Children Reared By Female Couples Score Higher on Good Citizenship Than Children Reared by Heterosexual Parents

Press Release
For Immediate Distribution

September 17, 2013

Laura Rodriguez,, (310) 956-2425
Henny Bos, PhD, H.M.W.Bos, +31 20 525-1206
Nanette Gartrell, MD,, 415-346-2336

LOS ANGELES — Pre-teen Dutch children raised by female same-sex parents scored higher on core principles of democratic citizenship than their peers in heterosexual-parent families, according to a new report announced today by the Williams Institute. The children (11-13 years old) participated in a Dutch national survey of civic competence that was not designed to compare children in different family types. However, because one parent of each child also completed a questionnaire concerning demographics (e.g., parental gender, educational level, and ethnic background, as well as family composition) it was possible to identify all children growing up in same-sex parent households. The 32 children reared by female couples were matched with 32 children reared by heterosexual parents on age, gender, parental educational level and parental ethnicity. Those reared in female-parent households scored significantly higher than children in heterosexual-parent households on attitudes concerning acting democratically, dealing with conflicts, and dealing with differences.

“In light of the current international and sociocultural focus on the responsibilities of citizenship, these findings suggest that growing up in nontraditional families fosters a grounding in democratic principles,” said Principal Investigator Henny Bos, PhD., a former visiting international scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. “President Barack Obama speaks frequently about the responsibilities of citizenship—the idea that countries work most effectively when we accept civic obligations to one another and to future generations.”

In the study, “Civic Competence of Dutch Children in Female Same-Sex Parent Families: A Comparison With Children of Opposite-Sex Parents,” the children were asked a series of questions about accepting and contributing to a democratic society, taking shared responsibility, handling minor conflicts or conflicts of interest, and handling social, cultural, religious, and outward differences.

One concern regarding previous studies on lesbian families is that most are based on convenience samples. In contrast, the present study drew children with female same-sex parents from a national sample. The number of children with male same-sex parents in this sample was too small to be included in the analyses.

Overall, the findings from this study suggest that growing up in a nontraditional family may be associated with a greater appreciation of diversity and the development of good citizenship.

The current study was conducted by Henny M.W. Bos, PhD (University of Amsterdam; Williams Institute Visiting International Scholar, 2012), Nanette Gartrell, MD (Williams Institute Visiting Distinguished Scholar, University of Amsterdam;, Jaap Roeleveld, PhD (University of Amsterdam & Kohnstamm Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands); and Guuske Ledoux, MA (University of Amsterdam & Kohnstamm Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands), and appears online in the current issue of Youth & Society.

Click here for the full study.

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