New study: Lesbian households produce a child abuse rate of 0%


The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) just released its results on its 24-year long study on families with lesbian parents, finding that not one of the 78 adolescents in the study had reported being sexually or physically abused by their parents. This compares to 26% of American adolescents overall who report parent or caregiver physical abuse. 8.3% report sexual abuse.

Additionally, only 2.8% of the adolescents in the study identified themselves as gay. Apparently the majority of them didn’t catch their parents’ gayness.

While I hate the idea of showing “proof” that lesbian and gay couples are capable of raising healthy families, these kinds of studies are critical in breaking down the myths that are constantly being perpetuated by anti-LGBT culture. Check out NLLFS for more info on their awesome work.

Pic by Katrina Thomas.

Join the Conversation

  • Bridgette

    This is a wonderful step in research, but it requires a lot more, and a lot larger, look into this subject. Given that women in general are less likely to physically and sexually abuse children, I doubt that abuse in lesbian households will ever reach anything more than one or two percent when a broader number is taken into account.

    • Smiley

      Good comment.

      I am always amazed at how uncritical some people view statistics. As Bridgette mentions, since women are less likely to carry out assaults (of any kind), then the observation that children of lesbian couples are less likely to be assaulted is hardly surprising. And is not really newsworthy.

      And anotehr thing.

      What is the accpeted percentage of gayness in society? 5%? 10% I think those are the figures generally quoted.

      Now, looking at those figures, I could argue (and I might just!) that being the child of a lesbian couple actually works against being/becoming gay. Interesting conclusion, no?

      • Cosoa

        All we know is that 2.8% of the kids admitted to being gay (most people don’t come out until after highschool, if I recall correctly). If you believe sexual orientation is biological, there’s no logical reason being raised by lesbians would have any effect on an individual’s sexuality, other than perhaps making it easier to come out to family.

      • Bridgette

        Thank you.

        A recent study found that 7.5% of the population is lesbian or gay. As Cosoa mentioned, the children of these couples could end up coming out later. The next issue is, again, the small size of the sample. It would not surprise me if that number proved higher with a larger sample. When a sample is under a hundred individuals for a nation as big as ours, the numbers are going to get skewed a bit.

    • Summer

      Actually, biological mothers are three times as likely to abuse children than fathers. While men are more likley to commit sexual abuse, women are more likely to commit every other type of abuse, including physical, verbal and neglect.

  • Shannon Drury

    “Every child a wanted child” is not a pro-choice slogan in a same-sex household–it’s reality!

    • Emily

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Excluding cases of rape or infidelity, most lesbian couples couldn’t have an unexpected pregnancy (the exception I’m thinking of is if one partner is transgender and still producing sperm). Thus they’d only be having kids, whether by birth or adoption, when they are in a good situation financially, emotionally, etc.

  • maeve

    Yeah, that’s awesome and all, but 78 kids is a pretty small pool. The people going around talking crap and saying that gays and lesbians are unfit parents aren’t going to be impressed by these results. Now a study with like 500 kids, that would be a bit more impressive I think.

    • Sam Lindsay-Levine

      As always, if you want the actual statistical information & methodology go to the primary source:

      (If “never trust a number without an error bar” isn’t a proverb, it should be.)

      • Domalais

        In fairness, more children live in a household with their mother than with their father. A big part of that abuse/neglect gap between the genders may be explained by single-parent households with mother as caretaker.

  • Kierstyn Hayducka

    Love the article and the picture of the baby even more – very cute. I also think that the sample size should be much larger, but this is an amazing step in researching this stuff. The fact that gay couples are not allowed to adopt in some places is absolutely absurd. And this is a giant step in the right direction!

  • Calvin

    Another potential issue is the sampling techniques used to gather the lesbian families. The investigators used a combination of snowball sampling (e.g., word of mouth) and advertising (e.g., flyers) to gather their sample. It could be that the parents recruited were the ones that were most gung-ho and excited about parenting. They could also be coming from more situated and better social backgrounds, etc.

    Also, concerning:
    “This compares to 26% of American adolescents overall who report parent or caregiver physical abuse. 8.3% report sexual abuse.”

    What’s the sample? Is this based off statistics of recorded crime? If so, that’s not the right comparison to make.

    In conclusion, the more scientifically appropriate heading for this post may be “New study: Lesbian households who are recruited to a study through convenience sampling produce a child abuse rate of 0%.”

  • davenj

    These studies are important as far as breaking myths.

    However, for a site that has been a hell of a lot more critical about some much larger studies, particularly in the field of health, it seems a little weird to jump on the whole “these results are totally valid!” wagon in a way that never happens when data tends to clash with a point this site wants to make.

    For example, the sample set of women was OVERWHELMINGLY white. 94%. It was also majority middle and upper class. And it was 78 families.

    73 white mostly middle and upper class lesbian families, plus 5 minority lesbian families, is not going to be the end-all and be-all of lesbian motherhood.

    It’s terrific news, particularly on the front of adoption rights, but for a site that’s usually overly critical of scientific studies it’s just a surprise to see a complete lack of criticality here.

    • Domalais

      This is a good point. Also, there’s a selection bias built into the whole concept. The fact that these lesbian parents are financially and legally capable of adopting children indicates that they are rather privileged and live in liberal areas.

      This post and the accompanying comments remind me of all the issues surrounding domestic violence in lesbian relationships. I think it’s ironic that some feminists will blindly accept the gender stereotypes (women never abuse anyone ever because they are nice/gentle/weak/etc) that fit their worldview.