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New study looks at welfare of kids with gay parents

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The health outcomes of children brought up by lesbian and gay parents have become a flashpoint in the campaign over Australia’s postal survey on same-sex marriage, with opposing sides arguing over the few studies that have explored the issue.

Now a new US study, which claims to have avoided some of the flaws of previous research, has delivered its verdict, finding no significant differences in emotional and mental well-being between children of heterosexual and gay parents.

The study involved over 21,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17, around 1% of whom had a lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) parent, who were surveyed using a six-item Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Results showed fears that children growing up in households with LGB parents might be harmed by the experience are “unwarranted,” the authors from the University of California and other bodies said.

“We found little evidence that LGB-parented families negatively impact children’s psychological well-being,” they wrote.

They said a key strength of their study was a more truly representative population sample compared with previous work, where participants were often self-selecting, therefore opening the research up to possible selection bias. Previous studies had also confined themselves to children being parented by couples and ignored those brought up by a single parent.

Bisexual parents were more likely to report that their children had emotional and mental health difficulties, although when adjusted for higher psychological stress in the parents, this difference disappeared.

The authors speculated that bisexual parents were more likely to experience “invisibility” about their identity, which might account for their higher levels of stress, and that the study findings supported further destigmatisation of sexual minority parents.

The study found higher levels of single parenting in LGB families. The authors say this could be at least partly explained by policies that constrain LGB people’s ability to form families, including their earlier inability to get married.

The authors said emerging research indicated that children of LGB parents often cite their nontraditional family structure as a source of strength and pride.

“The study findings are consistent with the growing body of research highlighting the overall resilience of children raised by sexual minority parents,” the authors conclude.

You can read the study here.

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