[Homosexual parenthood and child development: present data].Encephale. 2012 Feb; 38(1):10-5.E
The aim of this article is to provide an overview of existing studies on gay and lesbian parenthood and child development. Although 200,000 to 300,000 children could be concerned in 2010 in France, there is a lack of research on this issue in our country.
Research among children raised by homosexual parents involves methodological issues, such as defining homosexual families, sampling cases and controls, and choosing structured or semi-structured evaluations. The fact that homosexual marriage, adoption and insemination are not presently legal in France could explain that only one study has been conducted in France in 2000 among 58 children raided by homosexual parents. This study concluded that these children did not show an increased rate of behavior or anxiety disorders.
Concerns about lesbian parenting have focused on the absence of a father, the homosexual orientation of the mother, and their negative consequences on the development of the children. Research on parenting and child rearing has repeatedly compared lesbian and heterosexual families, and in the last 30 years a growing body of studies on lesbian parents and the development of their children has been published. Studies about child development, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender role behavior, emotional/behavioral development, social relationships and cognitive functioning showed no difference between children of lesbian mothers and those of heterosexual parents. Likewise, parental functioning, the mothers' psychological health and maternal skills were not significantly different among lesbian mothers than among heterosexual mothers. In studies concerning gay fathers, findings generally indicate no differences in sexual orientation, socialization, or psychological outcomes in children of gay fathers compared to children of heterosexual fathers. However, the first study on the adult attachment style dimensions of adult women who had gay or bisexual fathers suggested that they were significantly less comfortable with closeness and intimacy, less able to trust and depend on others, and experienced more anxiety in relationships than women with heterosexual fathers. This survey has not been argued among lesbian families or coparentality.
Variables related to family processes, such as relationship quality, are currently considered more important predictors of children's adjustment in homosexual families than sexual orientation. The major part of the literature focused on children aged four to 16 and the small sample size (often less than 30 children) limit the validity of these data. However, very little is known about psychological characteristics or well-being of adult children of lesbian and gay parents, and research should be pursued in the future. Social relationships of children raised by homosexual families, their experience of difference, and the discrimination are also likely to vary with the culture of each country and was not evaluated to our knowledge to date in cross-cultural studies using standardized questionnaires.
Our practice must find new reference marks to understand the stakes and the difficulties of these configurations for a better empathy with the child and his/her family.