Considerable number of studies have attempted to link and compare factors like psychological and emotional health, behavior, sexuality, self esteem, academic performance, and social relationships of the same-sex parented children to their parenting aspect of child development. These factors are indicated as similar to those of children brought up in heterosexual families, where no differences in self-esteem, cognitive abilities or psychiatric tendencies are found. For instance, in a study conducted by Golombok and McCallum in 2004, (n=25) same-sex families and (n=38) heterosexual families were measured using a battery of standardized methods through interviews and questionnaires. However, despite the vigorous measures subjected, no differences were reported in psychological profiles (McCallum, 2004). The psychological and emotional well being in child development is characterized by the nature of the relationship existing in the family. Therefore, in lieu of the same-sex parented families, significant findings are in their favor.
A number of studies have presented fewer indications of emotional or behavioral problems in children of same-sex parented families, in contrast to children raised in heterosexual families. Same-sex families are rated higher in family attachment degree leading to a secure family structure, unlike the structures of heterosexual families. In a comparative study of (n=28) same-sex families, where children between the ages of 3 to 16 years were surveyed in 2004 to determine effects of same-sex parenting on a child’s performance. It was found that children brought up in same-sex parented families illustrated average or above average performance in social competence, academics and self-esteem (Gonzalez et al., 2004). These children were found to be less aggressive, responsive, sociable, empathic, tolerant, affectionate, less negative and more protective than children from heterosexual families. The psychological effects of parenting are attributable to the relationship in the family, stability and prevailing atmosphere. A child’s psychological development will be influenced by the child’s relationship with the parent and structural integrity of the family setting irrespective of the gender-parenting aspect.
Behavior and Sexual Identity in Same-Sex Parented Children
Concerns have been raised regarding the preferences and sexual behavior of the same-sex parented children. These concerns claim that children raised by same-sex parents are prone to illustrate abnormalities in behavior, which does not conform to observed normal sexual and gender behavior. However, these allegations of behavior deficiencies have been found to have no significant basis in behavioral tendencies of the same-sex parented children. Sexuality and gender-related behavior in children is measured within the parameters of the causes of the behavior and not as an effect of the same-sex parenting. Significant findings have attributed gendered-behavior and sexuality in children to be similar in either group of gender-parented children. However, variations have been noted in behavior of heterosexual parented children in their rigidity of sex-typing. The same-sex parented children, on the other hand, illustrate favorable and advantageous tendencies like heightened self-awareness, sensitivity to others, improved communication skills, and less sexual-typing in their choices (Vanfraussen et al., 2002).
Significantly, the parenting influence in a child’s gender or sexual behavior has been found to have no basis in regard to same-sex parenting. Parenting results in both same-sex and heterosexual parents have been found similar; therefore, no substantial evidence to indicate that same-sex parenting contributes in influencing gender behavior negatively. Hence, child development in behavior adjustments has no bearing in parental sexual orientation. Same-sex parents provide similar home environments to heterosexual parents conducive for child development and growth (Patterson, 2004).
Research findings do not support the idea that same-sex parenting has a deleterious impact on children’s gender behavior and identity development. Children’s sexual identity of either being male or female has not been indicated from studies to be distinguishable between same-sex and heterosexual parenting. The American Academy Pediatrics (AAP) examined peer reviewed studies and concluded that in every 300 children in same-sex parented families, one child indicated confusion in gender identity, where he/she illustrated cross gender behavior and wish to belong to the opposite sex (Perin, 2002). Similarly, no substantial evidence has been found to demonstrate deviations in illustration of masculinity and femininity between the children of the same-sex and heterosexual parents.
Hence, studies have not conclusively indicated the causes of individual alignment toward homosexuality or heterosexuality on the basis of psychological, biological or social-cultural aspects of gender-parenting. However, a significant number of homosexual adults have been indicated to originate from heterosexual families, while children raised by same-sex parents have grown to illustrate heterosexual tendencies (Patterson, 2002). Therefore, an emphasis on the suitability of the same-sex parenting in inspiring positive results in their children is supported by credible scientific research. Therefore, the conclusions of the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates that no scientific basis and evidence have been brought forward to suggest that parenting effectiveness and efficiency is a factor of the parent’s sexuality (APA, 2004) are critical. Research findings have indicated that children’s psychological well-being, development and behavioral adjustment are unrelated to their parent’s sexuality. Hence, same-sex parents are as suitable in providing an optimal environment for child development as heterosexual parents.
Peer Relationships and Experiences of Same-Sex Parented Children
Social and peer relationships have been a subject of critical exploratory and comparative researches in children of the same-sex parented families. This has been critically due to the responses in light of the perception that children will be victimized as a result of the discrimination facing their parents. Research on the basis of social attributes like peer experiences, friendship and popularity where children raised by same-sex parents are compared to children from heterosexual households, produced findings indicating no differences in the sampled groups based on parents' gender or sexuality (Gonzalez et al., 2004). These do not differ in their degrees of peer related problems. Research conducted by UK researchers found that despite reports by gay mothers of their children experiencing slightly higher tendencies of difficulties with their peers than children from heterosexual backgrounds, the children personally experienced the same levels of difficulties as experienced by children from heterosexual households (MacCallum & Golombok, 2004).
On the other hand, in a study conducted by Bliss and Harris in 1999, to determine the effect of same-sex family backgrounds on a child’s social tendencies, (n=107) teachers interviewed indicated that despite their view of the same-sex parented children as tolerant, mature and self reliant in contrast to other children, they witnessed them to be experiencing more difficulties and stigma in social interactions (Gartrell et al., 2005). It is evident that despite the appearances of qualitative peer relationships being similar, it appears that a significant number of children of the same-sex parents are faced with discrimination and homophobia. Therefore, children partake in sharing their parent’s social stigma.
The National Lesbian Family Study (NLFS) research on (n=78) same-sex parented families found that 18% of children of same-sex parented families had experienced some degree of homophobia or discrimination from teachers or their peers by the age of five years. This rate rose to 43% by the time the children were aged 10 years (Gartrell et al., 2005). In another study, despite the perception of the same-sex families as exceptional by teenagers, 44% of children aged 8 to 12 years were exposed to derogatory comments, bullying and teasing in light of their families, while 45% of teenagers aged between 12 to 16 years were bullied. These behaviors took the form of jokes, teasing, verbal abuse, sexual and physical violence (Ray &Gregory, 2001). These experiences, as characterized by teachers and peers, have made it difficult for same-sex parented children to discuss their families with their counterparts and in school. This is a result of provoked anxiety in children to the point that they do not feel comfortable inviting their friends to their homes. Hence, they develop strategic approaches and measures to deter discrimination and stigmatization. However, reduced cases of stigmatization are reported in areas where same-sex parenting is common in the community, like cosmopolitan areas and inner-urban communities (Ray & Gregory, 2001).
Children of same-sex parented families have been noted to indicate fears that they will be perceived as homosexual like their parents in the eyes of their peers. For instance, where parents have divorced as a result of one's homosexuality, children are prone to discrimination and prejudice in relation to their parent’s sexual orientation. Stigmatization has been found to impact negatively on a child’s development and well-being. Effects of stigma and experiences of homophobia have been attributed to low levels of confidence and self esteem. Therefore, children in same-sex parented families opt to employ a range of strategic measures aimed at reducing the chances of being treated in a prejudiced or discriminatory manner.
These include selective speech patterns, where children are reluctant to let people be aware of their parent’s sexuality or abstaining from correcting wrong assumptions in relation to their families; and seeking the company of children with the same-sex parents (Vanfraussen et al., 2002). Therefore, it is critical to note that children of same-sex parented families experience significant social problems in contrast to their peers in heterosexual families. However, the degree of difficulties faced vary given the social environment the children are exposed. These will be significantly higher in areas where same-sex parenting in not accepted as a normal setting for child development. However, in environments where same-sex families are common such cases are negligible.
Social-cultural practices in the traditional sense have been constantly replaced by changing societal dynamics; thus, the family structure has been significantly influenced by these changes. The acceptance of the same-sex parenting is critical to general child development. Since, no scientific data or findings have been brought forward to suggest homosexuality is a result of same-sex parenting; the acceptance of same-sex parenting as a current social norm is critical to child development in the societal terms. The impacts of same-sex parenting differ given the social environment the child is exposed.
However, public education on sexuality and its impact on child development are critical in mitigating cases of homophobia and discrimination of same-sex parents. Hence, the stigma on their children will be abated. It is critical to note, research findings on same-sex parenting has consistently illustrated their affinity and effectiveness in child development processes; therefore, they should not be frowned upon, but rather appreciated in their contributions towards child development and societal development.