The latest findings from the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study
New analysis asked 131 lesbian parents to reflect on the most challenging and best experiences raising children in non-traditional families. The top challenge cited (33.3%) was distress over their children’s experiences of exclusion, heterosexism, or homophobic stigmatization. The most cited best parenting experience (23.4%) was being role models, leading to a greater acceptance of LGBTQ people.
The parents were surveyed as part of the sixth wave of the ongoing U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), which has followed the same cohort of sexual minority parents and offspring since 1986 from conception to adulthood. The children were 25 years old at the time of the current wave’s interview.
“The parents in our study were among the first generation in the 1980s to conceive children through donor insemination and rear them in planned lesbian families,” said lead author Nanette Gartrell, MD, Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute. “Embarking on this bold social experiment subjected these mothers to criticism from many aspects of society. So it’s understandable that their top concern would be the effect exclusion and discrimination would have on their children.”
- The five most challenging parenting experiences associated with raising children in non-traditional families:
- Distress about their children’s experiences of exclusion, heterosexism, or homophobic stigmatization (33.3%)
- Family of origin non-acceptance of their lesbian-parent family (16.2%)
- The never-ending process of “educating the world about queer parents” (14.5%)
- Homophobia or hostility toward their non-traditional family (12.8%)
- Lack of legal protections for sexual minority parent families (9.4%)
- The best experiences as parents in non-traditional families:
- Being role models, leading to a greater acceptance of LGBTQ people (23.4%)
- Treasuring the LGBTQ parent and family community (21.5%)
- Teaching their children to appreciate diversity of all types (19.6%)
- Witnessing their child’s pride in their non-traditional family (18.7%).
“This is the first study to explore the perspectives of sexual minority parents on their overall parenting experiences from the time that their children were conceived until their children reached adulthood,” said co-author Esther D. Rothblum, a Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute. “The findings provide essential information for future generations of sexual minority parents and health professionals, educators, and social service agents.”