Teens With same-sex parents well-adjusted

Source: SexualHealth.com
15 November 2005

Teens With Same-Sex Parents Well-Adjusted

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDayNews) — Adolescents who have two moms as parents are no different from teens growing up with a mother and a father, a new study finds.

On measures of psychosocial well-being, school functioning, and romantic relationships and behaviors, the teens with same-sex parents were as well adjusted as their peers with opposite-sex parents. The authors found very few differences between the two groups. A more important predictor of teens’ psychological and social adjustment, they found, is the quality of the relationships they have with their parents.

“This is the first study that has looked at adolescents with same-sex parents in a national sample, and it shows clearly across a wide range of variables that they’re doing pretty well,” said study author Charlotte J. Patterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The research, published in the November issue of Child Development, draws data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a school-based study of the health-related behaviors of kids in grades 7-12.

Dr. Ellen C. Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts School of Medicine and an expert on the development of children with gay or lesbian parents, said that few studies have focused on adolescents of same-sex parents. What data there is has been subject to attack. Critics complain that the studies reflect researcher bias and non-random participant selection.

“In this case, neither of those critiques are valid,” Perrin said. The new study uses data from a broad population-based survey conducted for entirely different reasons. “That makes it very clean, so to speak; no one could argue that there was any bias involved.”

Estimates of the number of teens living with same-sex parents are hard to come by. As of 1990, 6 million to 14 million children were living with a gay or lesbian parent, says the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, a service of the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.

Perrin believes that a majority of these children were born into heterosexual families. “Only recently have there been increasing numbers of kids born or adopted into already stable same-sex couples,” she explained.

The study sample included 44 children, 12 to 18 years old, parented by same-sex couples and an equivalent number of peers with opposite-sex parents. The two groups had an equal number of girls and boys and other similarities, including ethnic background, family income, and parents’ level of education.

Overall, researchers found no significant differences between the two groups. Teens with two moms, for example, were neither more nor less likely than their peers with two opposite-sex parents to report having been involved in a romantic relationship during the past year or ever having sex. Both groups were generally well-adjusted, with relatively high levels of self-esteem, relatively low levels of anxiety, and good achievement in school.

The study reveals a minor difference: “The kids of same-sex parents said that they feel more connected at school,” Patterson said. In other words, they felt their teachers were more open to them, and that people at school were fair and cared for them. “I think that may be a chance finding, frankly,” she said.

While family type wasn’t a factor in how teens fared, family relationships were. When parents reported more positive relationships with their teenagers, for instance, the teens reported lower levels of depressive symptoms.

“The qualities of teenagers’ relationships with their parents are much better predictors of their overall well-being,” Patterson noted.

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