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Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents

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            The issue of lesbians and gays raising children has drawn much attention in the past years as an increasingly number of states has recognized the legality of same sec marriages. In the past, the concern over whether lesbians and gays be allowed to legally bind their union took precedence over the issue of same sex parenthood. Now that same sex marriages are gaining much acceptance, the issue has moved on to how fit homosexuals are to raise children. The popular belief of most is that children raised by lesbians and gays are disadvantaged and that this may have serious consequences in their development, however, research has found that lesbians and gays are fit to be parents (Baggett, 1992). This paper will discuss how children are affected when they are raised by lesbians and gays, presenting both the advantages and disadvantages of same sex parenthood.

Same sex parents

            Homosexuals are sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex; male homosexuals are often identified as gay, homosexual females are often referred to as lesbian. Gay and lesbian couples in most aspects of relationships are similar to heterosexual couples, they have the same problems in coping with differences, having difficulty communicating, not adequately controlling negative emotions such as anger and jealousy and dealing with power and control in the relationship. As such they took on similar roles in marital relationships upon marriage and with the presence of a child, would likely have the same concerns and problems with parenthood. However, the number of lesbian and gay couples with children has not been fully documented. Attempts at such have been largely superficial and limited, thus the degree to which how homosexual couples and heterosexual couples differ in their parenting style has been largely understudied. Those against same sex marriage argue that the fundamental function of heterosexual marriage is that it provides the best environment for raising children ( Bozett, 1987). It can be said that lesbian and gay couples who opt to marry and make vows to each other increases the stability of the relationship and having children as part of the natural course of marriage is sought for by most.

And homosexuals have the capacity to love and care for children which can be argued as one of the qualities that a good parent could have, and to say that they are not considered fit to be parents is a rhetorical question that compares homosexual marriages to heterosexual marriages on the basis of bias and traditional gender roles rather than a genuine concern for the welfare of children. More and more lesbian and gay couples are adopting children that they could raise as their own, some states do not allow them to adopt or to foster care children on the basis that they are homosexuals, it does not take into account that most heterosexual couples may also be unfit to adopt or foster care because they are not psychologically, emotionally or morally upright. Why then do homosexual couples be not judged on similar lines? The uproar with same sex parenthood is that it threatens much of the traditional roles and stereotypes of what a family should be what a marriage should be and what parents should be. It calls for a radical shift in the way we think of family and marriage and in essence challenges the very institution we call the unit of society.

Children of Lesbians and Gays

            Children who are raised by same sex parents come into being by a variety of ways. Most of them are the biological child of one of the other partner from a previous marriage or relationship. Others are a direct result of having a lesbian partner conceive through a sperm bank, or for gays, they could hire a surrogate mother. On the other hand, adoption has also become a favored route of homosexual couples to have their own children, most of which come from foster homes or orphanages; this excludes the biological child adopted by the same sex partner. Adoption however is a very tedious process and often, the courts have taken an adversarial position against same sex partners adopting. On the other hand, gay couples are most likely to adopt children unrelated to them while lesbians often bring with them children from a previous relationship and apply only for second parent adoption (Baggett, 1992). Moreover, if the child is from a previous relationship then it brings with it additional complications like the right of the biological father and that establishing legal parent rights would be very difficult, notwithstanding the fact that many states do not allow same sex parents to adopt. Just how many children at present are being raise by same sex parents cannot be fully ascertained, there has been no nationwide study on gay and lesbian parents and their children. The opposition of the courts to same sex parents adopting come from three arguments that will be presented as the disadvantages that children will experience if they are raised by lesbians and or gays.

Why children should not be raised by lesbian and gay parents

            Most people argue that children of lesbian and gay parents will be unable to form a healthy sexual identity wherein healthy means heterosexual sexual orientation. This assumption says that children of lesbian and gay parents would grow up to become lesbians and gays themselves; hence their sexual identity will be compromised. The development of sexual identity is influenced by ones gender identity and gender roles and the socialization of children to these roles. Sexual orientation is also a key indicator of sexual identity as it is the key quantifier of whether a person is homosexual or heterosexual. Using social learning as a point of discussion, it can be said that children come to realize who they are as persons through socialization, wherein children learn the cultural norms and expectations of society.

Thus, a child raised in a gay marriage would be socialized into thinking that gay marriage is the model that they should live up to even if they are not essentially homosexual. Gender roles of gay or lesbian couples within the context of the family may not be as clearly defined in traditional heterosexual marriages which may also put undue influence in children on how to behave and act as exercising their gender roles, they maybe confused as to what should be the role of father and or mother if his/her parents are both male and or female. Hence, if children come to believe that same sex marriages are the only marriage there is, and they do not take on traditional gender roles, then they would surely have homosexual sexual orientation, thus again the development of the child’s sexual identity will be disrupted and at times parents’ are ill equipped to explain to their children why they are different.

            Another concern that signifies dissent on whether children should be raised by same sex parents is that children will be more prone to mental health deficiency like adjustment problems, mental breakdown and behavior problems and in essence affect the psychological wellbeing of the children. These concern stems from the idea that children whose parents are gay and lesbian are not necessarily the bets role model that a child could have. Gays and lesbians are known for their temperamental and emotional outbursts, a disregard for rules and regulations and to exhibit unconventional behavior at every possible opportunity, thus one would think that how could a child possibly be trained and given the basic skills that he/she could use to adjust to school, peer pressure and media influences; so that these children may engage in risk taking behavior more often and with greater degree than those children from traditional families. Moreover, since they do not have clearly defined coping mechanisms they are more prone to emotional breakdowns, they use their emotions to get what they want and do not feel guilty about it. We know that a healthy adjustment to life’s challenges is one of the indicators of psychological well-being, and if same sex parents cannot provide that then how could they be effective parents.

            Then, lesbians and gays should not become parents because their children would be inevitably teased, bullied, stigmatized and traumatized by their peers or by society at large as being a son or daughter of queers and think of what it will do to their self-esteem, their self-concept and their social skills and the quality of their relationships with other people. Children are easily affected by hostility and negative perceptions by other people, when their peers and classmates taunt them for being the child of gays or lesbians then they would come to think that their parents made them different and in a period wherein each child just wants to be like the other child this can be very frustrating and stressful. Thus, children who are teased and bullied would withdraw to themselves and become more shy, aloof and avoid being with other people. His/her social skills will deteriorate and he/she may not have any positive and rewarding social interaction or relationship with others and hence negatively impact his sense of self.

            Lastly, people also believe that children raised by gays and or lesbians would be sexually abused by the parent or by parent’s friends. Most gays and lesbians are sexually active and promiscuous; they seem to have a need for sexual ad physical contact more than other normal people. Thus, it is not a far cry that children exposed to such behavior may also become sexually active at an earlier age or be easily abused by one parent or a friend.

Why lesbians and gays can become parents

            So much has been said about why gays and lesbians should not become parents, but since research has shown that they can be fit for parenthood, this section answers the arguments made earlier to justify why lesbians and gays can become parents. The first assumption was that children of same sex parents would not be able to form healthy sexual identities that would enable them to function effectively as human beings. Research has shown that children undergo normal gender identity development in children of lesbians (Green, 1978; Green, Mandel, Hotvedt, Gray, & Smith, 1986; Kirkpatrick, Smith, & Roy, 1981). A similar study also showed that they were happy with their gender and they did not wish to become a member of the opposite sex (Golombok, Spencer, and Rutter 1983). The formation of sexual identity does not exist in a vacuum but rather it is a continuum, children grow up as males and females but society dictates whether their actions are masculine and feminine and they gladly take on the roles assigned to them by virtue of their sex, during adolescence they undergo a period of experimentation and searching that is part of their developmental task of establishing an identity. They may choose one path over the other and their decisions are based on their own experience and beliefs and the society, the school, their peers, the media and others have as much influence over them as their parents.

            The second concern was that children of gays and lesbians may have mental health problems and adjustment problems because they grow up in a highly emotional and volatile family set-up. Research on the personal development of children of gay and lesbian parents have included separation-individuation (Steckel, 1985, 1987), psychiatric evaluations (Golombok et al., 1983; Kirkpatrick et al., 1981), assessments of behavior problems (Flaks, Ficher, Masterpasqua and Joseph, 1995; Golombok et al., 1983; Patterson, 1994a), personality (Gottman, 1990), self-concept (Gottman, 1990; Huggins, 1989; Patterson, 1994a; Puryear, 1983), locus of control (Puryear, 1983; Rees, 1979), moral judgment (Rees, 1979), and intelligence (Green et al., 1986).  Among all these literature, the rate of difficulty for each aspect of development was not significantly different from children of heterosexual parents. Thus this claim does not have any scientific basis. Developmental tasks are the basically the same for most children and they have to contend with each stage and tasks to teach them coping skills.

            The third concern was that children of lesbians and gays would be teased and bullied and stigmatized by their peers in school and brings about decreased social functioning and relationships. Several researchers have reported that peer interactions pf children of lesbians and gays had the same normal peer relationships as that of children of heterosexual couples; they had the same sex best friends, and same sex peer groups (Golombok et al., 1983; Green, 1978 &Green et al., 1986). Their interactions and relationships with adults were also positive (Golombok et al., 1983; Harris & Turner, 1985/86; Kirkpatrick et al., 1981). Thus when children grow up in a family environment of warmth and love, and genuine care, the right amount of discipline and guidance, children will grow up to be fully functioning individuals who are equipped to face the teasing, the taunting and the bullying, not considering that for young children, prejudice and discrimination are unheard of.

            The last concern was that children of same sex parents would be easily sexually abused by their parent or by their friends. A number of studies have found that most abusers are male; and that sexual abuse of children by older women has been rare and less likely to occur (Finkelhor & Russell, 1984; Jones & MacFarlane, 1980; Sarafino, 1979). Likewise several studies show that gay men can be an abuser in the same rate that heterosexual men commit sexual abuse of children (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978; Jenny et al., 1994; Sarafino, 1979). Thus, if people argue that same sex parents may sexually abuse their child, what does it say to the fact that more fathers abuse their daughters (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978; Jenny et al., 1994; Sarafino, 1979).


            This paper has presented the arguments for and against lesbians and gays rearing children. From the discussion it can be said that the arguments against same sex parents to raise a child are pretty strong and viable, this however has been answered by the arguments for same sex parenting backed by empirical evidence. Thus it can be concluded that most of the claims made against same sex parenthood would be myths and not entirely the truth. It may be a justifiable position but to oppose something as fundamental as raising children, giving them a home and a family should take precedence over what would happen to them in the future that can always be influenced and shaped by a nurturing environment. Children need the love and care and guidance of a family, it does not matter whether it is same sex, heterosexual, or single parenthood.


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