLLFS experienced physical or sexual abuse by a parent or caregiver Gartrell et al.

While the Regnerus 2012ab studies include a measure of any childhood sexual victimization, there is no way to link this experience to the time spent in any particular family structure. No simplistic conclusions about it ought to be discerned from the analyses.

Problem Behaviors Wainright and Children of lesbian and gay parents essay 2006 find that in a nationally representative sample, adolescents living with female, same-sex parents fare similarly to their counterparts raised in different-sex parent families in terms of frequency of substance use tobacco, alcohol, marijuanaproblems with substance use, and delinquent behavior.

Additional convenience samples indicate related findings; children in same-sex and different-sex parent families performed similarly on various externalizing behavioral indicators of child development contained in the CBCL Erich et al.

Differentials in Child Well-Being in Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Families Even though a handful of studies does indicate that children fare worse on a few measures of child well-being Allen et al. Research conducted by Regnerus 2012ab stands apart because it has been widely brought forth as evidence that children in same-sex parent families do not fare, as well as children in different-sex families.

Rosenfeld 2010 and Allen et al. By introducing residentially unstable households into analyses, Allen et al. This approach generates substantial bias because the living arrangements of when the child was held back in school cannot be established.

As noted by Rosenfeld 2013children come into same-sex parent families from a variety of situations, including orphanages, foster families, and divorced or separated heterosexual families. Thus, children living with same-sex couple parents may start out with educational disadvantages that accrued before they came to be raised by same-sex couples.

The Gartrell et al. However, both of these studies do not account for socioeconomic circumstances, which may explain the family type differences. Although the data used for the research performed by Regnerus 2012ab are based on nationally representative data, the results from these studies are suspect. The data possess critical flaws in the basic measurement of family structure and assessments of child outcomes. As quoted above Regnerus 2012a himself claims these data are not to be used to assess the well-being of children or adolescents.

The most fundamental shortcoming of this study is that it does not examine children of parents raised in same-sex parent families. The measurement of family structure in the Regnerus studies does not follow traditional conventions used in the literature on family structure and child well-being.

Thus, adults were categorized as being raised by a same-sex parent regardless of whether they had ever even lived with this parent and his or her romantic partner. Responding to this shortcoming, Regnerus, in the follow-up paper Regnerus 2012bincluded a family category based on whether children of lesbian and gay parents essay respondent had spent time living with a mother who had a same-sex sexual partner. There were children of lesbian and gay parents essay respondents in this category of adults who had spent some of their childhood with their mother and her same-sex partner.

However, the core contrast group was children raised by completely stable intact at time of interview for 18—39 year olds different-sex parent familes. In other words, he removed all divorced, single, and stepparent families from the different-sex groups, leaving only stable, different-sex parent families as the comparison group.

This is an unusual strategy because it requires family stability even beyond childhood. While the data are available, this work does not account for the duration of time spent in same-sex mother families or any other type of family. Typically, stability would be a factor in the analytic models which most likely would explain much of the observed differences between these conceptualized family types.

Indeed, only 2 of the 85 children who Regnerus categorized as living within a same-sex parent family spent their entire childhood in a same-sex parent family, and none of the parents were legally permitted to marry when the child was born. Thus, the analyses are comparing quite different experiences: The recorded experiences included one behavioral retrospective indicator of well-being during childhood, sexual contact by an adult, and two indicators of perceptions family safety or security and negative impact of the family.

This use of retrospective measures reporting perceptions is not typically used in social science research on child well-being. Given that Regnerus 2012b reports that very few of the respondents lived in with their mother and her same-sex partner from birth to age 18, most of the respondents who lived with their mother and her same-sex partner are referencing experiences that occurred outside of the same-sex parent family experience.

  • Patient Education and Counseling;
  • Bureau of the Census, 2011b;
  • Longitudinal data collections permit temporal alignment of family experiences and child outcome indicators;
  • There were 85 respondents in this category of adults who had spent some of their childhood with their mother and her same-sex partner;
  • A new empirical paper by Brewster and colleagues document the many dimensions and pathways to motherhood that lesbian mothers take using national representative data NSFG.

Thus, these data cannot be used to determine whether these occurred, while living in a same-sex parent family. Further, the range of recall is potentially long with a 20 year time window for 35 year olds reflecting on his or her mid-adolescent family experiences and a 10 children of lesbian and gay parents essay time window for 25 year olds.

While this study has been put forth to weigh in on the well-being of children today in the United States, it does not reflect the contemporary experiences of children. The wide age range of the NFSS makes it challenging to generalize to any age group or time period.

For example, the NFSS reflects the experiences of five year olds from roughly 1976 to 1998 or the experiences of 16 year olds from 1998 to 2009. As a result, this study does not reflect the current social, legal, or political environment. Taken together, the studies conducted by Regnerus do not provide empirical evidence regarding the effects of being raised in a same-sex parent family and their influences on child well-being.

Assessments of child well-being in same-sex parent families cannot be made using these data because of the flawed measurement of core family measures as well as outcome indicators. Next Steps in the Study of Same-Sex Parent Families The field of research on child well-being in same-sex and different-sex parent families is expanding with significant advances.

There are exciting avenues to be addressed in future research that we have identified and have been discussed in other reviews of the field. Even though there are new directions of research to pursue, there remains a clear consensus in the literature on child well-being. For example, assessments of trends in same-sex parent families often rest on analyses of Census data that permit identification of same-sex parents who are living in couple children of lesbian and gay parents essay. While the strategy of relying on household rosters moves forward our understanding of patterns and trends on a large scale in Census data, it leaves out children currently being raised by single lesbian or gay parents.

In other words, current counts of same-sex parent families which rely on couple-based indicators exclude parents who identify themselves as gay or lesbian who are single. Further, the gender composition of the household focuses on children under age, the age of 18 who are living with their parents at the time of interview and exclude parents of older children or those who are nonresidential.

Our understanding of same-sex parent families rests largely on the experiences in lesbian mother families. Much of the research on child outcomes in same-sex parent families focuses on lesbian mother families compared to gay father families exceptions, Patterson and Tornello 2010 ; Tornello et al. Specific assessments about the family life of bisexual parents are typically ignored in the literature exceptions, Kosciw and Diaz 2008 ; Goldberg 2007ab ; Joos and Broad 2007.

An issue plaguing all research on family structure and child well-being is the selection of the comparison group. Much prior work compares child well-being in intact, two biological, married parent families versus other family experiences. Yet, fewer than half of the children in the United States will experience a stable, two biological, married parent family Kreider and Ellis 2011.

This contrast is particularly problematic among same-sex parents who until recently did not have the option to legally marry. In fact, two same-sex parents may be more akin to two different-sex parents cohabiting than married families. Indeed, perhaps the appropriate contrast family type should be two parent different-sex biological parent families or two parent different-sex stepparent families.

Because same-sex parent families can at the most have one biological parent, comparisons to step families may be most prudent.