Study Finds Little or No Difference from Teens of Heterosexual Parents
Adolescent children of lesbian mothers report as good quality of life as those with heterosexual parents, reports a study in the January Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.
"Adolescent offspring in planned lesbian families do not show differences in quality of life when compared with adolescents reared in heterosexual families," concludes the new research, led by Loes van Gelderen, MSc, of University of Amsterdam.
Tests Show Normal Adjustment for Teens with Lesbian Moms
In the study, 78 U.S. adolescents with lesbian mothers—39 girls and 39 boys, average age 17—completed an online survey regarding quality of life. The teens were drawn from a long-term follow-up study of lesbian mothers, initially enrolled when they were pregnant or planning to become pregnant via sperm donation.
These adolescents’ responses were compared with those of a group of adolescents with heterosexual parents who completed the same survey. Key aspects of quality of life were compared between the two groups of teens.
The results showed that the teenaged children of lesbian mothers rated their quality of life similar to that of teens with heterosexual parents. For example, average agreement with the statement, 'I feel I am getting along with my parents/guardians' was about 8 on a 10-point scale in both groups of teens. For the statement, 'I look forward to the future,' the average score was about 9.
For all measures of adjustment, scores were unaffected by whether the teens knew the identity of the sperm donor or by whether the mother was still in a relationship with the woman who was her partner at the time of the child's birth.
About 40 percent of teens reported some kind of unfair treatment related to having a lesbian parent—being teased or ridiculed, being stereotyped, or being excluded from activities. However, these kinds of stigmatization did not affect the quality-of-life scores, suggesting resilience among these teens.
A growing body of evidence suggests that children of gay or lesbian parents have normal psychological adjustment. Most studies of this issue have looked at younger children, whereas adolescents may have a "keener awareness" that their parents' sexual orientation puts them in a minority group. In addition, most previous studies have focused on problem behaviors, rather than quality-of-life factors associated with good psychological adjustment.
"Adolescents living with lesbian parents function as well as, or sometimes better than, those reared by opposite-sex parents," van Gelderen and coauthors write. The study showing evidence of good adjustment is an important addition to previous research showing no difference in adjustment difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, and disruptive behaviors.
Adjustment is good despite high rates of teasing and other forms of stigmatization, which has previously been linked to behavior problems. Classmates were most often mentioned as the source of teasing or ridicule, "suggesting a need for schools to educate students in the appreciation of diversity and to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and stigmatization," the researchers add. "Such changes to the educational system would benefit youths from all family types."