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Growing Up with Gay Parents: What’s the Big Deal?

Elvert Barnes

Rick Fitzgibbons, MD - published on 12/02/14

9. Men in gay unions are now also seeking biologically related children through the use of surrogate mothers. A 2013 study of children conceived through surrogate mothers by S. Golombok et al. compared them to children born through egg donation, donor insemination and natural conception. The children were evaluated at ages 3, 7 and ten. The study demonstrated that children gestated by a surrogate had higher adjustment difficulties at age 7 than the other children. The authors concluded that the absence of a gestational connection to the mother may be problematic for children. The lead researcher stated, “signs of adjustment problems could be behaviour problems, such as aggressive or antisocial behaviour, or emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression.”

How can one reconcile these significant findings with the widely-publicized studies showing no harmful effects to children who have, or have lived with, lesbian or gay parents?

For example, in 2005 the American Psychological Association (APA) issued an official brief on lesbian and gay parenting, which included this assertion: “Not a single study has found children of lesbian and gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents” (p.15).

However, a 2012 research study of the APA Brief and its bibliography by L. Marks stated that this strong assertion made by the APA was not empirically warranted. Twenty-six of 59 APA studies on same-sex parenting had no heterosexual comparison groups. And in comparison studies, single mothers were often used as the heterosexual comparison group. In none of the 59 published studies were the definitive claims substantiated. The author recommended further research. 

Major flaws exist in the vast majority of studies published before 2012 on this subject (L. Marks, 2012) including the fact that they relied upon small, nonrepresentative samples that are not representative of children in typical homosexual families in the United States. 

Two major studies, published in 2010 by N. Gartrell and H. Bos and T. Biblarz and J. Stacey, are often cited by gay activists and extensively in the media. These studies claim that no psychological damage occurs to children who were deliberately deprived of the benefits of gender complementarity in a home with a father and a mother. The article by Gartrell and Bos relies solely on the self-reports of the lesbian mothers who were aware of the political agenda behind the study. 

Similarly, in the research done by Biblarz and Stacey, in 31 of the 33 studies of two-parent families, it was the parents who provided the data, which consisted of subjective judgments. As with the Gartrell and Bos study, this created a social desirability bias because the lesbian parents knew full well why the study was being done. 

An objective examination of social science research into how families function reveals clearly that children do best when raised by both a mother and a father and fully supports this statement by the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: 

the absence of complementarity in these unions (same sex) creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that the condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.

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