Teenage children of lesbian mothers report their quality of life is every bit as good as teens with heterosexual parents, reports a new study.
The finding speaks to concerns that the children may experience adjustment problems related to prejudice or discrimination.
In the study, 78 U.S. adolescents with lesbian mothers — 39 girls and 39 boys, average age 17 — completed an online survey regarding quality of life. The teens were drawn from a long-term follow-up study of lesbian mothers, initially enrolled when they were pregnant or planning to become pregnant via sperm donation.
Researchers say teenaged children of lesbian mothers rated their quality of life similar to that of teens with heterosexual parents.
For example, average agreement with the statement, “I feel I am getting along with my parents/guardians” was about 8 on a 10-point scale in both groups of teens. For the statement, “I look forward to the future,” the average score was about 9.
Quality of life scores were unaffected by whether the teens knew the identity of the sperm donor or by whether the mother was still in a relationship with the woman who was her partner at the time of the child’s birth.
About 40 percent of teens reported some kind of unfair treatment related to having a lesbian parent—being teased or ridiculed, being stereotyped, or being excluded from activities. Nevertheless, the stigmatization did not affect the quality-of-life scores, suggesting resilience among these teens.
Researchers say this study complements other contemporary studies that show children of gay or lesbian parents have normal psychological adjustment.
“Adolescent offspring in planned lesbian families do not show differences in quality of life when compared with adolescents reared in heterosexual families,” said research leader Loes van Gelderen, M.Sc., of the University of Amsterdam.
The study is published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.
Most studies of this issue have looked at younger children, whereas adolescents may have a “keener awareness” that their parents’ sexual orientation puts them in a minority group, say the researchers.
Furthermore, most previous studies have focused on problem behaviors, rather than quality-of-life factors associated with good psychological adjustment.
“Adolescents living with lesbian parents function as well as, or sometimes better than, those reared by opposite-sex parents,” van Gelderen and coauthors write.
The study showing evidence of good adjustment is an important addition to a growing body of research showing no difference in adjustment difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, and disruptive behaviors.
Adjustment is good despite high rates of teasing and other forms of stigmatization, which has previously been linked to behavior problems. Classmates were most often mentioned as the source of teasing or ridicule, “suggesting a need for schools to educate students in the appreciation of diversity and to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and stigmatization,” the researchers said. “Such changes to the educational system would benefit youths from all family types.”