(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?
Posted: 20 Aug 2001
Whereas opponents of lesbian and gay parent rights claim that children with lesbigay parents are at higher risk for a variety of negative outcomes, most research in psychology concludes, somewhat defensively, that there are no differences at all in developmental outcomes between children raised by lesbigay and heterosexual parents. This paper challenges this defensive conceptual framework and analyzes the ways in which heterosexism has hampered intellectual progress in the field. We discuss limitations in the definitions, samples, and analyses of the studies to date. Next we explore findings from 21 studies and demonstrate that researchers frequently downplay findings of difference regarding, in particular, children's gender and sexual preferences and behavior that could instead stimulate important theoretical questions. We propose a less defensive, more sociologically-informed analytic framework for investigating these issues that focuses on 1) the role of parental gender vis a vis sexual orientation in influencing children's gender development; 2) the role of selection effects produced by homophobia that may intervene in the relationships between parental sexual orientations and child outcomes; and 3) the relationship between parental sexual orientations and children's sexual preferences and behaviors.
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