Household structures and parenting methods are critical in the development of children. However, the determination of the effective parenting structures and methods has been a subject of controversy. Essentially, the debate on homosexual and heterosexual family structures and their influence in the social and moral growth of children has been the subject to rigorous comparative, exploratory and empirical researches. Therefore, the inclination of various studies toward designated genders on parenting skills is critical in distinguishing the reality from the myth of parent’s sexual orientation influencing their children’s development. Child development is critical in factoring social behavior and development of healthy relationships both socially and personally.
Significant research and studies have been conducted on the effects of the same-sex parenting. Criticism has been written about same-sex parenting; the basis of the arguments presented against same-sex parenting is influenced by religious, social and cultural practices. However, parenting has been characterized by adequate fundamental family structures. These can be provided by either same-sex or heterosexual parents. Comparative research on the adequacy and effectiveness of both same-sex and heterosexual parents has made similar conclusions on the success and failures in parenting methods. Therefore, same-sex parenting illustrates similar attributes in parenting knowledge, practices, attitudes and skills applied in parenting.
The availability of fundamental structures like family stability and parental resources are critical indicators of child development. A child support systems in the family structure are critical in influencing behavior, social skills and self esteem. Hence, despite the parents' sex orientation, environmental, social and cultural environment are crucial in child development. Same-sex parenting has been strongly stereotyped on the basis of individual opinions on gay parenting; however, research and studies have enlightened society on the subject, where same-sex families have been assessed on the basis of parental successes in child development. This paper attempts to analyze the conclusions drawn by various studies on same-sex parenting while establishing their impact on child development processes.
This paper intends to illustrate the nature of relationships considered as preferable for child development while integrating the perspectives on the differences in same-sex relationships and heterosexual parenting environments. Parenting methodologies and practices both in same-sex and heterosexual families will be analyzed to determine the optimal parenting setting for effective child development and adjustment. However, while the benefits of each form of parenting is analyzed, the social impacts on the child’s development will be addressed in lieu of the child’s household structure and parental sexual orientation. These aspects will illustrate the extent and nature of impacts of same-sex parenting on child development.
Sexual Orientation and Relationships Conducive for Child Development
Similar to heterosexual individuals, homosexual people desire and wish to be a part of committed, long lasting relationships in the stable environments. A significant number of same-sex relationships manage to be formed successfully in comparison to heterosexual relationships. Studies suggest that a substantial number of gay people are in committed relationships; these relationships have lasted for periods extending over ten years (APA, 2005). In a survey conducted in 2000, it was found that 74% of the interviewed lesbians and gay men affirmed their desire to be married (Kaiser, 2001); this supports the fact that same-sex relationships are as critical in the current social dispensation as heterosexual relationships are. Data obtained from the 2000 United States census indicates that over 92,000 households in California were headed by same-sex partners (Simmons & O’Connell, 2003), however, in 2005 the number is reported to have increased to 107,700 (Gates, 2006).
Research findings in social and psychological attributes of relationships between same-sex individuals bear resemblance to those indicated by heterosexual individuals; hence same-sex couples have an affinity for commitments and emotional attachments like their heterosexual counterparts. Relationship challenges are faced by all individuals across the sexual orientation divide; these include stability, loyalty, love and intimacy. Therefore, they are faced by similar dynamics in their relationships like all other people. A contextual examination of same-sex relationships indicates that couples have complementary or higher degrees of satisfaction in their relationships when compared to heterosexual partners.
Research findings by the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that research on the suitability of same-sex partners did not indicate substantial evidence in the justification discrimination toward same-sex parenting (APA, 2004). A significant number of same-sex couples are effectively raising children together. However, it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of same-sex parents based on the data available. In light of this, of the 92, 000 households in California headed by same-sex individuals as per the 2000 United States census, 20% of gay men and 33% of lesbians had a child under the age of 18 years living with them. This indicates the prevalent nature of same-sex parenting; therefore, they should not be discredited as unfit in child development processes.
Despite the assertions of critical policy debates indicating that heterosexual families are in context better in parenting and child development than same-sex families, the assertions that children raised in heterosexual families fare better in contrast to children raised in same-sex families, they find no substantial support as per findings in scientific research (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). Therefore, appropriate comparisons should be made when analyzing the results of different parenting methodologies and forms. Hence, the differences in the number of parents or the parent’s sexual orientation in the family cannot be attributed to the child’s development. However, research on heterosexual families indicates that children illustrate better results in the presence of both parents than in scenarios with one parent; however, this research does not incorporate the parent’s sexuality. Therefore, child development as characterized by the parent’s sexuality should be critically analyzed to determine the possible effects to the child’s development processes.
Parenting Practices and Methodologies of Same-Sex Parents
The foundation of the family is based on parenting skills. However, both parents do not illustrate equitable affinity in parenting techniques. The significant difference in parenting is illustrated between mothers and fathers; mothers show a higher affinity in child care irrespective of the sexual orientation. In a comparative study, it was found that the relationship existing between the child and the social mother was stronger in contrast to the relationship between the child and the father, irrespective of the parent’s sexual orientation (Millbank, 2003). However, in a study aimed at assessing parenting skills, where (n=30) same-sex and heterosexual couples were surveyed, same-sex parents appeared to have a higher affinity in parenting awareness skill in contrast to their heterosexual counterparts. The same-sex parents illustrated skills in awareness essential in effective parenting and better cognitive abilities in discerning potential problems and likely solutions in parenting. It was observed that children were impartial in parental preference in same-sex families; however, in heterosexual families children illustrated preference toward their mother than their fathers.
The parenting methods were found to be significantly different; same-sex parents were observed to be less likely to impose physical punishment. Same-sex parents preferred alternative methods of punishment and instilling discipline in their children. These parents have been observed to engage their children in efforts to build personal relationships with the children. This is achieved by engaging in more domestic and imaginative games, letting the children make toy choices without gender-stereotyping by endorsing their approval. This aspect of parenting is crucial in child development. Researchers have found that same-sex families are characterized by minimal child abuse cases in contrast to heterosexual families. Cases of sexual abuse by members of the family were found to be higher in heterosexual families compared to the negligible cases in same-sex parented families (Gartrell et al., 2006).
Same-sex parenting illustrates determination and higher levels of motivation in child care. The necessity of self sacrifice, patience and tolerance in the face of societal scrutiny is critical in the determination of their suitability as parents. Same-sex parents are exposed to vigorous assessments to gauge their qualification in adopting, fostering or co-parenting. The success in these processes makes same-sex parents to be extra keen in their parenting methods and techniques. Therefore, researchers are not surprised to find that same-sex parents are more satisfied than heterosexual parents. This aspect of the same-sex parenting is attributable to their shared purpose and satisfaction in their relationships. Same-sex parented families are characterized by cohesion, high degrees of intimacy, communication, cooperation and commitment to excise equality in the family structures. These create closeness, significant understanding of child development, and communications between the children and parents. (Biblarz & Stacey, 2006)
The aspect of child development in lieu of parenting in family diversity, the research conducted in exploring children’s experiences and preferences have illustrated similarities in either family. Numerous research findings illustrate same-sex parented families to be safe for children; however, differences that are found between heterosexual and gay families have a tendency to favor same-sex parenting. Studies on gay families indicate that children in same-sex parented families perform in the same manner as those of heterosexual families if not better. This is a result of a healthy family setting where a child’s psychological, emotional and social developments are nurtured through keen parenting styles and functional families (Biblarz & Stacey, 2006). A significant number of studies have been presented on the suitability of the same-sex parenting; however, these studies vary in their research designs, sample quality, data analysis techniques, and measurement methodologies. Despite the variances in research results, they have consistently failed to illustrate substantial deficiencies of the same-sex parenting in child development (Biblarz & Stacey, 2006).