Moving Beyond Anti-LGBT Politics: Commentary on “Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes: Findings from the National Survey of Children’s Health”

Een commentaar van Nathaniel Frank op het onderzoek van Henny Bos en collega’s (Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes: Findings from the National Survey of Children’s Health).

Door: Nathaniel Frank, PhD

For several decades now, researchers, policymakers, and opinion leaders have studied and debated what is known about how children with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents fare in comparison to their peers. The field was pioneered by lesbian researchers beginning in the late 1970s and 1980s, and arose largely out of a need to defend the rights of lesbian mothers to maintain custody of their children after the dissolution of a different-sex relationship. [1–3]

But the research was also applicable to, and inspired by, the growing phenomenon of lesbians who were considering “planned” families, in which same-sex partners gave birth using assisted reproduction. This family configuration grew in visibility in tandem with the birth of the religious right, and its increasing politicization, spurring very public criticism by social conservatives of the capacities, rights, and outcomes of LGBT parents—often framed in terms of the risks that such parenting allegedly posed to children. Hence, the scholarship on LGBT parenting has been heavily politicized from the start. [4]

More recently, this discourse has been frequently applied to the national debate over same-sex marriage. In this context, social conservatives have deployed both existing and new research in an effort to suggest that having an lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) parent raises the risks of poor outcomes for children, and that this, in turn, militates against legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. [5–8] LGBT researchers and advocates, for their part, have continued to publish studies finding “no differences” in child outcomes based on family configuration, and have critiqued both the scholarship and its public framing by social conservatives who, they maintain, have misled the public in their efforts to bolster opposition to LGBT parenting rights.

In “ Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes: Findings from the National Survey of Children’ s Health,”  Bos et al make a significant contribution to the literature on same-sex parenting and child outcomes. Focusing on female same-sex parents who have been continuously coupled, they find that, although such couples report more parenting stress, their children “ demonstrate no differences in general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior, and learning behavior from children reared in different-sex parent households.” [9]  The study therefore corroborates the “ no differences”  conclusions that have been reached by at least 73 other scholarly studies, according to the Columbia Law School’ s What We Know Project, which continuously collects scholarship on this issue. [10]



1. Golombok S. Modern Families Parents and Children in New Family Forms. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press; 2015.

2. Goldberg AE. Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2010.

3. Self R. All in the Family. New York, NY: Hill and Wang; 2012.

4. Bull C. Perfect Enemies: The Battle Between the Religious Right and the Gay Movement. Darby, PA: Diane Publishing; 1996.

5. Allen DW. High school graduation rates among children of samesex households. Rev Econ Household. 2003;11:635–658.

6. Regnerus M. How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. Social Sci Res. 2012;41:752–770.

7. Sarantakos S. Children in three contexts: family, education and social development. Child Aust. 1996;21:23–31.

8. Sullins DP. Emotional problems among children with same-sex parents: difference by definition. Br J Educ Soc Behav Sci. 2015;5: 375–387.

9. Bos H, Knox J, Gelderena L, et al. Same-sex and different-sex parent households and child health outcomes: findings from the national survey of children’s health. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2016;37:179–187.

10. What does the scholarly research say about the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents? [What We Know Project atColumbia Law School Web site]. 2016. Available from: Accessed February 2, 2016.

Moving Beyond Anti-LGBT Politics: Commentary on “Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes: Findings from the National Survey of Children’s Health”
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