By Elizabeth Wong, Associate Director
One of the frequently stated reasons for state laws prohibiting the adoption of children by same-sex parents is that children fare better in households with married heterosexual parents.
But do scientific studies bear this out? The answer is no, and the evidence continues to mount in favor of this conclusion.
In 1990, 1 in 5 lesbian couples and 1 in 20 gay couples were raising children. Over the last 20 years, those numbers have increased to 1 in 3 lesbian couples and 1 in 5 gay couples. As more gay and lesbian couples become parents, and the children of those couples grow up, more studies are being conducted to examine the effects of the sexual orientation of parents on their children.
In a study published in this month's issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science, researchers at the University of Virginia and George Washington University concluded that, consistent with earlier studies, children of same-sex couples have the same behavioral adjustment patterns as children of heterosexual couples.
Moreover, the UVA and GWU researchers found that the children of gay or lesbian parents in the study showed typical gender development, regardless of family type. Most boys, whether of same-sex couples or heterosexual couples, acted much in the same way as similarly aged boys. And the girls of same-sex or heterosexual couples acted much in the same way as similarly aged girls.
In another study, published in early June in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that children of lesbian couples grew up better adjusted and were rated higher in social and academic competence than their peers. They also showed less inappropriate aggressive behavior and were better at following rules than their counterparts. (See U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study.)
Both studies conclude that the time and energy parents invest in parenting is what matters, not their sexual orientation.
Critics will argue these studies are biased or faulty (despite being vigorously peer-reviewed) and that there are too few of them to give us a reason to question decades of research showing that children do best when raised by a married father and mother. But such views fail to acknowledge that the old research is not only old, but that it fails to properly take into account families with same-sex parents.
It's time for public policy to catch up with the evidence. Let's examine our laws to ensure same-sex parents have the same rights as heterosexual parents so that we can give the kids everything they need.
And while we're at it, isn't there an argument in support of same-sex marriages to be found between the lines of these studies?
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