Parenting is a complex task, one that doesn’t lend itself to easy generalizations (which isn’t going to stop me from making some in this article). Virtually every parent believes they know what’s best for their own child, regardless if they’ve ever parented before, read a single parenting book, or talked to a single professional about parenting skills. The theory seems to be that if, Since I can have a child, I must have the innate skills to know how to raise that child.
Except that theory isn’t exactly based in logic or what we know about parenting from research. What new parents of their first child most often rely on for their parenting expertise and skills are their own upbringing and advice from their own parents or siblings who have children already. Not exactly rocket science, right? I mean, how hard is it parent a child??
It’s not hard to be a parent to a child. But it is incredibly hard to be a consistent, good parent to a child (as first-time parents quickly learn). Children are a constant, never-ending responsibility from age 0 to somewhere in their teens (and of course, even then, it doesn’t really stop).
So in our focus on raising good children, we should respect research that demonstrates that it’s not one’s sexual orientation that determines good parenting or not. (In fact, that’s a ridiculous assumption to begin with; why not suggest that people who have a certain religious perspective make the best parents, or only those who were raised in a house with more than 2 children themselves?) Yet, in an effort to put restrictions on gay fathers and mothers who want to have children, you see some people arguing against them for the sake of the children. Thankfully, the research doesn’t back up their argument, as Lisa Belkin in The New York Times Magazine so thoughtfully noted in a recent article on the topic:
But even if parents who seek parity do so for their own sanity and in pursuit of their own ideals, might it not also be better for their children?
Yes, if less conventional, more tolerant children are your goal. Because if the children of gays and lesbians are different, it is presumably related to the way they were raised — by parents with a view of domestic roles that differs from most of their heterosexual peers.
Same-sex couples, it seems, are less likely to impose certain gender-based expectations on their children.
The article is based upon a new book from Abbie E. Goldberg, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Clark University, that reviews more than 100 research studies about this very topic — how do children of lesbian mothers (mostly, as gay dads haven’t been studied as much) fare? Dr. Goldberg summarizes her findings — “These children do just fine.” She didn’t find any negative impact to children being raised in a gay household.
If we want what’s best for the children, then, we have to acknowledge that gay parents don’t pose any particular problem. In fact, such parents may actually help raise more gender-neutral children who are open to more possibilities for their careers and lives. Food for thought as the gay marriage debate continues on throughout the country.
Read the full article: The Way We Live Now – What Gay Parenting Teaches Us All