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Homosexual and Heterosexual Families Are the Same


It is often argued that gay/lesbian parenting is unequal, in some aspects, to that of heterosexual parents. This argument is based on the notion that homosexual parents lack the parenting skills and practices that their heterosexual counterparts have. However, the studies reviewed in this paper indicate that parenting depends largely on family processes as opposed to family structure or gender-mix. Moreover, children from homosexual families show the same cognitive abilities, social interactions, self-image, and psychological development as those from heterosexual households.

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Opponents of homosexual parenting advance the argument that children cared for by gay or lesbian partners do not fare as well as those brought up by heterosexual parents. The major concern raised is that homosexual households are ‘unnatural’ and thus, harmful to the social and mental/emotional development of children (Patterson, 2000). However, research indicates that children of homosexual partners are not different from those of heterosexual parents. Their cognitive abilities, social interactions, and psychological development are the same. This research paper examines scholarly evidence about homosexual families and their children. It reviews studies examining the children’s social relationships, behavior, and cognitive abilities with an aim of establishing that homosexual partners are capable parents just like their heterosexual counterparts.

Psychological and Social Development

The main concern raised in child adoption cases is that homosexual households are ‘unnatural’, which affects the social and personal wellbeing as well as the self-image of the children. However, studies suggest that children of homosexual parents have similar “cognitive and physical abilities and self-concept” as their counterparts from heterosexual families (Wainright, Russell & Patterson, 2004, p. 887). Wainright et al. (2004) further indicate that children of homosexual parents have “normal and healthy social relationships” with their parents and peers (p. 889). Thus, a homosexual household does not disadvantage a child in any aspect of social or cognitive development.

The capacity of parents to be supportive and caring has a big influence on a child’s development and identity formation. Patterson (2000) found no significant difference between heterosexual and homosexual families in terms of parental relationship quality, care, closeness, and support for child self-independence. This shows that children from homosexual families develop normally as those from heterosexual households. A research by Fulcher, Chan, Raboy, and Patterson (2002) established that children from lesbian households interact with adults and relatives, including grandparents, in the same way those from heterosexual homes do. Grandparents play a supplementary parenting role, which helps strengthen the quality of child-parent relationships. In this study, in both heterosexual and lesbian couples, the children interacted frequently with maternal grandparents, indicating that sexual orientation has no influence on the social development of children.

The Quality of Parenting

Research shows that the quality of parenting does not differ between homosexual and heterosexual families. Other studies have established that homosexual parents, compared to their heterosexual counterparts, have superior parenting practices. Golombok, Tasker, and Murray (1997) found that lesbian mothers interacted with their children more frequently than single mothers did. In this study, children reported that their lesbian mother was “dependable and available” (Golombok et al., 1997, p. 783). Additionally, maternal affection was the same in both heterosexual and homosexual families.

In another study, Patterson (2000) found that lesbian parents have a stronger attachment to their kids than heterosexual ones. They also showed superior parenting styles and relationships, which are vital in healthy upbringing of children. In particular, lesbian partners were more egalitarian in sharing parenting roles compared to heterosexual parents (father and mother) (Patterson, 2000). In particular, lesbian parents shared the role of family income earner more equitably than heterosexual parents did.

In general, women in lesbian relationships score highly in terms of parenting skills than those in heterosexual marriages. The quality of paternal care in a homosexual relationship is also superior to that of fathers in heterosexual families (Fulcher et al., 2002). A comparison of homosexual couples and single mothers by Golombok et al. (1997) revealed that gay or lesbian parents exhibit higher parenting awareness skills than opposite-sex parents. Due to superior parenting awareness skills, same-sex parents are able to identify and address problems, taking into consideration the gender differences.

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Additionally, children in heterosexual families tend to show a preference for either the mother or father and therefore, only share emotional issues with one parent (Fulcher et al., 2002). By contrast, in homosexual families, children are free with both parents and can discuss emotional issues with them. Research also indicates that, compared to heterosexual parents, homosexual couples are often against physical punishment of children (Golombok et al., 1997). This implies that children in homosexual households are less likely to suffer parental abuse than their counterparts in heterosexual homes are. Children from lesbian/gay households also grow in a gender-neutral environment. Unlike heterosexual parents, gay/lesbian partners are not gender-stereotyped and thus, give children the freedom to choose their preferred toys or clothing.

Behavior Patterns

Research shows that children from homosexual families do not display more behavioral problems than those from heterosexual households. Wainright et al. (2004) establish that psychosocial problems do not differ significantly between children from lesbian/gay families and those from heterosexual homes. In this study, behavioral attributes, such as depression, poor self-image, and anxiety, were no different between the two groups. Additionally, factors related to family life, such as household tasks and parental care, were found to have a bigger influence on child behavior than the sexual orientation of the parents.

In terms of behavior problems, research evidence shows that “substance abuse, delinquency, or feelings of victimization” are not different between children raised by same-sex parents and those brought up in heterosexual households (Wainright et al., 2004, p. 889). This challenges the notion that children cared for by same-sex parents are likely to develop psychological or behavior problems. In addition, the sexual orientation of the parent has been found to have little effect on the cognitive ability, self-image, and social functioning of children (Fulcher et al., 2002). This indicates that the psychological development of children raised in either gay/lesbian-parented households or heterosexual ones is the same. They display similar levels of “anxiety and psychological adjustment”, which means that their academic and social outcomes are the same (Fulcher et al., 2002, p. 65).

In general, positive behavior patterns are more prevalent in children of gay/lesbian parents than in their counterparts from heterosexual families. In school, they display externalizing behaviors and are more affectionate, self-reliant, and responsible than their counterparts from heterosexual households (Golombok et al., 1997). This stems from the fact that they are raised in broad-minded, equitable, and sociable environments. They are polite and reserved and thus, have less behavioral problems compared to their counterparts from heterosexual households.

Family Roles and Responsibilities

The parenting role in homosexual families is shared between the partners. Thus, lesbian or gay partners exhibit greater satisfaction compared to heterosexual parents. Patterson (2000) notes that the high satisfaction present in homosexual households is a protective factor against stress associated with childcare. In particular, lesbian couples score highly in terms of satisfaction because they share parenting roles equally. In Patterson’s (2000) view, the satisfaction enhances relationship stability, which is essential in parenting. This implies that equitable parenting leads to stable homosexual families that lead to better social and academic outcomes.

Other factors that contribute to relationship stability among gay/lesbian couples include cohesion, intimacy, and cooperation (Patterson, 2000). The cohesion enhances parental compatibility, which translates into better parenting of children. Golombok et al. (1997) suggests that lesbian parents develop a ‘synergistic pattern’ that fosters equity, communication, and responsiveness in the home. This makes homosexual relationships stable and thus, less prone to dissolution. Children from stable families experience less psychological stress and thus, have better outcomes than those from unstable parental relationships. Thus, relationship dynamics and parenting practices are not different between gay/lesbian and heterosexual parents. Moreover, the rate of separation or divorce does not differ significantly between the two types of families (Golombok et al., 1997). This implies that factors that lead to relationship dissolution are the same regardless of the family type.

Studies also establish that an ideal family structure for children is one with high levels of “stability, cooperation, cohesion, warmth, and care” (Patterson, 2000, p. 155). In contrast, parental conflicts, regardless of the family type, have adverse effects on the children’s social and psychological outcomes. In this regard, disputes between parents, who are the primary caregivers, can affect the wellbeing of the children. Fulcher et al. (2002) establishes that, in all family types, parental disputes and stress lead to greater behavior problems in children. This implies that the sexual orientation of the parents has no effect on the psychological adjustment of the children.

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Golombok et al.’s (1997) survey of children from homosexual households and single mother families found that maternal warmth influenced behavior in children. In this study, children whose parents exhibited less stress caring for them showed “fewer emotional and behavioral problems” (Golombok et al., 1997, p. 787). This indicates that, regardless of family structure, factors related to family life, such as parenting stress, have a big influence on the children’s emotional outcomes. Their self-image, school-functioning, and psychological development has no relationship with family structure. On the contrary, family processes have a big influence on the behavior of children. Due to equality and shared parenting roles, homosexual family environments tend to favor positive outcomes among children. Overall, research has shown that the parenting practices of homosexual families are similar to, if not better than, those of heterosexual parents.


The studies reviewed show that family processes have a big influence on the social and emotional wellbeing of children regardless of the family. Family factors such as equal parenting tasks, cohesion, and cooperation influence the cognitive and psychosocial development of the children. Children from homosexual families show equal cognitive abilities, academic development, and self-image as those from heterosexual households. Additionally, the quality of their social relationships and emotional adjustment is not different from that of children brought up by heterosexual families. These findings indicate that gay/lesbian parents are capable of raising children as their heterosexual counterparts.


Fulcher, M., Chan, R. W., Raboy, B., & Patterson, C. J. (2002). Contact with Grandparents among Children Conceived via Donor Insemination by Lesbian and Heterosexual Mothers. Parenting: Science and Practice, 2(1), 61-76.

Golombok, S., Tasker, F., & Murray, C. (1997). Children Raised in Fatherless Families from Infancy: Family Relationships and the Socioemotional Development of Children in Lesbian and Single Heterosexual Mothers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38(7), 783-791.

Patterson, C.J. (2000). Family Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 152- 169.

Wainright, J. L., Russell, S. T., & Patterson, C. J. (2004). Psychosocial Adjustment, School Outcomes, and Romantic Relationships of Adolescents with Same-sex Parents. Child Development, 75(6), 886-898.

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