Do children of gay parents perform as well as those of heterosexual parents?

Some interesting numbers from the large-scale studies on children raised by gay fathers and lesbian mothers released last week. (H/T ECM)


  • LM = lesbian mothers
  • GF = gay fathers
  • IBF = intact biological family (heterosexual couple)

Here are the findings:


On economic outcomes, grown children of an LM were almost four times more likely to be currently on public assistance than the grown children of IBFs. As young adults, they were also 3.5 times more likely to be unemployed than the grown children of IBFs.


On criminal outcomes, the children of GFs showed the greatest propensity to be involved in crime. They were, on average, more frequently arrested and pled guilty to more non-minor offenses than the young-adult children in any other category. The children of LMs reported the second highest frequency of involvement in crimes and arrests, and in both categories the young-adult children of intact biological families reported the lowest frequency of involvement in crimes or arrests.

Sexual abuse:

[W]hen asked if they were ever touched sexually by a parent or other adult, the children of LMs were eleven times more likely to say “yes” than the children from an IBF, and the children of GFs were three times more likely to say “yes.” The children of IBFs were the least likely of all family types to have ever been touched sexually: only 2% reported affirmatively (compared to 23% of LMs who replied “yes”). When asked if they were ever forced to have sex against their will, the children of LMs were the worst off again—four times more likely to say “yes” than the children of IBFs. The children of GFs were three times more likely to have been forced to have sex than the children of IBFs. In percentages, 31% of LMs said they had been forced to have sex, compared with 25% of GFs and 8% of IBFs. These results are generally consistent with research on heterosexual families. For instance, a recent federal report showed that children in heterosexual families are least likely to be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused in an intact, biological, married family.[7]

Sexually transmitted diseases:

Regarding physical health, when asked if they had ever had a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the young-adult children of GFs were three times more likely to say “yes” than those of IBFs. Children of LMs were two and a half times more likely to say “yes,” followed by the children of stepfamilies, who were twice as likely to have had an STI as children of IBFs. Children of IBFs and children from “other” family types were the least likely of all to have had an STI.

Drug use:

When asked to report upon frequency of marijuana use, the young-adult children of divorced parents were the worst off, reporting that they had used marijuana on average one and a half times more frequently than children of IBFs; next came the children of LMs, followed by the children of single parents, and the children of GFs. The children adopted prior to age 2 by strangers (people unrelated to them) and the children of IBFs reported least frequent marijuana use as young adults.

Emotional health:

Respondents were asked to report their sentiment about their family experiences while growing up. The children of LMs reported the lowest levels of perceived safety in their childhood home, followed by children of GFs, with the children of IBFs reporting the highest levels of perceived safety. When asked if they were recently or currently in therapy “for a problem connected with anxiety, depression, relationships, etc.,” children adopted by strangers reported receiving such therapy the mostfollowed by the children of LMs. The children from IBFs were least likely to report receiving therapy.

On the CES-D depression index, an eight-measure survey of respondents’ happy-to-depressed thoughts over the previous seven days, the young-adult children of LMs and GFs reported statistically significantly higher levels of depression than young-adult children from IBFs. The young-adult children of GFs were twice as more likely to have thought about suicide in the previous 12 months as the children of LMs, and almost five times more likely than the children of IBFs to have thought about the same.


The study asked questions about the history and current status of the young adults’ relationships. When asked to rate the quality of their current relationship, the children of GFs reported the lowest, followed by children adopted by strangers, the children of stepfamilies, and then the children of LMs.

When asked about the number of times they thought that their current relationship was in trouble, the children of GFs reported the highest numbers again, followed by the children of divorced parents. The children of IBFs reported both the highest levels of relationship quality and the lowest frequency of thinking their relationship to be in trouble of all of the family arrangements.

When asked about infidelity, children of LMs were three times more likely to report having had had an affair while married/cohabiting than children of IBFs, followed by children from stepfamilies (who were two and a half times more likely than IBFs) and children of GFs (who were twice as likely).

Sexual orientation:

The NFSS asked respondents to identify their sexual orientation and found that children of LMs were more open to same-sex romantic relationships, bisexuality, and asexuality than any other group. Daughters of LMs reported an average of just over one female sex partner and four male sex partners in their lifetimes, in contrast to daughters of IBFs who reported an average of only 0.22 female sex partners and 2.79 male sex partners in their lifetimes. Daughters of LMs were also most likely to self-report asexuality, “not sexually attracted to either males or females” (4.1% of females from lesbian mothers compared to 0.5% of females from IBFs). Children of GFs were the next least likely to identify as fully heterosexual. Children from IBFs were most likely of all family types to identify as entirely heterosexual.

I think that we need to think though the consequences of redefining marriage for all of the parties who are concerned, and one of those parties is definitely the children of gay fathers and lesbian mothers. Are they well served by redefining marriage? Should we be celebrating and affirming same-sex parenting as being equal to parenting in intact biological families?

9 thoughts on “Do children of gay parents perform as well as those of heterosexual parents?”

  1. I read a response to this study that complains that the comparisons to intact biological families was really apples/oranges, which I found ironic, since that side of the issue does a lot of that. But the fellow presenting these findings stated that intact and stable homosexual families were uncommon. He didn’t state why that is so. That is, are they uncommon simply for being a tiny percentage of an already tiny percentage of the total population, or because that just isn’t a common thing within the homosexual community. In any case, it could skew the results or at least insist that more time is necessary to observe before changing laws and traditions that have existed for so long.

    At the same time, there’s no surprise that a negative review of this study would leap out so quickly.


    1. Yes, there is a response to that objection in a previous post, here:


      The [NFSS] study found that the children who were raised by a gay or lesbian parent as little as 15 years ago were usually conceived within a heterosexual marriage, which then underwent divorce or separation, leaving the child with a single parent. That parent then had at least one same-sex romantic relationship, sometimes outside of the child’s home, sometimes within it. To be more specific, among the respondents who said their mother had a same-sex romantic relationship, a minority, 23%, said they had spent at least three years living in the same household with both their mother and her romantic partner. Only 2 out of the 15,000 screened spent a span of 18 years with the same two mothers. Among those who said their father had had a same-sex relationship, 1.1% of children reported spending at least three years together with both men.

      This strongly suggests that the parents’ same-sex relationships were often short-lived, a finding consistent with the broader research on elevated levels of instability among same-sex romantic partners. For example, a recent 2012 study of same-sex couples in Great Britain finds that gay and lesbian cohabiting couples are more likely to separate than heterosexual couples.[3] A 2006 study of same sex marriages in Norway and Sweden found that “divorce risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex marriages”[4] such that Swedish lesbian couples are more than three times as likely to divorce as heterosexual couples, and Swedish gay couples are 1.35 times more likely to divorce (net of controls). Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey, two of the most outspoken advocates for same-sex marriage in the U.S. academy, acknowledge that there is more instability among lesbian parents.[5]

      Therefore, while critics of the NFSS have faulted it for lacking comparisons between children of IBFs and the children of committed and intact gay or lesbian couples, this was attempted, but was not feasible. Despite drawing from a large, representative sample of the U.S. population, and despite using screening tactics designed to boost the number of respondents who reported having had a parent in a same-sex relationship, a very small segment reported having been parented by the same two women or two men for a minimum of three years. Although there is much speculation that today there are large numbers of same-sex couples in the U.S. who are providing a stable, long-term parenting relationship for their children, no studies based upon large, random samples of the U.S. population have been published that show this to be true, and the above-cited studies of different nations show that on average, same-sex couple relationships are more short-lived than those of opposite-sex couples.

      Despite the lack of empirical evidence for the claim that today there are large numbers of stable, two-parent gay households, for the last ten years, contemporary gay parenting research has nevertheless claimed that there are “no significant differences” (and some benefits) to being raised by same-sex parents. Therefore, Regnerus analyzed the new NFSS data to verify this claim. In the end, he found the claim to be more plausible when comparing the grown children of parents who had a same-sex relationship to the grown children of divorced, adopted, single-parented, or step-parented arrangements. The claim is false if one compares the grown children of a parent who had a same-sex relationship to those from IBFs. While the study has been criticized for “comparing apples to oranges,” Regnerus’s work studies the reality of the population of children who were raised by parents who had same-sex relationships.

      More here about the number of partners and rates of infidelity in same-sex unions vs. married relationships:


  2. The study is flawed because the sampling methodology is biased. IBF is being compared to heterosexual households that are in large part broken up by one of the partners coming out. If you want a non-biased approach, IBF should have been compared to intact homosexual households – something of a rarity for the sample selected by the study.

    What the study does tell us is that a broken household is just as bad when it was caused by a homosexual being forced to fill a straight role as when it’s broken because of something else. Meh. We already know that.


  3. @Marshall Art

    It was uncommon because homosexual households were uncommon. Hetero households that have one partner that came out gay has been lumped in together with intact homosexual households. Clearly, the former is more numerous than the latter.


    1. I don’t see how this response enlightens. Regnerus admits intact and stable homosexual households were hard to find. I noted that he indicates they were uncommon. You seem to be saying that the reason for this is that they were uncommon.

      My question is more why this should be so. Again, is it because there simply can’t be many amongst an already tiny (3%) percentage of the total population, or that even within that population (homosexual), the percentage that does exist is still a smaller percentage of that population compared to the percentage of stable households among heterosexuals?

      Either way results in such an existence still being uncommon, but the latter situation would be yet another indication that they are indeed not “just like everyone else, except…”

      One thing is certain, this study adds to the argument that, even if it can be shown that they ,i>are “just like everyone else, except…”, at this point in time enough questions remain regarding whether or not it is ethical/moral to involve children, and thus, for the well-being of children, this aspect of their agenda should be put on hold.


  4. This is the most bogus BS you people have ever put out and you should be ashamed of yourselves!


    1. Well, it’s hard to be ashamed of large-scale peer-reviewed published research, though. I would be more ashamed about making personal attacks against people who put forward large-scale peer-reviewed published research. But I don’t do that. Other people do, but not me.


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