The Educational Benefits of Gay Parenting: A Research Enquiry Essay

The Educational Benefits of Gay Parenting: A Research Enquiry

Introduction

            The following document will outline research into the topic of gay parenting. More specifically, the document will attempt to answer the question of whether or not there is a correlation between same-sex parents and the educational malaise or well being of the child of such families. Moreover, it is hypothesized that the research presented will show that children of gay and lesbian families are equally adapted to society as children coming form heterosexual families, and that there are actual demonstrable benefits that can be observed in children of same-sex partnerships.

         It is estimated that over one million children are currently being raised in same-sex families (Wald, 1999). In a society where issues on gay marriage and gay parenting spark heated debate amongst Americans, it is more important than ever to use scientific sociological and psychological research to demonstrate the reality behind what is often a morally-charged debate on whether or not gay couples are “fit” to raise children. For this reason, study into the actual psychological and social well being of children coming from same-sex families will help illuminate some of these social blind-spots

            Key concepts surrounding this area of study include children in regard to their adjustment capabilities to their environments, cognitive development in children, the concept of family environment, homosexuality, interpersonal and family relationships and structures, as well as the notion of proper parenting skills and definitions of well-being and health. This study also made use of comparative analysis, in that the same-sex parents were being compared to the “social ideal” of a heterosexual nuclear family.

Methodology

            The methodological process of the research endeavor involved outlining the specific topics related to the question at hand. In this case, a survey of academic papers and journals via the library and Internet was collected. The subject matter required the discovery of studies into areas of child and developmental psychology, as well homosexual issues such as same-sex marital happiness and same-sex parenting success. It was the opinion of the author that the research would lead to a greater understanding of the benefits of coming from a gay family, and in this sense, there was an expectation of such results.

Findings

         Through a complete review of many articles surrounding the theme of same-sex marriage and child well-being, it was found that children coming from gay and lesbian homes are equally educated in positive ways as children coming from heterosexual families.  It is important to mention that psychological and social science research affirmed that same-sex parents have the same capacity for developing sustaining, long-term relationships as do straight families (Duffy, Rusbult, 1986). Moreover, there seems to be a scientific consensus in field’s of societal research, in over 25 years time, that same-sex couples have equal parenting capabilities. In other words, children of same-sex parents fare as well as children of heterosexual parents in terms of physical care, mental and social developments, as well as social adjustment techniques, intelligence and in other indicators of health and well being (Brewaeys, et. al. 1997).

            The scientific study done in developmental psychology by Flaks, David K. et. al. (1995), was a pivotal experiment into dealing with child well being among lesbian couples. The methodology of the study involved a comparative analysis of 15 lesbian couples that had conceived children through the use of donor insemination. The children of these same-sex families were then compared to 15 heterosexual-parent families.        Qualitative assessment measures were then constructed to evaluate the children’s cognitive functioning, or mental well being, alongside behavioral adjustments. The quality of the parents’ relationships with the children and  a general survey of parenting skills were also included in the assessment. The results were such that there was absolutely no significant differences found between the two groups of children. In actuality, the study found that lesbian parents actually consistently show a higher a awareness of parenting skills and equal capacity for parenting as heterosexual parents.

         Similarly, other studies into the issue found similar results. McNeill (1998) saw that:

         “Significant differences with regard to parenting knowledge and attitudes, simply            do not exist between gay/lesbian parents and their heterosexual counterparts.     Additionally, these results also failed to find any significant differences between      children raised by homosexual versus heterosexual parents.”

         Allen and Burrell (1996) conducted an analysis of psychological literature regarding the subject matter and found that absolutely no differences in the styles of parenting between the two groups. They also found that emotional adjustment in the children to be the same, with no differences in the sexual orientation of the children. That is, same-sex parents did not produce offspring that were any more likely to be lesbian or gay than the heterosexual parents. Other studies found that lesbian and heterosexual mothers are similar in all senses of parenting and that there are children are similar in all senses.

         Furthering this research is the standpoint that many times gay and lesbian parents may even be beneficial in the education of a child. In this sense, not only are they capable of raising and nurturing children, but that their specific struggle in society as an oppressed sector make them more attuned to the range of emotions and grievances of children as they face social reality and hardships. And so, gay and lesbian parents may even be instilling more insights into such high values as compassion and tolerance to their children than heterosexual parents.

         Wells (1997, pp.x-xi) comments on the benefits of children educated in lesbian households, stating:

         “Lesbian households are raising a new generation of men who will be significantly different from their counterparts from patriarchal families . . . Patriarchal families teach girls what they cannot do and teach boys what they cannot feel . . . Lesbian families teach their sons to embrace the full range of their emotions. No one in a lesbian household says, ‘Take it like a man’ or ‘Big boys don’t cry’.”

Discussion and Summary

            The findings of this research enquiry adhere to the author’s expectations in respect to whether gay and lesbian parents are adept at raising children. It has been found that there is much research that supports and understanding that same-sex households, while they may not fit within the “social ideal” of a heterosexual nuclear family, can still produce vibrant mentally and physically healthy children. It seems that the prerequisite for being a good parent is not a particular sexual inclination, but more an awareness of the love, time and wisdom that it takes to raise another human being. In this sense, it may seem surprising to read studies where it has found that lesbian women raise heterosexual daughters. In the same, it may also surprise us to find that gay fathers can also as easily raise “masculine” heterosexual sons. And yet, despite the preliminary surprise, if one steps back and looks at the issue without the eyes of prejudice, it is clear that loving parents are loving parents, regardless of their sexual positioning.

            The United States is witnessing a pivotal time for homosexuals. Studies such as these will offer insights into the age-old prejudices that many have held against people that are perceived to have deviant behavior. In light of new information that comes from research inquiries such as this, more and more wisdom will begin to infiltrate the blind spots of our culture in regard to our reaction to gay and lesbians. It is hoped that one day these individuals will be given the same rights to marry, love and parent as other individuals of society, and that old mind patterns that keep this from happening will begin to dissolve. And so,  the attempt to understand if same-sex parents are as “fit” for the job as heterosexual parents, it must be stated that all scientific evidence points to the conclusion that yes, they are not only equally as capable, but can even help to give children a more broadened and tolerant perspective on the social reality that surrounds them.

SOURCES

Allen, M., & Burrell, N. (1996). Comparing the impact of homosexual and heterosexual parents on children: meta-analysis of existing research. Journal of Homosexuality, 32(2), 19–35.

Bigner, J. J., & Jacobsen, R. B.  (1989).  The value of children to gay and heterosexual fathers.  Journal of Homosexuality, 163-172.

Brewaeys, A., Ponjaert, I., Van Hall, E. V., & Golombok, S.  (1997).  Donor insemination:  Child development and family functioning in lesbian mother families.  Human Reproduction, 12, 1349-1359.

Duffy, S. M., & Rusbult, C.E. (1985/1986).  Satisfaction and commitment in homosexual and heterosexual relationships.  Journal of Homosexuality, 12 (2) 1-24.

Flaks, David K. et. al.(1995) Lesbians choosing motherhood: A comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children.(Developmental Psychology, 31(1). 105~125pg).

McNeill, K. F. (1998). The lack of differences between gay/lesbian and heterosexual parents: a review of the literature. National Journal of Sexual Orientation Law, 4, 10–28.

Wald, M. S. (1999). Same-sex couples: Marriage, families, and children. An Analysis of

Proposition 22, The Knight Initiative.  The Stanford Institute for Research on Women and Gender.