If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say that kids raised by gay parents are “messed up,” I’d have enough money to pay off my student loans by now. My usual response is, “So all kids raised by heterosexual parents are automatically a-ok?” It has always boggled my mind that some people assume having two moms or two dads means a child is doomed to be scarred for life. Sure the child might be teased in school, but the child might also be teased for the gap between his/her front teeth or for being poor. So why should it matter what the child’s parents look like?
It shouldn’t, a recent study suggests. Last week, the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) released its results of a 24-year-long study on families with lesbian parents, finding that none of the 78 adolescents in the study had reported being sexually or physically abused by their parents. This contrasts with 26% of American adolescents reporting parent or caregiver physical abuse and 8.3% reporting sexual abuse.
It is a misconception that women are less likely to physically and sexually abuse children. In fact, in 2001 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that biological mothers are three times as likely to abuse children than fathers. Although men are more likely to commit sexual abuse, women are more likely to commit every other abuse (physical, verbal and neglect).
Earlier this year, the same study found that children of lesbian parents have fewer behavioral problems than kids of heterosexual parents. One key contributing factor in these findings may be that, most probably, lesbian couples won’t have an unexpected pregnancy. As a result, they are generally having children, whether by birth or adoption, when they are financially and emotionally prepared to do so. Another cause could be that growing up in households with less power assertion and more parental involvement is associated with healthier psychological adjustment
While the small sample size and recruitment methodology may be problematic (it wasn’t random selection; subjects were gathered through announcements in bookstores, lesbian events and newspapers throughout metro Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California, and Washington, D.C.), studies like these are certainly a step in the right direction.
These findings continue to counter the assumption that children of lesbians are not well-adjusted. Lesbian parents are just as capable as any other couple to provide what is truly essential for a child to thrive—love, support, and stability.