An Australian study – the largest of its kind – found that kids raised by same-sex parents are as mentally well-adjusted and physically healthy as their peers.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne surveyed 315 same-sex couples, about 80% of them lesbians, and their 500 children. They asked about the kids’ physical health and emotional well-being. The social scientists compared these results with the population of Australia at large, and found that children raised by gay parents are doing well in regard to their overall health, and that for the most part their families get along agreeably. On the whole, these kids were no different from children from the general population.
On two measures – overall health and family cohesion – children with gay parents score better than their peers. Talking to ABC News, Dr. Crouch suggests that this may be in part because same-sex couples face less pressure to conform to traditional gender roles, which makes for a more harmonious home life. He said:
“Previous research has suggested that parenting roles and work roles, and home roles within same-sex parenting families, are more equitably distributed when compared to heterosexual families… [so] people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes, which is mum staying home and looking after the kids and dad going out to earn money.”
If parents are free to be who they would like to be then they are happy. If they feel the duties of parenting are fairly split in a manner that works for both of them, then they don’t experience a lot of resentment regarding the roles they play within the family. This creates a positive attitude around the home, and makes for happy kids who feel loved. I think the same can be true for heterosexual couples who come to non-traditional arrangements about parenting – situations like my own, for example, where I’ve stayed at home while my wife works full-time. Couples should whenever possible create family set-ups that work for them, and not just try to fit into the roles that they think they should be playing. It’s wonderful to see a study provide hard evidence for this.
Sadly, and not surprisingly, social stigma attached to gay parents did negatively affect some families’ assessment of their mental health. Dr. Crouch writes, “[This] stigma can be subtle, such as letters home from school addressed to Mr and Mrs. Or it can be overt and very harmful, in the form of bullying and abuse at school. The more stigma the family experienced, the greater the impact on the social and emotional well-being of the children.”
Dr. Crouch pointed out that this stigma can also come from politicians who speak detrimentally of same-sex couples, arguing that kids do best when raised in an environment with both a mother and a father, and so therefore marriage should be restricted to heterosexual couples for the sake of the children. These politicians put up political roadblocks to marriage equality, roadblocks based on prejudice and not fact.
“I think what the study suggests,” Crouch said to ABC, “…is that actually children can be brought up in many different family contexts, and it shouldn’t be a barrier to marriage equality.”
In an article he added, “Instead of criticizing these loving family units perhaps it is time to see what we can learn from them – for the benefit of all our children.”
I couldn’t agree more.