Sorry, bitter homophobes. It turns out having two mommies or two daddies doesn’t make you a sick and unhappy child. A new study not only debunks this claim but suggests that kids raised by lesbian or gay parents score better when it comes to measures like family cohesion and general health. And the potential reason may — or may not — surprise you.
The study from the University of Melbourne, Australia surveyed 315 same-sex parents and 500 children and found that, overall, the kids were just as happy and healthy as the kids of the general population. The only difference was that, “children from same-sex families scored, on average, 6% better on two key measures, general health and family cohesion, even when controlling for a number of sociodemographic factors such as parent education and household income.”
Not surprisingly, the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, showed that same-sex families do face stigma which has a negative effect on the mental health of children. But families of all backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities can be stigmatized for several things. So how does one explain the fact that children from same-sex families are doing so well?
According to Simon Crouch, MD, a public health doctor and the lead researcher in the study, it may well derive from the lack of conformity to gender stereotypes when it comes to splitting household responsibilities:
Interestingly, there is growing evidence to suggest that the structure of same-sex parent families, particularly in relation to work and home duties, plays an important part in how well families get along. Same-sex parents, for instance, are more likely to share child care and work responsibilities more equitably than heterosexual-parent families.
This freedom from traditional and confining roles means that parents can divide their labor according to strengths and what makes them happy:
So what this means is that people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes, which is mum staying home and looking after the kids and dad going out to earn money.
What this leads to is a more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and wellbeing.
Of course, these lessons can apply to all kinds of families and relationships. If only the people who insist on pathologizing same-sex child-rearing knew about this. Maybe if they were happier in their own lives they wouldn’t spread lies about the non-existent dangers of having gay or lesbian parents.
Katie Halper is a writer, comedian and film-maker.