Do children of same-sex partners have an above-average upbringing?

Past research has suggested that children in households in which both parents are of the same gender and are same-sex attracted fair just as well in their overall health and in a number of particular childhood health measures as do their peers with opposite-sex parents. The few studies supporting the conclusion have involved small sample numbers and therefore suffered from low strength of evidence.

Last month, Australian researchers participating in The Australian Study of Child Health in Same Sex Families, a research initiative in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health’s McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, reported on their findings of surveys collected from 315 parents representing 500 children across Australia who are in families consisting of two parents of the same sex and who are same-sex attracted. The researchers found that, based on the survey responses, children of same-sex attracted parents score higher than population controls on measures of general behavior, general health, and family cohesion.

The aims of the study were to determine whether claims that children of same-sex attracted parents were worse-off than children of opposite-sex attracted parents and to determine whether stigma for same-sex attracted couples with children affected health measures for the children.

“It’s often suggested that children with same-sex parents have poorer outcomes because they’re missing a parent of a particular sex. But research my colleagues and I published in the journal BMC Public Health shows this isn’t the case,” lead researcher Simon Crouch wrote in an opinion article.

The surveys were distributed in 2012 to 390 parents, and the 315 respondents consisted of about 80 percent lesbian female couples and about 18 percent gay male couples. Statistical analysis with survey responses suggested that children of same-sex attraced parents score six percent higher on general health and family cohesion measures, even when controlling for demographic and socio-economic variables such as parents’ education and annual income. On most health measures surveyed, no differences were found compared with population-based averages.

Regarding stigma, the researchers found that approximately 67 percent of the children of the respondents experienced stigma because of the same-sex attraction of their parents. Crouch and colleagues cite the effects of stigma for lower scores in many of the health measures.