My 10-year-old son Jason just bounded out of bed, excited to meet this Saturday morning. He crawled onto my lap as I was trying to type and we reviewed all the great things we have lined up this weekend. Snuggles and kisses ensued. This is his birthday month and he has a lot on his mind, all good stuff.
My two sons were adopted through foster care. Jason has been with me since birth, my younger son, Jesse, came to me at a year old. Anti-gay pundits like to quote “studies” that claim that our kind of family is bad and can’t work. The funny thing is, from our vantage point on this Saturday morning, everything seems to be working just fine.
The anti-gays actually quote only one study, one done by Mark Regnerus. In that study, please guess how many families like mine—families where children were raised long term by two male parents—were studied. Guess.
Zero. That’s right. Not one. Two, only two, of the respondents in hundreds were raised by lesbian mothers, but none by gay fathers. The only “gay fathers” in the study were parents who, after leaving the families in question, had some sort of gay encounter. The study, while pretending to indict families like mine, actually studied long-term intact families as compared with fragmented and dysfunctional families. Even Regnerus could not tie factors to gender.
So, real studies that compare like families to like families are somewhat welcome, if no other reason than for clarity. What are the real factors that affect families?
“Be inspired” says a new public service announcement from the ABC Family show The Fosters and the LGBT-family-oriented RaiseAChild.US organization. The ad targets prospective LGBT parents, and others, as potential foster parents. While inspiration to parent is absolutely an arguable point, according to new studies on adoptive parenting and child-rearing, the comment “be happy” might also be a key and appropriate goal.
One study, “Predictors of Psychological Adjustment in Early Placed Adopted Children With Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents,” was published in the Journal of Family Psychology, and is co-authored by Williams Institute Visiting Scholar Abbie E. Goldberg and JuliAnna Z. Smith of the University of Massachusetts. The study found that factors leading to the greatest success in healthy children included parent preparedness before having the child, depressive tendencies of the parents, and lack of parental conflict in raising the child. In other words, how happy the parents are makes a difference.
What does not make a difference? “The emotional and behavioral outcomes of children adopted and raised by same-sex couples do not differ from those of children adopted and raised by different-sex couples,” said Goldberg. “Our findings lend support for arguments that prospective adopters should not be discriminated against, in policy or practice, based on sexual orientation.”
A study conducted by Cambridge University in March of this year reported similar findings. “Overall we found markedly more similarities than differences in experiences between family types,” said Professor Susan Golombok, director of the Centre for Family Research and co-author of the Cambridge report.
Optimistic attitudes did emerge in that study as well. “The differences that did emerge relate to levels of depressive symptoms in parents, which are especially low for gay fathers,” Golombok concluded.
My family, more by happenstance than by design, falls into the characteristics described in the studies for healthy families. My sons were planned for years before they arrived. They have never been cared for by a parent who was disgruntled about the role he had to undertake and the duties he was called on to perform. Our home has always been vibrant and vital. Depression is not a factor.
We did not need a study to tell us to be this way. None of the LGBT families I know, and that number ranges in the dozens, has had to be told to be affirming. We do not operate in the world of the accidental pregnancy. We are not subject to gender assigned roles, but contribute to our families in ways that match our individual talents and abilities. We did not become parents because we had to or were expected to, or by accident; we became parents because we wanted to.
So, I don’t measure the success of my family by studies. If I need documented confirmation that things are okay, I turn to other sources, like the cards my sons gave me for Mother’s Day.
Jesse’s said, “Dear Daddy, I love you when you hold me in your arms and when I get hurt and you give me a hug.” Jason’s said, “I love you more than video games, movies, my Mario Cart 7 and anything else in the whole wide world. I love you more than all the fish sticks in the world.”
Take that, Mark Regnerus.
Today, my sons are going to meet with their tutor. We are going to go see their grandparents, where they will go swimming. We may catch a movie. What we won’t be doing is diving under some sociologist’s microscope. We are simply going to go on with our lives and love one another. A lot.
And we are going to be happy.
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Special thanks to Rachel Hockett for editing help on this article.