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Family Equality

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Written by Galia Myron Wednesday, 14 November 2012 09:46

Children raised by same-sex parents thrive as well as those raised by heterosexuals.

Foster children placed in homes with same-sex parents flourish as well as those adopted by heterosexual parents, found a UCLA study examining at-risk children and their adoptive families. In fact, same-sex parents often adopted children who had more challenges than their peers, with these kids ending up doing as well as those facing fewer obstacles.


UCLA psychologists looked at 82 high-risk children adopted from foster care in Los Angeles County and compared those raised in home by gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples. Of the 82 children, 60 were placed with heterosexual parents, 15 were placed with gay male parents, and seven were placed with lesbian parents.

Ranging in age from four months to eight years, the average age of the foster children was four years old. The adoptive parents’ ages ranged from 30 to 56, with an average age of 41 years. The majority of parents—68 percent—were married or living with a partner.

Psychologists studied the children’s progress one month, one year, and two years after they were placed with their adoptive families, including cognitive assessments by clinical psychologists.

Researchers found few differences between the children living in the various homes. On average the children gained ten I.Q. points, bringing their scores up from a low-average of 85 to an average functioning of 95. They also all exhibited more stable behavior and cognitive development. 

"The children showed meaningful gains in heterosexual, gay and lesbian families," Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study, said in a public statement. "Their cognitive development improved substantially, while their behavior problems and social development were stable."

Moreover, children who were placed with gay and lesbian parents had more risk factors than their peers—including premature birth, prenatal substance exposure, abuse and neglect, and multiple placements. Despite these additional challenges, the children with gay and lesbian parents thrived as well as their peers who were placed with heterosexuals.

"The children adopted by gay and lesbian parents had more challenges before they were adopted and yet they end up in the same place, which is impressive," Letitia Anne Peplau, a distinguished research professor of psychology at UCLA and co-author of the study, said publicly.

While this research is vital to guiding society to overcome the prejudices that prevent children from being adopted into loving, happy homes, this is only the latest in a long history of studies that have found similar results.

“Way back in the 1950s, psychologist Evelyn Hooker found that gay men were as well-adjusted as straight men—remarkable in a society that persecuted homosexuals and viewed homosexuality as a perversion, let alone a mental disorder,” Jonathan Lebolt, PhD, LCSW, explains.

This study, he adds, is one in a series over many years.

“[This] speaks to the remarkable resilience of lesbians and gays in a society that continues to stigmatize us,” Lebolt tells demodirt.com. “Because children are stigmatized for difference—regardless of the form—same-sex parents have something unique to offer, in terms of helping children cope with, and confront, this stigmatization.”

FL-based Michael Ian Rothenberg Ph.D., LCSW, a specialist in human sexuality and sexual behavior, applauds the UCLA study conclusions.

In his former role as the Coordinator of the Title IV-E Child Welfare Education Program at Orlando's University of Central Florida, Rothenberg says, for years he taught undergraduate and graduate students that parental sexual orientation is inconsequential as to whether or not children grow up mentally and emotionally healthy.

“The sexual orientation of foster parents and adoptive parents makes absolutely no difference, at all, in the ability of individuals to provide loving, caring and nurturing environments for vulnerable and hurting children who are desperately in need of stable and supportive homes,” Rothenberg, who works with many gay and lesbian parents, says.

“To exclude potential gay and lesbian foster and adoptive parents based solely on sexual orientation is, in fact, a grave injustice to those children who are seeking permanent homes and are, otherwise, languishing in state foster care systems,” he concludes.


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