Thursday, July 29, 2010

College Inc. - Study: Same-sex couples can thrive as adoptive parents

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Study: Same-sex couples can thrive as adoptive parents

A groundbreaking study by researchers at the University of Virginia and George Washington University finds that children adopted by lesbian and gay male couples develop just as well as those adopted by heterosexual parents.

The findings, published in the August issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science, are important because of the debate surrounding gay parenting. Same-sex couples are barred from adopting children in Florida, Mississippi and Utah. A similar case is in the Arkansas courts.

All this is rooted in "the deeply entrenched belief that children need one male and one female parent for optimal development," the authors write. Numerous studies have affirmed the parenting skills of lesbian parents -- less is known about the capabilities of gay male parents -- but the studies have been criticized for using self-reported data or for lacking comparison groups of heterosexual couples.

There are no such deficiencies in the current study, titled "Parenting and Child Development in Adoptive Families: Does Parental Sexual Orientation Matter?" It was penned by U-Va. researchers Rachel Farr and Charlotte Patterson and GWU scholar Stephen Forssell.

They studied the development of preschool-age children adopted at birth by 27 lesbian couples, 29 gay male couples and 50 heterosexual couples, most in the D.C. and Mid-Atlantic region. The researchers gathered data on child development from parents, teachers and care-givers. Their hypothesis: The development of both child and adult would hinge more on each couple's parenting abilities -- stress, cooperation, laundry skills -- than on their sexual orientation.

And that is what they found. Same-sex parents, and their adoptive children, fared just as well as heterosexual families. It's worth noting that this study apparently represents the first time that independent reports from teachers on children's development and behavior have been considered alongside the self-reported data from the parents themselves.

"Research suggests that family processes, such as parenting quality and attachment, are more important predictors of child outcomes than is family structure," the study says. "These associations have been found both in biological and adoptive families, and among families with lesbian, gay parents and heterosexual parents."

Even the gender development of children adopted by same-sex couples -- perhaps the greatest concern of some critics -- mirrored that of children adopted by heterosexual couples.

"Regardless of whether their parents were lesbian, gay or heterosexual, most boys exhibited behavior typical of other same-aged boys, and most girls exhibited behavior typical of other same-aged girls," the authors write.

The implication: From a public policy stance, the study suggests there is "no justification for denying lesbian and gay prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to adopt children," Patterson, the lead researcher, said.

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