Family, one of the basic components of society’s social structure, has undergone change over the ages. The family unit remains the same, but how we view, a family unit has altered the definition of traditional families as it is difficult to incorporate gay and same-sex couples in that definition. Conservative criticism of the new form of families lies in the absence of a ‘father’ or ‘mother’ in same-sex-couple families in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, the rising number of same-sex couples raining a family in the United States and Europe presents a daunting number for policymakers who have to decide whether to side with the conservatives or the liberals. Census results of 2011 show that 7,26,700 same-sex couples living in the US (American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013). The American Community Survey (ACS) data demonstrated that 16.67 percent of the same-sex households cared for children less than 18 year of age and of these 15.5 percent were their own children. Hence, the adoption rate of the children by same-sex couples was just 1 percent.
Derivatively, 1.75 percent children in the US live in same-sex households (American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013). This rise in number of same-sex couples parenting children raises questions regarding the wellbeing of the adopted child in such a non-traditionalist family. The research question that the paper will try to answer, through an analysis of previous literature, is if same-sex households provide similar familial environment for the upbringing of an adopted child and if it has any specific effect on the child’s emotional, psychological, and sexual growth. Hence, the research question is: how does same-sex families affect the growth of an adopted child? In order to answer this, the paper will use derivative data from previous research and surveys to assimilate a proper answer explaining the research question. The paper will first address the debate on this topic and present the current legal position on adoption by same-sex couple in the US, then undertake an analysis of the data on same-sex couple and their parenting outcome, and finally, provide recommendations for policy-makers based on the research findings.
The policy makers and the legal arena in the US is definitely split on the conservative and liberal line on their judgment of recognition of a same-sex family as well as such family’s right to adopt a child. The arguments presented by the policymakers who side with the conservatives and oppose recognizing a same0sex household and the right of such couple to adopt a child believe that such non-traditional family units are unable to provide the ‘normal’ environment for the development of a child. They believe that the present of a parent of either sex is important for the natural development of children. However, the liberals argue that the sex of the couples is irrelevant in the issue of providing a healthy and good environment of the upbringing of children. The most important aspect that creates wellbeing for a child’s mental development is familial stability. In the case of United States v. Windsor (2013) the Supreme Court disallowed the petition of 15 states to ban same-sex marriage and criticized them for their failure to recognize same-sex marriage: “… humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” (Beverly Sevcik v. Brian Sandoval, 2013, p.3).
Adoption laws for same-sex couples are varied and unequal. Same-sex couple may adopt a child as an individual in most of the states; however, they are barred from adopting a child as a couple. Clearly, the problem in the system arises due to the failure of certain states to recognize same-sex marriage. Such states are Michigan and Mississippi, and in three states like Kentucky, Nebraska, and Ohio, the partner of the same-sex couple is prohibited from adopting the partner’s child.
In addition, same-sex adoption has faced other legal difficulties recently. A recent ruling by the New York Surrogate Court in 2014 declared that a same-sex partner cannot adopt a child that the other has biologically delivered as the child’s birth certificate bears both their names (McKinley Jr., 2014). This causes a problem for the same-sex couple if they travel to countries or states that do not recognize same-sex marriage or get divorced. Though the Supreme Court has rejected petition against same-sex marriage from six states, there are still issues related to the adoption of a child by same-sex couple (Healy, Shear, & Eckholm, 2014).
A same-sex couple may adopt a child in three ways – (a) adopt a non-biological child, (b) adopt a child of the partner through biological insemination, or (c) adopt a stepchild of the partner. When a couple gives birth to a child through artificial insemination, the birth certificate of the child bears the name of both the partners as parents. Discrimination against same-sex couples and their legal ability to adopt a child is rampant. In 2013, the state of Michigan went to trial to ban same sex marriage and adoption. The case, DeBoer v. Snyder (2012) challenged the state’s law to prohibit gay marriage and adoption by same sex couple. However, in the US v. Windsor (2014) with the Supreme Court passing the verdict that disallowed same-sex marriage bans by US states. The case of child adoption by same-sex couple was filled with expert opinions on both side of the debate that attested and rejected claims of wellbeing of children in same-sex families. Hence, the battle over the public policy over gay marriage and adoption is now based on debate in social science research. Given this background of the legal stand on the case of adoption by same sex couple, the study will not deal with the debate on the effect of a child’s wellbeing due to the sexual orientation of parents.
The debate on the wellbeing of a child adopted by a same-sex couple has become a serious issue for the academic world. The appellants against same-sex marriage have often cited researches, which they believed, claimed the negative impact of a same-sex marriage on the well being of a child. Mostly researchers believe that the homosexual or heterosexual parents do not affect the development of the child (Patterson, 1992; Anderssen, Amlie, & Ytterøy, 2002). Some other researches have pointed that the adoption of a non-biological child by a gay or heterosexual couple does not affect the internalizing or externalizing behavior of a child (Averett, Nalavany, & Ryan, 2009). More specific studies into the social, emotional, and psychological development of the child brought up in a same-sex family show no significant difference in found in case of their academic performance (Potter, 2012), adolescents raised by same-sex or different sex parents show same level of depression and self-esteem (van Gelderenet al., 2012), and adolescents degree of substance abuse from a same-sex family is similar to their counterpart in heterosexual families (Wainright & Patterson, 2006).
The research into the adopted children and their well being unanimously suggest that children adopted in same-sex families fare as well or as bad as their counterparts adopted into opposite sex families. Research on children in gay families show that when the marriage ended once one of the parents turned out to be gay or lesbian resulted in a disjoint family environment. Earlier research has mostly concentrated on this kind of broken families that usually negatively affect child’s wellbeing (Patterson, 1992). However, this factor must be correlated with children’s wellbeing in a family that experiences divorce. The important factor that influences the wellbeing of a child is based on the stability the household provides, irrespective of the sexual orientation of the parents. The mental, academic, and social development of a child, growing up in a same-sex household, is same as its counterpart in an opposite-sex household.
This research will use secondary data collected from the American Community Survey data (American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013). The data will be analyzed to assess the wellbeing of the children from the same-sex families. In order to do so, the paper will look into the data on income, education, and employment data of same-sex couples with children and that of heterosexual couples with children and analyze if there is any significant difference between the two. For the purpose of this paper, we will analyze data from 2013.
According to the American Community Survey data 88 percent are married heterosexual couples, 10 percent are unmarried heterosexual couples and 1 percent of total same-sex couples in 2013. The comparison of the income, employment status, education, and home tenure will indicate the indicative stability in the households run by same-sex couples. A stable home is considered the most important factor that affects the wellbeing of a child. A child’s emotional growth is hampered considerably in a household that lacks financial stability. Hence, the first factor that we will consider is the financial stability comparison of two types of households.
Table 1: Comparison of opposite-sex and same-sex couples with children’s education, income, and employment status for 2013 ACS data (American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013)
|Household Characteristics||Married Opposite-sex couple||Unmarried opposite-sex couple||Total Same-Sex Couple||Male Same-sex Couple||Female same-sex couple|
|Householder has at least a bachelor’s degree||37.43||23.48||49.04||52.32||45.96|
|Both partners with at least a bachelor’s degree||23.16||12.04||30.82||32.00||29.71|
|Both partners employed||47.38||57.36||58.86||60.00||57.78|
|Children in the household|
|Children in the household2||39.99||41.42||16.47||9.74||22.82|
|Own children in the household||39.90||38.27||15.15||9.24||20.71|
|Less than $35,000||15.65||28.87||15.42||11.84||18.80|
|$35,000 to $49,999||12.00||16.00||10.32||9.26||11.33|
|$50,000 to $74,999||19.98||22.17||17.76||16.91||18.57|
|$75,000 to $99,999||16.15||13.94||15.37||15.32||15.42|
|$100,000 or more||36.22||19.01||41.12||46.67||35.88|
|Average Household Income (dollars)||$1,01,487||$69,511||$1,12,576||$1,27,764||$98,234|
Source: American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013.
Table 1 demonstrates that the proportion of same-sex households with at least one bachelor degree vis-à-vis opposite-sex households his higher (American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013). The ACS data demonstrates that same-sex households have 49 percent households while opposite sex households have only 37 percent households. 32 percent of the same-sex couple and only 23 percent of the opposite-sex couples had both attained a bachelor’s degree. When both the parents have a college degree the household environment is expected to provide space that is more conducive for the child to grow up with better academic records. Higher education level among parents will be transferred to the children who will be better oriented in their families. Further, among male and female same-sex couples, male couples have a higher ratio of bachelor degree than the female couples. Therefore, it can be assumed that the households with couples with a higher educational degree will be more academically and financially capable to take care of children. Parents with higher education degree are expected to be more involved with the development of the child and hence, will provide greater care to the children’s growth.
In terms of employment status, the same-sex households have more couples with employed householder (75% as opposed to 67% in opposite-sex households) and both couples employed (in 60% same-sex and 47% in opposite-sex households). As more percentage of same-sex couples hold jobs that pay higher than the opposite sex couples, the average household income of the same-sex couples is expected to be greater than that of opposite-sex couples (American Community Survey Same-Sex Data, 2013). When looking at the average household income, same-sex couples have greater presence in the highest income group of $100,000 or more. The average income of same-sex couples exceed by around $26000 annually from opposite-sex couples. Therefore, better employment status and higher household income indicates that same-sex couples are more financially equipped to take care of an adopted child.
The nature of the house tenure of the opposite-sex households and same-sex household show that the former have more owned houses while the latter has more rented houses. Owning a house shows stability of a relation. Ownership of houses implies that the families have greater dedication to one another and are aiming for a long-term stable relation. Hence, such stability creates a sense of security among the children, which is definitely good for their wellbeing.
The question that needs to be answered now is if same-sex couples are capable to look into the wellbeing of an adopted child. An analysis of the income, education, and employment status definitely indicate that same-sex couples are better equipped than the opposite-sex couples to take care of children financially. However, the arguments against same-sex couple’s adoption rights state that they hamper the psychological and mental health of a child. In response to this argument, the paper points out that the wellbeing of a child depends on the cohesion and stability of the family. Any child feels more comfortable in a family that has married parents rather than unmarried live-together parents. As marriage strengthens the familial ties, children growing up with a married couple will definitely have a healthier mental growth. The condition of the same-sex family does not disrupt the growth and welfare a child growing up in such a family, but the social stigma that is associated for such couples that affect their wellbeing. Therefore, the paper contends that the sexual orientation of the parents should not affect the wellbeing of an adopted child provided the parents are competent to take care of the children.
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