Dutch Adolescents of Lesbian Parents Do Not Show More Problem Behavior than Adolescents of Heterosexual Parents

For Immediate Distribution
February 6, 2015

Lauren Jow, jow@law.ucla.edu, 310-206-0314

LOS ANGELES — Dutch adolescents raised in planned lesbian-parent families do not show significant differences in problem behaviors compared to adolescents raised in heterosexual-parent families, according to a new study co-authored by researchers at the University of Amsterdam and The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Yet even though in 2001 the Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, some adolescents in this study reported being stigmatized for having lesbian mothers.

“Previous studies on adolescent psychological adjustment found few differences between American and British offspring in same-sex female-parent families and their counterparts with heterosexual parents,” said Dr. Loes van Rijn-van Gelderen, principal investigator of the study. “The American and British results have now been replicated and expanded upon in the Netherlands.”

Key findings from the report include:

• Adolescents of lesbian parents did not show significant differences in internalizing and externalizing problem behavior compared to adolescents of heterosexual parents. (Internalizing behavior is directed toward the self, such as being withdrawn, anxious, or depressed. Externalizing behavior is directed toward others, such as breaking rules or being aggressive.)
• However, problem behavior in adolescents of lesbian parents was associated with homophobic stigmatization. Adolescents who reported more homophobic stigmatization also demonstrated more problem behavior.
• The results of this study are inconsistent with previous studies, possibly because this study controlled for other demographic characteristics that could influence adolescent well-being. Those characteristics include gender, age, parental education (highest degree held by the parents), parental ethnic cultural background, and parental relationship status (still together or separated).

“Strengths of this study are that the Dutch adolescents with lesbian and heterosexual parents were matched on gender, age, parental education, parental ethnic cultural background, and parental relationship status, and then compared through data gathered from two standardized instruments – the Child Behavior Checklist completed by the mothers and the Youth Self-Report completed by the adolescents,” said Dr. Nanette Gartrell, Visiting Distinguished Scholar with the Williams Institute.

These results suggest that same-sex parents could benefit from guidance in teaching their children how to respond effectively to potential homophobic stigmatization. During routine health assessments, clinicians should ask questions about experiences with stigmatization so that they can recommend relevant support services. Adolescents in countries that are less accepting of LGB people than the Netherlands may be at even greater risk for stigmatization.

Titled “Dutch Adolescents from Lesbian-Parent Families: How Do They Compare to Peers with Heterosexual Parents and What is the Impact of Homophobic Stigmatization?” the study matched a sample of 67 Dutch adolescents who were raised in planned lesbian-parent families with 67 adolescents from heterosexual-parent families. The sample of adolescents with lesbian mothers was derived from an ongoing longitudinal study on planned lesbian families in the Netherlands (the Dutch Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study), which was initiated in 2000. The comparison group of adolescents with heterosexual parents was derived from the Zuid-Holland Longitudinal Study.

For full report, click here.

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