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Children adopted by homosexual parents appear to be as well-adjusted through middle childhood as those raised by heterosexual mothers and fathers, according to research published last week by the American Psychological Association (APA) journal Developmental Psychology.
In the study, Dr. Rachel H. Farr, an assistant professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Psychology, recruited 96 adoptive families, half of which featured gay and lesbian parents, and the other half involving heterosexual parents. Then she assessed the wellbeing of children at two key points in their lives: at preschool age, then again about five years later.
She used reports of behavior problems from parents and teachers to assess the children, as well as self-reported levels of parenting stress along with other input from the adoptive caregivers to evaluate parent outcomes and overall family functioning. The analysis revealed no difference in children based on the sexuality of their parents, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first study that has followed children adopted by lesbian, gay and heterosexual parents over time from early to middle childhood,” Farr said in a statement. “Regardless of parental sexual orientation, children (in the study) had fewer behavior problems over time when their adoptive parents indicated experiencing less parenting stress.”
She added that her research revealed “no differences among (heterosexual and same-sex parent) family types” in terms of behavior problems, stress levels, family functionality and other factors, and that the findings “may be informative to legal, policy and practice realms.”
Stress levels, not sexual orientation, key to good behavioral outcomes
Specifically, Farr explained in an interview with MedicalResearch.com that her research found that adjustment levels among children, parents and couples and overall family functioning were essentially no different based on the sexual orientation of school-aged children. Rather, behavior problems in kids were foretold by earlier issues of child adjustment and parenting stress.
Furthermore, the study concluded that children tended to develop well over time and experience few behavior problems regardless of whether they were adopted by lesbian mothers, gay fathers or heterosexual couples, and that youngsters of elementary school-age tended to report relatively high levels of family functioning, regardless of the sexual orientation of their parents.
Farr told MedicalResearch.com that the findings were “consistent with and extend previous literature about families headed by LG parents, particularly those that have adopted children.” She noted that the results had “implications for advancing supportive policies, practices, and laws related to adoption and parenting by sexual minority adults” and “may also help to move public debate forward about parenting and child outcomes across a diversity of family forms.”
“Regardless of parental sexual orientation, children (in the study) had fewer behavior problems over time when their adoptive parents indicated experiencing less parenting stress,” the professor added in a statement. “Thus, in these adoptive families diverse in parental sexual orientation, as has been found in many other family types, family processes emerged as more important than family structure to longitudinal child outcomes and family functioning.”