A new study suggests that gay parents are judged more harshly than straight parents.
Researchers from Binghamton University conducted a study of people’s reactions to the parenting behaviors of gay and straight parents.
The results showed a clear pattern of negative reactions from study participants towards a gay couple engaging in exactly the same negative parenting behaviors as a straight couple.
“We noted that when parents displayed favorable parenting behaviors like comforting an upset child, gay and straight parents were judged in a similar, positive manner,” said researcher Sean Massey, Ph.D.
“However, if parents got frustrated — raised their voice or slapped their child on the hand — the gay parents were judged more negatively than the straight parents.”
Massey believes this marked difference in the study groups’ reactions is significant. While no parent is perfect, the researchers believe that holding gay parents to a different standard adds additional stress to the already stressful job of parenthood.
It can also negatively affect their chances of adopting or becoming foster parents.
“We feel that it is very important for social workers and adoption counselors to be made aware of the effects of modern anti-gay prejudices and they need to educate themselves and develop policies that help protect against these potential biases,” said Massey.
Experts say there is a serious shortage of people willing to foster or adopt the hundreds of thousands of children who are in the system. Many believe the gay community is a resource for many of these children but as this study indicates, gay parents are judged more harshly than their straight counterparts, they are at a disadvantage.
“Raising awareness of these attitudes is a critical step in being able to utilize a potentially valuable pool of prospective adoptive and foster parents,” said Massey, “but it is also vital to improving the day to day lives of our families and our children.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy statement supporting same-sex marriage and reiterating its support for the adoption of children by gay families.
Many believe the next frontier for gay rights may be same-sex parenting. Massey said although overt and hostile prejudice may indeed be diminishing, modern, subtle prejudice continues to affect the lives of lesbians, gay men, and their families.
“Prejudicial judgments, however subtle, that serve to limit access of these families to potential support and resources, ultimately harm today’s youths,” said Massey.
The researchers strongly encouraged the continued exploration of the effect this subtle prejudice has on the well-being of same-sex families and how best to work toward its elimination.
The study is published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies.
Source: Binghamton University