Teenagers of same-sex parents
Developing as well as children of opposite-sex parents
|Charlotte Patterson (above) co-wrote the study with psychology student Jennifer Wainright and doctoral student Stephen T. Russell.
By Fariss Samarrai
Some critics of same sex-marriage argue that such relationships negatively affect children, but a new U.Va. study indicates that teenagers of same-sex female parents are developing as well as the children of opposite-sex parents. The study, led by Charlotte J. Patterson, professor of psychology, also found that good quality family relationships are more important contributors to successful development than family type.
The findings are reported in the November/December issue of the journal Child Development.
The study further found that teenage offspring of same-sex couples have dating and romantic relationship behaviors similar to children of opposite-sex couples.
“The best predictor of teens’ adjustment is the quality of their relationship with parents,” said Patterson, who co-wrote the study with Jennifer Wainright, psychology doctoral student, and Stephen T. Russell, a professor of human development at the University of Arizona.
“If parents are supportive and maintain close relationships with them, teenagers are more likely to be successful and happy at home and at school,” Patterson said.
She and her colleagues based their research on a sample of 12- to 18-year-old adolescents from 88 families. The sample was drawn from a large national survey of American adolescents, the National
Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Forty-four of the study participants were parented by same-sex female couples and 44 were parented by opposite-sex couples. The two groups were matched by demographic characteristics such as age, income levels, social situations and other factors — with the exception of family type — to ensure the two groups were comparable.
On measures of their psychosocial adjustment and school results, such as grades and test scores, both groups had similar outcomes, and their adjustment was not affected by the type of family — whether same sex or opposite sex parents.
Because data for this study was drawn from those collected for a large national survey, the researchers encountered important advantages, Patterson said. First, participating families came from various parts of the United States, instead of from a single geographical area, as in most previous research. Second, the sample included participants from different racial and socioeconomic groups, and was more diverse than samples in most previous studies. Finally, because the data were originally collected for other reasons, the possibility of bias was minimized.
These strengths, Patterson said, add to confidence in the main findings that the quality of relationships within families are more important for adolescent development than whether parents have same-sex or opposite-sex partners.