Sex-minority families fare as well as — and in some ways better than ‘traditional’ ones, pooled data analysis finds


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A pooled data analysis examines the available evidence that sexual minority families—where a parent’s sexual orientation or gender identity is considered outside of cultural, societal, or physiological norms— fare as well as or better than “traditional” single-parent families of the opposite sex, published in the open access journal BMJ World Health.

Parental sexual orientation is not an important determinant of child development, the analysis shows.

The number of children in families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer parents has increased in recent years. But despite a shift in public attitudes, minority sexual parenting still sparks controversy, and whether parental sexual orientation affects family outcomes remains a matter of debate, the researchers say.

To strengthen the evidence, and to determine whether there were differences in outcomes between sexual minority families and heterosexual (straight) parent families, they conducted a systematic review of 34 relevant studies published between January 1989 and April 2022, and conducted in countries where same-sex relations were legally recognized.

The studies were categorized into 11 main themes: children’s psychological adjustment, physical health, gender role behaviour, gender identity/sexual orientation and educational attainment; parental mental health and parenting stress; and parent-child relationships, couple relationship satisfaction, family functioning, social support.

A pooled data analysis of the results of 16 of the 34 studies showed that the majority of family outcomes were similar for these two family types. In some areas, such as children’s psychological adjustment – preschool children, in particular – and child-parent relationships, these were actually better in sexual minority families.

“Growing up with sex-minority parents can bring some advantages to children. They have been described as more tolerant of diversity and more nurturing to younger children than children of heterosexual parents,” the researchers explain.

But the analysis showed that sex-minority parents did not do better than sex-diverse parent families on couple relationship satisfaction, mental health, parenting stress, or family functioning.

Risk factors for poor family outcomes for sexual minority families included stigma and discrimination, inadequate social support and cohabitation other than married parents.

“Legal marriage provides many protections and benefits to the couples who marry and their children,” the researchers noted.

The results of the narrative synthesis (18 studies) showed that children who lived in sexual minority parent families were less likely to expect to be identified as straight when they grew up than children who lived in “traditional” settled families.

“There may be less gender stereotyping in families of minority parents, and this effect may be positive,” the researchers suggested. “Exploring gender identity and sexuality can enhance children’s ability to thrive and succeed in a range of contexts.”

They acknowledge various limitations to their findings, including that the included studies were limited to regions where same-sex relationships are legal, and where the social climate of those families is generally favorable.

The majority of participants in the study were also from gay and lesbian families and could not account for potentially influencing demographic factors.

But the researchers conclude that children from sexual minority families are not at a disadvantage compared to children from mixed-sex parent families.

“One part of this review is the recognition that parental sexual orientation is not itself an important determinant of child development,” they write. “This is another … that there are significant risk factors that are often associated with the minority sexual experience and family functioning, such as stigma, poor social support and parenting styles.”

They add, “Policymakers, practitioners, and the public must work together to improve family outcomes, regardless of sexual orientation.”

More information:
Disparities in family outcomes between sexual minority and heterosexual families: a systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ World Health (2023). DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2022-010556

Available at British Medical Journal

Quote: Sex-minority families fare as well as—and in some ways better than ‘traditional’ ones, a pooled data analysis found (2023, March 6) retrieved March 7, 2023 from 2023-03-sexual-elite-families-fare-asand.html

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