- Pride is celebrated in a number of ways, not just by LGBTQ individuals, but by families as well.
- Same-sex couples are 7 times more likely to adopt or foster a child when compared to heterosexual couples.
- Over 400,000 children are in the U.S. foster care system, and of those, 100,000 are eligible for adoption.
- Research suggests that children of same-sex parents are thriving in a number of ways.
June officially marked Pride Month, dedicated to the celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. It began after the Stonewall riots in 1969, where there were a series of gay liberation protests outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. This marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.
Today, the rainbow flag can be seen hanging from Stonewall and countless other establishments and homes throughout the month of June and beyond. The rainbow itself is a call back to the stripes in the American flag but also symbolizes all of the different and vibrant groups that make up the LGBTQ community.
We’ve come a long way since the late 1960s, and nowadays, Pride is celebrated in a number of ways, and most notably, not just by LGBTQ individuals, but by families as well. In my small New Jersey town of Maplewood, same-sex couples raising children can be found everywhere, and we even have a rainbow crosswalk to express Pride for our own LGBTQ community.
Same-sex couples raising children have been on the rise in the United States, especially after 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage to be legal in all 50 states. Before that ruling, there were a lot of limits on same-sex couples’ ability to adopt children in the U.S., and in fact, the very first time a gay couple was able to adopt a baby was as recent as 1979. But again, a lot has changed since then.
Data from a 2014-2016 community survey suggests that same-sex couples are seven times more likely to adopt or foster a child who needs a home when compared to heterosexual couples (Goldberg & Conron, 2018). This is important, as according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 400,000 children are in the U.S. foster care system for various reasons—some have been abused, neglected, or even abandoned by their parents. Of those children, 100,000 are eligible for adoption and need a permanent home.
On top of that, about 20,000 teenagers will age out of the foster care system each year and are faced with living on their own for the first time—never having had a permanent or stable family. These children are at risk for all sorts of adverse outcomes, including poverty, poor education, and homelessness.
Surprisingly, despite the willingness of same-sex couples to adopt, and the ever-growing need for children in the foster care system to be placed with adoptive parents, there are still some people in the U.S. who don’t think same-sex couples should be able to adopt. In fact, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, there are still states that allow private adoption agencies to refuse adoptions to same-sex couples, and there are even welfare agencies that are permitted to limit resources to same-sex couples based on religious exemptions.
The rationale behind these limitations is that growing up with same-sex parents somehow isn’t in the best interest of children. But there is no actual scientific evidence that this is the case. In fact, all existing evidence suggests that families with same-sex parents are thriving.
Starting back in the early 1990s, research was already showing no evidence that the development of children with same-sex parents is compromised in any way relative to children of opposite-sex parents (Patterson, 1992). More recent research comparing children adopted by same-sex versus opposite-sex parents over the course of development confirms these findings, showing that children’s adjustment and family function does not differ at all on the basis of parents’ sexual orientation.
Instead, what most predicted behavioral problems in children was parenting stress, regardless of sexual orientation—something we’ve known to be the case for decades. You could argue that perhaps same-sex parents experience more stress than heterosexual parents because of potential stigma or discrimination, but the study showed that levels of stress did not differ between families. In fact, the families were completely indistinguishable in every way except for the parents' sexual orientation (Farr, 2017).
Research has so strongly shown that same-sex families are thriving that three separate professional organizations—the American Psychological Association (APA), the Australian Psychological Association (APS), and the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)—have all independently concluded that children’s well-being does not vary based on parents’ sexual orientation (Montero, 2014). In fact, many studies show that there might be several benefits of being raised by same-sex parents.
Importantly, while nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, same-sex parents don’t end up with children by accident. In fact, for a same-sex couple, it takes effort to have a child. Adoption, in vitro, or surrogacy all require a significant amount of time and commitment and can cost thousands of dollars. Perhaps because of the extra effort and financial investment required for LGBTQ parents to have children, same-sex parents tend to have a higher socio-economic status, which typically means they are more highly educated and financially stable when compared to opposite-sex parents.
There is also evidence that children of same-sex parents perform better in school than children of opposite-sex parents (Mazrekaj et al., 2020), and are more psychologically well-adjusted (Zhang et al., 2023). Further, same-sex parents tend to be more tolerant of diversity and nurturing in the early childhood years (Zhang et al., 2023), and they distribute labor more evenly in the household and have children who show less gender-stereotyped behavior (Farr, 2017).
All in all, the research is clear—children of same-sex parents are thriving, and on top of that, same-sex couples are helping to provide permanent homes for children who really need them. So during Pride Month and beyond, besides celebrating our pride for LGBTQ individuals, remember to give a special shout-out to our LGBTQ parents, and everything they do for their children.
Farr, R. H. (2017). Does parental sexual orientation matter? A longitudinal follow-up of adoptive families with school-age children. Developmental psychology, 53(2), 252-264.
Goldberg, S.K., & Conron, K. J. (2018). How many same-sex couples in the US are raising children? UCLA Williams Institute, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/same-sex-parents-us/
Mazrekaj, D., De Witte, K., & Cabus, S. (2020). School outcomes of children raised by same-sex parents: Evidence from administrative panel data. American Sociological Review, 85(5), 830-856.
Montero, D. (2014). Attitudes toward same-gender adoption and parenting: An analysis of surveys from 16 countries. Advances in Social Work, 15(2), 444-459.
Patterson, C. J. (1992). Children of lesbian and gay parents. Child development, 63(5), 1025-1042.
Zhang, Y., Huang, H., Wang, M., Zhu, J., Tan, S., Tian, W., ... & Ning, C. (2023). Family outcome disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual families: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Global Health, 8(3), e010556.