Who Are Your Parents?3,954 views
There is no precise numerical data about families composed of children with same sex parents.
While different western countries are discussing whether to allow or not adoption for Gay and Lesbian couples, some have already approved and/or are approving specific laws on the subject. What we know for sure is that families with homosexual parents are a growing reality today.
A research conducted in 2004 by the sociologist Martine Gross estimates that, only in the United States, 6 millions of children at least are/were raised by homosexual parents.
If difficulties to have a real census depend mainly on the delicacy of the subject, difficulties to conduct an appropriate research also arise from the complexity of the issue: indeed, very different situations can be grouped under the label ‘children with homosexual/s parent/s’.
We can identify 5 main different processes of family creation in the homosexual context:
- Children born from previous heterosexual unions
- Insemination with a known donor (or auto insemination)
- Insemination with an unknown donor>
The insemination with a known donor includes two main options: women can either choose a friend and agree with him to have a child, or they can go to specific insemination centers where the donor is not anonymous. This choice is normally opted for when the future mothers want the biological father to have a certain level of involvement in the child’s life.
The insemination with unknown donor is only practiced in specialized insemination centers. No contact with the biological father is foreseen and there will be no possibility for the child or for the mothers to have any sort of relationship with the donor.
Surrogacy is a method which involves two seed donors and a woman who ‘lends’ her uterus in order to host the fetus during all the pregnancy period. At the delivery moment, only the biological father can recognize and legally register the children, so that the child would officially have a father alone. No mother will be legally recorded.
Co-parenting is the decision taken by consensus between a lesbian couple and a gay couple to share parenting. For co-parenting, it is not possible to identify rooted strategies, but in all cases, central importance is given to the negotiation process and to the decisions that both couples take together before and after the child’s birth.
American researches on families with same-sex parents are mainly focused on children development, taking into consideration five main areas: cognitive development, psychological adjustment, gender identity, sexual partner preference, and parent-child relationship.
Findings of these researches underlined that no significant differences exist between children raised by heterosexual or same-sex parents in the following four areas: cognitive development, psychological adjustment, gender identity, and sexual partner preference.
The only difference noticed in the data analysis is in regard of parent-child relationship: on average, non-heterosexual parents indicated significantly better relationships with their children than heterosexual parents did.
This difference can be explained by various factors:
1. Due to the particular nature of the family, homosexual parents, in seeking to protect their children from any homo-negativity, express greater warmth.
2. Due to a stronger commitment to parenting generated by different routes to parenthood. As Biblarz and Stacey (2010) have reminded us, lesbians self-select into parenthood, so those having children are highly motivated to do so and may be relatively affluent and well resourced.
3. Parents in lesbian-led and gay-led families surmount much to achieve parenthood, overcoming varying degrees of prejudice and discrimination, making potentially difficult decisions about who will have the biogenetic connection with each particular child, and negotiating ‘‘who is going to do what’’ in terms of child care in the absence of traditional heterosexual gender assumptions.
4. The use of assisted reproductive techniques to achieve pregnancy itself may also increase the levels of motivation for parenthood among homosexual couples, in renewing the commitment to having a baby with every pregnancy attempt and disappointed failures.
This motivational factor also applies to heterosexual couples having a baby through donor insemination (DI), and research on this highlights how much more emotionally involved these couples generally are with their children compared to heterosexual couples with naturally conceived children (Golombok et al., 2004).
Chan, Raboy, and Patterson (1998) compared lesbian DI families with heterosexual DI families and found no group differences in scores on measures of parent-child relationship or child adjustment. Children psychological adjustment was, instead, inversely related to levels of parenting stress and parental relationship quality in a similar fashion across both groups, indicating the importance of general family processes for children’s well-being rather than parental sexual orientation.
Sutfin, and Patterson (2008) concluded that parental attitudes and behaviors (e.g., conveying more liberal attitudes about gender and displaying a more egalitarian division of labor in the home) may have more influence than parental sexual orientation per se.
Many of the differences between children brought up in lesbian-led families and their peers that Biblarz and Stacey (2010) have highlighted relate to attitudinal rather than core aspects of gender development. For children raised in lesbian-mother families, it might be that the absence of a resident father matters little for core aspects of gender development when a compensation process is in place. Through contacts with extended families, non-related adults, peer groups, and even through media images, children can pick up on cultural images of masculinity outside their home.
In young children, adjustment is largely determined by family functioning: regardless of their parents’ gender or sexual orientation, children fare better when their parents are compatible, share responsibilities, provide financial stability, and have healthy interpersonal connections.
During adolescence, peer relations become more important as teenagers develop a sense of identity, a deeper appreciation of inter individual difference, and a keener awareness of minority status. Teenage children may be more reflective about their earlier experiences of stigmatization; relatively little has been reported about the psychological well-being of adolescents who have been raised in lesbian families since birth.
An Italian demographic-ethnological study done in 2009 on three homosexual parenting families (two lesbian couples and one male couple) living in very different context (metropolis – medium size town – village / north of the country – south) underlined four interesting factors.
First of all, there is a huge difference between people’s reaction to the abstract concept of homosexual parents and the direct experience and knowledge of it. If the Italian context and the national mass media generally express a strong repulsion to the idea of homosexual parenting, none of these families have experienced violent or negative events in their daily lives. In their social network and personal interactions, they have found if not full acceptance, at least constructive dialogues and availability in listening to their stories.
Personal experiences and direct contact with the situation afforded the necessary conditions for the people around them to overcome ideological barriers, brought up by the abstract dialogue and analysis on the theme of homosexual parenting.
The second element concerns the technical difficulties of having a child in a homosexual couple. Facing this problem (and the series of choices to be taken by a homosexual couple in order to conceive a baby) imposes a deep process of self analysis and a path of self consciousness which helps creating a deeper relationship with the child later on, as well as a smoother relationship with the external context.
The role division within homosexual couples seems to be more flexible. Without completely disappearing, role divisions are not linked to the traditional model of matriarchal care and patriarchal authority figure, and do not reproduce the traditional gender division. In fact, the roles’ differentiation seems to correspond more to the needs of the children and to the logical optimization of family’s resources.
Finally, something all the couples underline is the need for a continuous coming out process in order to guarantee the child’s ease, comfort and security. Not only must the child be aware of his real family situation and of the true relationship between his/her parents, but all the people around should also be informed and know that the parents are open to discussing and sharing their experience. To avoid difficult situations to their daughters and sons, these couples come out not only to their relatives and friends, but also to all the people in contact with their children, such as the school teachers and direction, school mates’ parents, the butcher, the fruit seller, the cashier of the supermarket and the unknown people they meet everyday asking: ‘Who’s the father of this nice girl?’ ‘Where is the mother of this big boy?’ and so on.
- Contributed by Camilla