New Study Shows No Differences in Family Relationships or Child Health Outcomes between Same-sex and Different-sex Parent Households

For Immediate Distribution
April 11, 2016

Nanette Gartrell, MD,, 415-519-0841

LOS ANGELES — Households with same-sex parents show no differences from those with different-sex parents with regard to spouse or partner relationships, parent-child relationships, or children’s general health, emotional difficulties, coping and learning behavior, according to a new report by researchers affiliated with the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, the University of Amsterdam and Columbia University.

“This study is the first to use a nationally representative survey to compare the two types of households by focusing only on those with parents that have been in a continuous relationship,” said lead author Henny Bos, Ph.D.

The study, titled “Same-sex and Different-sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes: Findings from the National Survey of Children’s Health,” compared family relationships, parenting stress and child outcomes in households with female same-sex parents versus different-sex parents.

Ninety-five same-sex parent households were matched to 95 different-sex parent households on eight demographic characteristics – parental age, education, U.S. birth status, and current geographic location, and the studied child’s age, gender, race/ethnicity, and U.S. birth status.

Although the study found no differences in family relationships and child outcomes, same-sex parents reported more parenting stress.

“Future investigations might explore whether the cultural spotlight on child outcomes in same-sex parent families is associated with increased parenting stress,” said psychiatrist and co-author Nanette Gartrell, MD, Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “Some of our earlier studies have shown that lesbian mothers feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting because of their sexual orientation.”

“In recent years, several courts have thrown out the testimony of witnesses who have attempted to draw conclusions by comparing children of same-sex parents who were not continuously coupled, and whose children had experienced family transitions (parental separation, adoption, foster care, etc.), with children of different-sex parents in stable families,” said Douglas NeJaime, UCLA Professor of Law and Faculty Director at the Williams Institute. “In these cases, courts have either rejected these comparisons as invalid research or rejected the expertise of the witness trying to make such comparisons.”

The study used data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, a nationally representative population-based survey on children’s health approved by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study is published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Click here for the full report.

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