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There is a widespread belief that there are adverse effects on children reared in same-sex-parents households compared to male+female household (I can add random googled cites if necessary, but the existence of laws preventing homosexuals to adopt should be enough evidence for that belief).

The effects could be either from absence of one of the sexes, OR from having "extra same sex parent".

Leaving aside non-scientific (though sometimes true) anecdotal responses that some M+F parents are worse for the child being reared than a well-motivated and caring M+M/F+F couple, my question is:

Is there any valid scientific study (preferably long term) that verifies the effects on the children of having two-male or two-female parent household (compared to 100% identical otherwise M+F household, and/or single-parent one). I'm looking for things such as, for example:

  • Sexual behavior differences (e.g. early sexual activity, risky sexual behavior etc..). I would lump in "rates of homosexuality" into this - assuming Kinsey graduated scale (as opposed to simpleton gay/straight), it's possible that kids who are biologically Kinseyity-X% gay would be more likely to act on that than those from straight households.

  • Rate of relationships/marriage for straight offspring of same gender (in other words, proof of common belief that having a father figure is essential for a daughter to be able to establish healthy relationships with males later in life)

  • Socioeconomic success

  • IQ

I'm thinking a good study to that effect would include control groups from both 2-straight-parents households, same-sex ones as well as single-parent.

What I'm looking for is whether there are any studies that, correcting for other sources of variation, exibit systemic differences (or lack thereof) in offspring that are similar between F+F household and single-mother one, e.g. stem from a lack of father (as opposed to having a second mother).

Or studies that are vice versa, showing that there are differences (or lack thereof) between same-sex-romantic-partner household reared children compared to same-sex-non-romantic-partners ones (e.g. a child reared by lesbian parents vs a mother and an aunt)

P.S. As a background, a lot of people I know (myself included) have only ONE criteria for deciding whether to support things like gay marriage/gay adoption etc...: what does science say on the matter of "gay child rearing"

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Is there any scientific evidence to show that being reared by a male-female couple doesn't do any harm? Lol. –  Django Reinhardt Apr 14 '11 at 23:39
@ Django: male-female couple doesnt do any harm compared to what exactly? Being raised by the wolves? –  user288 Apr 15 '11 at 10:36
@Django Reinhardt - if there was, the predominant cultural/social norm would be something other than M+F parenting coupling. –  DVK Apr 15 '11 at 13:48
+1 for the question. To me it's a hot-button issue, as I know some such families, and I belong to a religion whose "authorities" hold (in my opinion) a supremely sanctimonious and ignorant position on this. –  Mike Dunlavey Apr 15 '11 at 18:13
@David - No, my question asks whether an existing belief - which I hope you wouldn't argue against existing? - is scientifically backed up. How is that different from a vast majority of questions on this site? My question specifically add "(if any)" if you notice, just to avoid the bias –  DVK Apr 17 '11 at 9:49

1 Answer 1

up vote 28 down vote accepted

There were several researches showing that there isn't any real difference.

The researcher and colleagues looked at data from 15 studies evaluating possible stigma, teasing, social isolation, adjustment, sexual orientation, and strengths. The findings were presented here at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition.

"The vast consensus of the studies is that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way," Dr. Perrin said. "In some ways, children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures."

Based on nine studies from 1981 to 1994 of 260 children, aged three to 11 years, reared by either heterosexual mothers or same sex-mothers after divorce, the researchers found there was no difference in intelligence of the children, type or prevalence of psychiatric disorders, self-esteem, well-being, peer relationships, or parental stress. "The children all had a similar emotional experiences with divorce," she said.


Parenting by same-sex families is just as good -- if not slightly advantageous -- for children when compared to heterosexual families, a Justice Department study has concluded.

The paper references about 100 studies on parenting and children’s development.


I am aware of only one study that showed some differences. I've never read it myself, however, it is discussed here:

A study from Australia (Sarantakos, 1996) has been cited as demonstrating deficits among children raised by gay and lesbian parents in Australia compared to children raised by heterosexual couples. The anomalous results reported by this study--which contradict the accumulated body of research findings in this field--are attributable to idiosyncrasies in its sample and methodologies and are therefore not reliable. An expert reading of the Sarantakos article reveals that certain characteristics of its methodology and sample are highly likely to have skewed the results and rendered them an invalid indicator of the well-being of children raised by gay and lesbian parents in at least three respects:

  1. The children raised by gay and lesbian parents experienced unusually high levels of extreme social ostracism and overt hostility from other children and parents, which probably accounted for the former's lower levels of interaction and social integration with peers (see pp. 25-26);
  2. Nearly all indicators of the children's functioning were based on subjective reports by teachers, who, as noted repeatedly by the author, may have been biased (see pp. 24, 26, & 30); and
  3. Most or all of the children being raised by gay and lesbian parents, but not the children being raised by heterosexual married parents, had experienced parental divorce, which is known to correlate with poor adjustment and academic performance.

Indeed, although the differences Sarantakos observed among the children are anomalous in the context of research on parents' sexual orientation, they are highly consistent with findings from studies of the effects of parental divorce on children (see, e.g., Amato, 2001, and Amato & Keith, 1991).

The very same source also explicitly states, that there is no scientific evidence of any deficits of homosexual parents compared to heterosexual ones; and that there isn't even any dispute about that among scientists. Which I believe does answer your question; as far as it can be answered:

Some nonscientific organizations have attempted to convince courts that there is an actual scientific dispute in this area by citing research performed by Paul Cameron as supporting the existence of deficits in gay and lesbian parents or their children compared to heterosexual parents or their children. In fact, there is no scientific evidence of such deficits. Cameron's research is methodologically suspect. His key findings in this area have not been replicated and are contradicted by the reputable published research. Unlike research that makes a contribution to science, his key findings and conclusions have rarely been cited by subsequent scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals as informing their scientific inquiry. For a detailed critique of the research project on which Cameron has based many of his published papers, see Herek (1998).


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I'm not convinced with criticism of the Sarantakos 1996 study (that's not to say I agree with the study itself): 1. That's the reality of being raised by homosexual parents. 2. Subjective perception of a person is a good indicator of how socially adjusted that person is. 3. Why is that so? Is it because the sample was biased or homosexual parents divorce more often? –  ipavlic Apr 6 '12 at 6:44
@ipavlic. Most children raised by homosexual parents are adopted, often later in life, perhaps after going through a divorce. Or perhaps one of the parents was previously in an opposite-sex relationship. –  TRiG May 29 '12 at 16:34

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