SOC 280 Discussion Parent-Child Relationships and Children’s Psychological Adjustment
Discussion Prompt 1: Read, listen, or watch the media listed
Listen to the audio file, “Defending and Attacking Polygamy
in Saudi Arabia.”
Read the article, “Adoptive Gay Father Families:
Parent-Child Relationships and Children’s Psychological Adjustment.”
Watch the clip from the movie She’s the Man.
What different interpretations of family and gender roles
are voiced in the materials you reviewed?
To what extent do these differing viewpoints correspond or
clash with Western notions of family?
Discussion Prompt 2:
Think back on your life when you experienced a change, such as a
graduation or a change of job. Discuss your experience with anticipatory
socialization and resocialization. Describe how these concepts could apply to
your next transition in the healthcare field.
Findings are presented on a U.K. study of 41 gay father families, 40 lesbian mother families, and 49 heterosexual parent families with an adopted child aged 3–9 years. Standardized interview and observational and questionnaire measures of parental well-being, quality of parent–child relationships, child adjustment, and child sex-typed behavior were administered to parents, children, and teachers. The findings indicated more positive parental well-being and parenting in gay father families compared to heterosexual parent families. Child externalizing problems were greater among children in heterosexual families. Family process variables, particularly parenting stress, rather than family type were found to be predictive of child externalizing problems. The findings contribute to theoretical understanding of the role of parental gender and parental sexual orientation in child development.
Research on the psychological development and well-being of children raised by same-sex parents has focused almost exclusively on families headed by lesbian mothers rather than gay fathers. Although it has consistently been shown that children with lesbian mothers do not differ from children in traditional families with respect to psychological adjustment or sex-typed behavior (Goldberg, 2010; Patterson, 2006, 2009), the circumstances of children with gay fathers are somewhat different. Not only are they raised by same-sex parents but also it is rare for fathers, whether heterosexual or gay, to be primary caregivers.
Research on fathering has shown that heterosexual fathers influence their children in similar ways to mothers (Lamb, 2010), but it remains the case that mothers are widely believed to be fundamentally more suited to parenting, for example, more nurturing, than are fathers (Biblarz & Stacey, 2010). Moreover, the wider social environment can have a marked impact on children’s psychological well-being, and children with gay fathers may be exposed to greater prejudice and discrimination than children with lesbian mothers because gay father families possess the additional nontraditional feature of being headed by men (Golombok & Tasker, 2010). Regarding children’s gender development, it is now generally agreed that sex-typed behavior results from an interplay among biological, psychological, and social mechanisms (Hines, 2010), with parents playing a minor, and possibly insignificant, role (Golombok & Tasker, 1996). Nevertheless, it has been suggested that the gender development of children with gay fathers may differ from that of children with lesbian mothers or heterosexual parents due to the presence of two male parents and the absence of a female parent from the home. Goldberg, Kashy, and Smith (2012) have postulated that children with gay fathers may show less sex-typed behavior than children with heterosexual parents resulting from a less sex-typed family environment, and girls in gay father families may show less sex-typed behavior than girls in lesbian mother families due to the absence of a female role model from the home.
In recent years, a growing number of gay father families have been created through adoption (Brodzinsky & Pertman, 2011). It has been estimated from the 2010 American Community Survey that around 7,100 adopted children are living with male couples (G. Gates, personal communication). Although adoption is associated with increased rates of adjustment problems for children in heterosexual families (Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010), these appear to be largely related to factors that precede the adoption, such as abusive or neglectful parenting and multiple caretakers in the years before the adoption took place (Dozier & Rutter, 2008; Palacios & Brodzinsky, 2010). Nevertheless, adoption presents specific challenges for families (Grotevant & Von Korff, 2011) with poor communication about the adoption by adoptive parents, including the circumstances that led to the adoption and acknowledgment of the child’s feelings about being adopted, associated with more negative psychological outcomes for children (Brodzinsky & Pinderhughes, 2002). In addition to the stressors experienced by adoptive parents generally, gay adoptive fathers may be exposed to stigma regarding their sexual identity (Goldberg, 2010). Those who are sensitive to such stigma have been found to show elevated levels of parenting stress (Tornello, Farr, & Patterson, 2011).
Initial investigations of adoptive gay father families have reported positive family functioning with respect to quality of parenting and children’s psychological well-being (Averett, Nalavany, & Ryan, 2009; Erich, Kanenberg, Case, Allen, & Bogdanos, 2009; Erich, Leung, & Kindle, 2005; Leung, Erich, & Kanenberg, 2005; Ryan, 2007). However, reliance on self-report questionnaires administered to convenience samples, and either the absence of a comparison group of heterosexual adoptive families or the wide age range of children studied, limit the conclusions that may be drawn. The first systematic study was carried out by Farr, Forsell, and Patterson (2010a, 2010b). Using parent and teacher questionnaires, preschool children adopted in infancy by gay fathers in the United States were found to be as well adjusted as those adopted by lesbian or heterosexual parents, with no differences in parenting stress, parental discipline, or parental relationship satisfaction according to family type. In terms of gender development, no differences were identified in the sex-typed behavior of either boys or girls between gay father, lesbian mother, and heterosexual parent families. In contrast, Goldberg et al. (2012) found that children in adoptive same-sex parent families showed less sex-typed behavior than children in heterosexual parent families. This appeared to reflect less masculine play by boys in lesbian mother families rather than less feminine play by girls with gay fathers. This study contributes to this emerging body of research by investigating larger samples of gay, lesbian, and heterosexual adoptive families in the United Kingdom using standardized interview and observational and questionnaire measures of parental well-being, quality of parent–child relationships, child adjustment, and child sex-typed behavior, administered to parents, children, and teachers.