A Fight for Equality

A Gallup poll showed the majority (63%) of Americans support homosexual couples’ right to adopt in 2014. However, that still leaves a significant portion, 35% (2% did not reply), of the American population that believes adopted children should not be subjected to same-sex households. While these opinions have nearly flipped since 1992, the battle for equality by the LBGT+ community is not yet over.

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The issue at hand is whether or not the opposition to same-sex couple adoption has any validity in its argument based on the difference of the well-being of the children raised in these different households, or if this issue is just a matter of religious preference. 

Why Are People Against Same-Sex Adoption?

Same-sex couples are often stigmatized as unable to parent children in comparison to opposite-sex couples. To uncover the truth to this matter, the well-beings of children raised by homosexual parents is compared to that of children raised by heterosexual parents. However, we must first understand why this stigma exists against same-sex parents to address the issue fully. 

  • Religion
    • There has never been a federal ban on same-sex adoption in the United States, but historically, many states have held bans against joint adoption for same-sex couples. In the spring of March 2016, a supreme court judge issued a ruling that overturned the last remaining ban on homosexual adoption in Mississippi. However, the LGBTQ+ community’s fight is not over yet as there is an increasing number of states writing and passing bills that give federally funded adoption agencies the right to discriminate against potential adopters due to their religious beliefs. 
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  • Belief that same-sex couples are less stable
    • Researchers at Bowling Green State University found that both female and male same-sex couples have higher dissolution rates than opposite-sex couples.
    • However, this finding is consistent with the minority stress perspective, or the added challenges and stress same-sex couples face because of the stigmas against them.
  • Same-sex couples will push their sexuality onto their children, leaving children sexually confused

Why Do People Support Same-Sex Adoption?

  • Better for children to be raised in a loving home rather than in an institutional children’s home
    • Homelessness, which leads to foster care, creates additional stress for children
    • Half of these children have symptoms of depression and anxiety
    • Many may have social and personal development difficulties
  • The belief that any passing background-checked home has the right to adopt

What Is Meant by “Well-Being”?

Well-being is a general term used to describe someone’s satisfaction with their own life. However, there are many factors of one’s life which contribute to a concrete view of overall well-being. The CDC describes well-being as the combination of physical, emotional, economic, social, emotional, and psychological well-being in addition to development, activity, and work. For children, measures of well-being also include academic performance, early sexual activity, and problem behaviors. Studies comparing the well-being of children in same-sex couples to opposite-sex couples will use these measures to determine a reliable definition of child well-being.

Research Findings

A recent Cornell study delved into the scientific literature on whether the sexuality of the parents raising the child has an effect on the general well being of the child. It found 79 studies that it deemed scholarly credible based on certain criteria listen on its web page. The studies varied in data collection techniques; some used qualitative methods to measure well-being, while some used more quantitative methods. However, despite this fact, 75 of the studies found that there was no difference in the well-beings of the children when raised in same-sex households in comparison to heterosexual households. While the vast majority of the studies found that there was no effect, there were still 4 studies that claimed there was a difference in the development of the child based on the sexuality of the parents.

Goldberg and Smith Study- No Difference in Child Well-Being

Goldberg and Smith (2013) analyzed how child behavioral problems differed between families of different sexual orientations who adopted children. They divided the general behavior problems into two groups: externalizing problems and internalizing problems. Externalizing problems are behaviors which are easily observable, such as aggression and acting out, while internalizing problems are directed to the self, such as depression and substance abuse. They found that, through self-reports and within their sample sizes of 40 female same-sex families, 35 male same-sex families, and 45 different-sex families, adopted children had the highest percent of externalizing problems in female same-sex families, while children of male-sex families had the least. The percentages of internalizing problems were fairly constant through the three family types.

The study concluded that these differing percentages in externalizing behaviors were mainly due to the family’s preparedness of adoption and the amount of conflict in the parents’ relationship. However, as explained earlier in this post, added conflict in a same-sex relationship is often due to the minority stress perspective; not the couple’s own incompatibility or incompetence in raising children. 

The study was partially limited through the gathering of data by self-reports from the parents. The parents could be biased in their reports, and the parents may not know the full scope of their child’s behaviors in different environments, something a teacher or childcare provider would know.

Overall, the study found that the difference in these percentages were insignificant; no difference exists in the behavioral problems of children between female and male same-sex families and opposite-sex families.

Allen Study- Difference in Child Well-Being

Allen’s study analyzes data from the Canadian census in order to determine if there was a difference in high school graduation rates in children raised by same-sex couples. Instead of analyzing the actual drop out rate (granted, the census that he used as a data source did not have this information) he looked at the graduation rate of children from all different family types of people over the age of eighteen. There are many eighteen-year-olds, and even nineteen-year-olds, that are still enrolled in high school. Since he used the same data set for all families, this fact would not appear to have any effect on the conclusion that he came to. However, a deeper look into the data shows that the average age for same-sex families is much less than opposite-sex families. The table below states the average age of children (in the 18-22 age range) raised in the four different household types Allen used. In the second column is the high school graduation rate for each of the different family types. The decreased graduation rate is directly correlated to the lower average age rates for the same-sex households.

It is clear that when the average age is lower, the graduation rate decreases. 

Additionally, there are other factors that affect graduation rates other than the family type. For example, socioeconomic status plays a large factor in high school graduation rates. A Canadian study found that there is wage discrimination based on sexual orientation, causing same-sex couples to earn less than opposite-sex couples. The wage gap between heterosexual and homosexual couples could be another explanation for the decrease in graduation rate. 

Allen’s findings could be an example of correlation, not causation. Social studies like this one are difficult because there are many external factors that could affect the results.

Conclusion

When examining any polarizing issue, such as the differences in homosexual and heterosexual parenting, it is important to acknowledge personal and societal biases.

It is important for professionals to be aware that differences in family structure should not be equated with detrimental outcomes. Even so, it is also the case that children with sexual minority parents may encounter experiences of stigma and discrimination.

Rachel H. Farr, 2016

Analyzing articles finding a difference and others finding no differences in child well-being from different family types has illuminated the fact that no studies on this subject are perfect. The development of a child is very complex, so it is impossible to have a flawless experiment that accounts for all of its factors. With this being said, the overwhelming majority of literature finds that there is no difference in children’s well-being when raised by homosexual versus heterosexual couples. 

No matter one’s religious opinion, we must strive for equality in all forms and halt the prejudice and discrimination rampant in adoption practices.

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