The largest and longest study of children who grew up in “planned lesbian families” has found that young adults raised by lesbian parents exhibit the same physical and mental well-being as children of heterosexual parents.
The findings of the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study — Mental Health of Adult Offspring were published in the New England Journal Of Medicine on July 19.
Lead researcher Dr Nanette Gartrell began the project in 1986 with 84 families, most consisting of two lesbian parents but some with single lesbian parents, with all children conceived through artificial insemination.
The children were assessed at ages of 10, 17 and 25 and the results were compared to the norm for Americans of the same age, education level, racial and ethnic background.
"We were just coming out of a time period when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder," Gartrell said. "There were people arguing that homosexual parents could not be good parents."
The study findings dispel the myth that children are better off with a mother and a father.
In 2010, the study results of the children at 17 found that the children of lesbian parents had fewer behavioral problems than is the norm for U.S. teenagers. Based on their parent’s self-reporting, the children were also doing better in school.
According to Gartrell, none of the teenagers reported ever being physically or sexually abused by a parent or other caretaker, which is also not the norm for U.S. teenagers.
Gartrell noted that this finding countered the myth that homosexual parents are more likely to abuse their children.
The findings for the children at age 25 were based on 77 study participants who completed the standardised Achenbach Adult Self-Report Test on mental and emotional health.
The comparison found that “there were no significant differences in measures of mental health between those who were conceived through donor insemination and enrolled before they were born and those in a U.S. population–based normative sample.”
These findings are important in fighting the discrimination that same-sex couples face in the United States when attempting to adopt or foster a child.
Some states allow faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBT couples and the Republican party is trying to make it easier at a national level for adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious or "moral" beliefs.
Gartrell has concluded from this study that "There's no justification for restricting child placement based on (parents') sexual orientation.”
Gartrell would like to repeat the study with a bigger and more diverse sample, including gay, bi and trans parents using multi-reporting instead of self-report.