BALTIMORE – Compared to a national sample of heterosexual parents, gay fathers report similar parenting behavior and measures of wellbeing in their children, according to new research to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2016 Meeting.
The study, “Experiences of Children with Gay Fathers,” was conducted via an online survey, receiving responses from 732 gay fathers in 47 U.S. states. Participants responded to the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, which includes questions about children’s well-being, such as academic achievement, self-esteem and peer relationships.
Responses from gay fathers were virtually no different when compared with those in a federally assembled, national comparative sample, according to study authors. For example, 88% of the study respondents said it was “not true” that their child is unhappy or depressed, compared with 87% of the comparative sample. Similarly, 72% of participants responded that their child does not “worry a lot,” compared with 75% of the general population.
According to the study, 36% of their children had been born in the context of a heterosexual relationship, 38% by adopting or fostering children, and 14% with the assistance of a surrogate carrier. Many of the fathers described having encountered barriers to sharing custody of their children (33%), to adopt a child (41%) or to become a father through a surrogate carrier (18%). In addition, between 20 and 30% of respondents reported stigmatizing experiences because of being a gay father, primarily from family members, friend, and some people in religious contexts. One-third of parents reported that their children had been subjected to teasing, bullying or other stigmatizing experiences by friends.
Principal investigator Ellen C. Perrin, M.D., M.A., FAAP, noted that despite these barriers, there is a growing number of children whose parents are gay, reflecting a rapidly changing legal and social climate for prospective gay and lesbian parents. She cites the 2015 Supreme Court decision affirming the right to same-sex marriage, for example, as well as increased access to alternative reproductive technologies and adoption for openly gay individuals or couples.
“Because stigma continues to interfere with the efforts of gay men to become parents and with the lives of gay men and their children, our research underscores the need for social and legal protections for families headed by same-sex parents," Dr. Perrin said. “Our data add to those of other investigators showing that children of same-sex parents do as well in every way as children whose parents are heterosexual.”
Dr. Perrin will present a report of the study, “Experiences of Children with Gay Fathers,” at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 1 in room 336 of the Baltimore Convention Center.
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of individuals united by a common mission: to improve child health and wellbeing worldwide. This international gathering includes pediatric researchers, leaders in academic pediatrics, experts in child health, and practitioners. The PAS Meeting is produced through a partnership of four organizations leading the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy: Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Pediatric Society, and Society for Pediatric Research. For more information, visit the PAS Meeting online at www.pas-meeting.org, follow it on Twitter @PASMeeting and #PASMeeting, or like it on Facebook.