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Interview with Gay Family Expert Dr. Abbie Goldberg Pg2

Research Findings on Gay and Lesbian Parents


Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children

Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children

Lesbian Life: One thing I thought I read that I found interesting, was that the extended family was more involved with same-sex couples.

Dr. Abbie Golberg;That's a perfect example of a media report, that I have no idea where they got that information. If you read the book, I do not say that. What I did find is this, same-sex couples report increase in family support across the transition to parenthood. So, where the family was maybe less supportive of them because they were gay, when they had kids or adopted kids, their families actually became more supportive. It's not in comparison to straight parents, it's in comparison to how their families were before, which I think is really important.

Impact of Separation on Children of Gay and Lesbian Parents

You mention the impact of separation or divorce. How does that impact a child when one parent might have no legal right?

Well, there is very little research on this and what little is out there suggests that it is obviously not good. The legal support is really important. If, for example, the no biological mother is able to obtain a second parent adoption, prior to the separation, the chances of her maintaining contact with the child are much higher. Which is really important. Because with separation or divorce, even the happiest couples can get really mean. There are biological mothers who prevent their partners from seeing their children. This is more likely to happen if the non-biological mother has no legal rights because she can't fight in court. I've seen this in my research and I've seen it in people that I know.

So when there is a legal relationship with the parents, the outcomes are better for the children?

We don't know about the children, because no research has looked at the children. But we know that from research on straight parents, that kids who maintain a relationship with both parents, that's associated with positive outcomes. We can infer that this is a good thing for kids.

But if you think about it pragmatically, legal non-biological moms are also providing child support, so that child is also benefitting from having the financial support of both parents, which again, we know across the board is associated with better outcomes.

Gay and Lesbian Stepparents

What about when one parent has the child and then enters into a relationship. Like a step-parent relationship. Did you find any differences between gay and lesbian parents and straight parents there?

Yeah, there is some really cool research out of the UK on that topic, which I cover in the book. What's really interesting is that kids tend to have a much easier adjustment when their moms partner up with women. I think it's related to not seeing that partner as a direct competitor to the father. It's another woman. So, maybe they feel less conflict. They feel their allegiances are less challenged when they enter into that relationship with the step mom, as opposed to the step dad. It's an easier adjustment to another stepmom, as opposed to perceiving a stepfather as taking the father's place.

Does it matter the age of the children?

I did a lot of interviews with adult children of gay and lesbian parents and it does seem that there is an easier adjustment when the children are very young, because as the children get older the values of society tend to be more prominent and they're more likely to internalize homophobia and heterosexism. So kids whose parents split when they're very young and their parents partner with someone of the same sex, it's just kind of woven into the fabric of their lives, where adolescents struggle a bit with fear about what peers are going to think. There's more of a challenge accepting that. They do ultimately accept it, it's just more of a transition.

You are interested in your book being used by social service agencies and courts and things like that. Have you heard from any instances where the research from your book has been used?

Yes, for instance, GLAD contacted me and let me know that they're very excited about the book and they plan on using it in their efforts regarding marriage. Which is exactly the kind of thing that I get excited about.

How else are you hoping this information will be used?

I think its one stop shopping for the research on this topic. Any major organizations - The Task Force, GLAD, organizations like that will find it useful in the sense that they don't have to go out and read all the studies. That's really hard for the average consumer. Most people can't get access to them at the library and who has the time?

Court cases are being decided. Judges are making decisions without reading the data themselves. So this is designed to provide the average consumer and people involved in this topic.

Gay vs Straight Parents

Did you find any instances where gay and lesbian parents were not as effective as straight parents?

Not in the traditional sense. They are just as effective parents, their parenting styles are just as effective. They love their kids just as much. Studies find that they perceive more stigma in the environment and are more worried about the challenges their kids may face in school. The challenges of navigating heterosexism. And in some cases not wanting to believe that bullying and teasing exists. Sometimes parents downplay those kinds of things. I think some parents don't want to take a good hard look at some of the realities that their child may face because it's uncomfortable. It's something they don't have control over and that's really hard for parents.

Are there more instances of bullying of kids of gay and lesbian parents?

The research is mixed on that. Some studies find that there is no difference. Some studies find that there is an elevated chance of teasing and victimization. It's what they're more likely to be teased about that's different.

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