New study: Children adopted by gay parents do just as well as others

by on August 1, 2010  •  In Family law, Social science

If judges are fair, a new study could make a critical difference in cases challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from adoption programs based on a perception that heterosexual couples create the optimal home situation.  Parenting and Child Development in Adoptive Families: Does Parental Sexual Orientation Matter? reports the results of a study of preschool-age children adopted at birth by 27 lesbian couples, 29 gay male couples and 50 heterosexual couples, most in the D.C. and Mid-Atlantic region. The researchers gathered data on child development from parents, teachers and care-givers. The authors, researchers at the University of Virginia and George Washington University, found that children adopted by lesbian and gay male couples develop just as well as those adopted by heterosexual parents.

Four states currently bar same-sex couples from adopting: Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and Utah. The Eleventh Circuit upheld the Florida ban in 2004. Lofton v. Secretary of the Department of Children and Social Services, 358 F.3d 804. The court wrote that

[W]e must ask * * * whether th[e] evidence [on the quality of gay parenting] is so well established and so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational for the Florida legislature to believe that the interests of its children are best served by not permitting homosexual adoption.  * * * Or the legislature might consider, and even credit, the research cited by appellants, but find it premature to rely on a very recent and still developing body of research, particularly in light of the absence of longitudinal studies following child subjects into adulthood and of studies of adopted, rather than natural, children of homosexual parents.

This new study, together with one published last month in Pediatrics, speak to the two points noted as deficiencies. Its findings are based on independent reports from teachers as well as descriptions of the children's behavior by their parents; it includes a substantial number of gay male as well as lesbian couples; and the comparison is based on a matched set of heterosexual parent households. The article in Pediatrics reports the result of a longitudinal study of children of lesbian mothers, following them through adolescence.

There are court cases pending that challenge the Arkansas law and the Florida law in state court.The primary "expert" witness for the state in both cases was the now infamous George ("Rentboy") Rekers.


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