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Gay Marriage and Parenting Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 21st, 2019

Introduction

Same-sex marriage has already become part of the social reality in the developed world. Despite the fear of stigmatization, discrimination, and abuse, more gay and lesbian individuals “come out” in their striving to create a cohesive family unit. In the absence of legal possibilities to marry one another, gays and lesbians create civil unions and bring up children.

Meanwhile, the debate on the appropriateness of same-sex marriages continues to persist. On the one hand, the developed society despises those, who discriminate against other citizens and peers based on their sexual orientation. On the other hand, the society fears that gay marriage can have disrupting impacts on the socioemotional and psychological wellbeing of children brought up in such unions.

Generally, there is no evidence that gay marriage is the source of negative emotional, psychological, and social influences on children. Children brought up by gay couples score equally or even higher on most psychosocial determinants, compared to their peers growing up in heterosexual families; as a result, gay couples deserve the legal right to legitimize their relationships to bring greater socioeconomic and cultural stability into their relationships.

Statistics and context

Since the beginning of the new millennium, same-sex marriage and its implications for children’s wellbeing have become the hottest topics of public discussion and research. The number of same-sex couples with and without children has been steadily increasing. Statistically, same-sex couples live in 99.3% of all US counties, and 96% of all US counties have same-sex couples that are raising children (Pawelski et al. 351).

As of 2000, nearly 25% of all same-sex couples were raising children (Pawelski et al. 351). The percentage of gay couples in 2000 was in Vermont, followed by California, Massachusetts, and Oregon (Pawelski et al. 351). The percentage of same-sex couples raising adopted children and children with special health needs was higher than among the heterosexual couples (Pawelski et al., 351).

The duration of same-sex union was also longer than that of heterosexual couples (Pawelski et al. 351). These data suggest that same-sex marriages display a stronger stability potential and have everything a good family might need to raise a child, even if he/she has special health needs.

It is high time that the outdated beliefs about same-sex marriage as something sinful or morally inappropriate were abandoned. Marriage and cohabitation among gays and lesbians is not as dangerous as it may seem. In today’s economic and social contexts, heterosexual marriage is but one of the many family options available to members of the developed society (Cherlin 41).

Nowadays, “within marriage, roles are more flexible and negotiable, although women still do more of the household work and childrearing” (Cherlin 41). Nothing prevents same-sex couples from having the same division of responsibilities and living a life full of peace and agreement.

Present-day civil unions and marriages build on the values, which differ from those shared by the earlier generations. Marriage partners and cohabitants seek greater intimacy and want to disclose their feelings within the partnership (Cherlin 41). They are more strongly oriented towards individual satisfaction than towards fulfilling the social roles and expectations imposed on them (Cherlin 41).

Consequently, modern societies provide more freedom of choice and favor diversity in marriage and civil union arrangements. As long as same-sex unions enable individuals to construct their self-realization opportunities and enjoy their lives without harming or hurting others, the concept and reality of the same-sex marriage has the moral right to exist.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands what same-sex couples are and how they function. No less complex are the controversies surrounding same-sex parenting. Like heterosexual marriage, same-sex marriage allows for a wide heterogeneity of organizational forms and arrangements (Meezan & Rauch 99).

Most children in same-sex family arrangements have come to this world in an old-fashioned way, and both members of the same-sex couple are equally responsible for the quality and effectiveness of their childrearing practices. More often than not, children who live in gay or lesbian families are the biological offspring of one gay parent, conceived either in an earlier marriage, or with the help of the known or unknown sperm donor, or with the help of a surrogate birth mother (Meezan & Rauch 99).

Based on the parenting route chosen, the dynamic of family relationships within same-sex couples will vary considerably. Simply stated, the way a lesbian couple is raising their biological child will differ greatly from the way a gay couple is dealing with an adopted infant.

However, these differences in family or couple dynamics have nothing to do with either discrimination or harm to the children raised in these couples. Such differences are justified mainly by the way different homosexual couples perceive what is best for their children. As a result, they have all chances to bring up a decent member of society.

Same-sex marriage: Impacts on children

Recently, the way homosexual couples impact their children has become the main criterion of quality and feasibility of such family arrangements. The body of literature exploring the effects of same-sex parents on children’s wellbeing continues to expand.

Still, at present, there is no evidence that being raised in a same-sex family can damage the socioemotional and psychological development of the child. On the contrary, in certain aspects children grown by same-sex couples score better than their peers raised in traditional heterosexual families.

To begin with, the way same-sex and heterosexual parents treat their children has to be considered. Basically, children report no significant differences between being raised by a lesbian mother and a single heterosexual mother (Tasker 225). Moreover, the results of the recent studies suggest that children living with a single heterosexual mother are less likely to visit their nonresident father than children from lesbian mother families (Tasker 225).

It is possible to assume that lesbian mothers are more open in their family decisions and are more willing to maintain close relationships between their children and nonresident fathers. Undoubtedly, children who maintain regular contacts with both parents have better chances to grow into an emotionally, psychologically, and socially stable personality. Moreover, opponents of same-sex marriage should not forget about the emotional trauma a child usually undergoes as a result of family transitions.

Children living in lesbian households confess they have much better relationships with their mothers’ new partner than children, whose mothers have married a heterosexual man (Tasker 228). “The sons and daughters of lesbian mothers rarely described their mother’s girlfriend as intruding on family relationships, whereas some of the young people with divorced and repartnered heterosexual mothers described their relationship with their stepfather with some hostility” (Tasker 228).

In a similar vein, children report better quality of relationships with their gay fathers and see their gay fathers being much more involved with their affairs than heterosexual fathers of their friends (Tasker 228). Apparently, same-sex marriages do have a good potential to create a positive emotional atmosphere at home.

While children report better quality of relationships with their homosexual parents than children living in heterosexual families, same-sex partners themselves display equally good or even better parenting attitudes towards their children.

It is wrong to believe that homosexuality in family is inherently detrimental to children’s emotional and physical growth. In most cases, lesbian and gay parents display the levels of self-esteem, child-rearing attitudes, and psychological adjustment capacities equal or better than those in their heterosexual peers (Pawelski et al. 359).

Simultaneously, lesbian mothers are more concerned about providing child-centered care and replacing a male role model than divorced heterosexual mothers (Pawelski et al. 359). Gay fathers apply similar efforts and invest huge resources in their parental roles. They provide the level of nurturance that is not lower than that of heterosexual fathers (Pawelski et al. 359). Gay fathers guarantee sufficient recreation opportunities to their children and do not limit them in their individual choices (Pawelski et al. 359).

Gay fathers are reported to follow severe disciplinary principles and emphasize the importance of cognitive development and skills in their children (Pawelski et al. 359). They are actively involved in their children’s activities and, to a large extent, their childrearing practices are more similar than different from the childrearing practices used by heterosexual fathers and couples.

Of particular importance is the way being in a same-sex couple impacts children’s emotional and psychological development. Those who do not accept same-sex marriages as a viable alternative to traditional marriages blame gay couples for disrupting children’s normal psychological pathways.

Yet, no evidence supports the thesis that, simply because of their sexual orientation, gay and lesbian parents cannot successfully cope with their parenting roles (Meezan & Rauch 102). On the contrary, parents in gay and lesbian civil unions are more likely to create and maintain a positive emotional environment which, in turn, favors the normal psychological and social development of their children (Meezan & Rauch 102).

Consequently, the psychological and social development of children growing up in gay and lesbian couples does not display any marked differences from that of the children living with heterosexual parents. Children themselves claim that, compared to their peers in heterosexual families, their lesbian mothers are more available to spend their time with them (Gartrell et al. 522). Not surprisingly, children enjoy being with their mothers and fathers, irrespective of their sexual orientation and sexual preferences.

Gay marriage does not lead to any negative consequences for children and, for this reason, gay unions have the legal and moral right to exist. Children growing up in a same-sex household display lower rates of physical disturbances than children raised by heterosexual parents.

For instance, the percentage of children with asthma in same-sex households is much lower than the nation’s average, which is suggestive of the low rates of smoking in gay and lesbian couples (Gartrell et al. 523). The rates and risks of family abuse, physical and sexual violence in same-sex households are markedly lower than those in heterosexual families (Gartrell et al. 523).

These children display fewer behavioral problems and a higher level of emotional wellbeing than their friends and peers living in a heterosexual family (Gartrell et al. 523). The most important is the fact that children raised by gay or lesbian couples display a higher level of tolerance to diversity and difference (Gartrell et al. 523). As long as same-sex partners live in peace and mutual agreement, the family environment they create will benefit their children’s development and growth.

Gay marriage: Is it ideal?

Certainly, that same-sex partners create a better family environment for their children than heterosexual families does not mean that gay marriage is a preferred family arrangement. Rather, it means that there is nothing bad in having a child raised by two women or two men, as long as they do not impose their sexual preferences on children. Still, in light of the recent research findings, the life of children in a same-sex household is not without difficulties.

On the one hand, the effects of same-sex parenting on children may not translate into immediate results. That is, the real impacts of same-sex parenting on children may manifest during the difficult transition to adulthood, and Regnerus suggests that there are consistent differences between the adult children growing up with lesbian mothers and those, who grew up in a stable heterosexual relationship (752).

On the other hand, one should not forget that children raised in same-sex households, despite their tolerance to diversity and difference, still experience considerable problems in the relations with peers. Many children face homophobia and rejection even before they are 10 years old (Gartrell et al. 523).

Teachers in public schools are much less concerned about the conflicts growing out from sexism than other types of slurs (Gartrell et al. 522). Needless to say, children growing up with lesbian mothers or gay fathers may find it particularly difficult to build and sustain positive relationships with other children. Therefore, their socialization opportunities may be severely limited.

Still, one of the greatest problems is the way the social science is used and abused to prove this or that point in the same-sex marriage debate. The most problematic is the use of the social science capabilities to explore the welfare of children in same-sex households (Newman 539). Science often falls victim to the political battles and social manipulations of the data in gay marriage arguments. Science is often bound by the prejudice and bias that have dominated the developed society for centuries.

The task of the social science is to produce an objective picture of the phenomenon, instead of reinforcing popular misconceptions (Newman 544). Thus, one of the most difficult tasks confronting modern social scientists is to find a relevant explanation to the impacts of same-sex marriages on children’s welfare, by separating itself from the long-standing tradition of anti-gay bias (Newman 544).

At present, gay marriage opponents have nothing to support their anti-gay claims, and gay marriage looks safe and completely satisfying in terms of children’s emotional, cognitive, social, and physical development. As a result, same-sex partners do deserve the right to legitimize their relationships, to bring more stability and safety to their families.

Conclusion

Same-sex marriage remains one of the major sources of public controversies. As the number of children in same-sex couples continues to increase, the wellbeing of children becomes the main criterion of appropriateness and moral legitimacy of gay marriages.

However, children brought up by gay couples score equally or even higher on most psychosocial determinants, compared to their peers growing up in heterosexual families; as a result, gay couples deserve the legal right to legitimize their relationships to bring greater socioeconomic and cultural stability into their relationships.

At times, same-sex parents create better conditions for nurturing and raising their children than heterosexual single and married parents. Meanwhile, the risks of discrimination and abuse should not be disregarded. Despite these difficulties, same-sex partners deserve the right to get married and legitimize their relationships for the benefit of their children.

Works Cited

Cherlin, Andrew J. “American Marriage in the Early Twenty-First Century.” Future of Children, 15.2 (2005): 33-55. Print.

Gartrell, Nanette, Amalia Deck, Carla Rodas & Heidi Peyser. “The National Lesbian Family Study: 4 Interviews with the 4-Year-Old Children.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75.4 (2005): 518-24. Print.

King, Michael & Annie Bartlett. “What Same Sex Civil Partnerships May Mean for Health.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60 (2006): 188-91. Print.

Meezan, William and Jonathan Rauch. “Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America’s Children.” Future of Children, 15.2 (2005): 97-115. Print.

Newman, Steven. “The Use and Abuse of Social Science in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate.” New York Law School Law Review, 49 (2004): 537-59. Print.

Pawelski, James G. et al. “The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-Being of Children.” Pediatrics, 118 (2006): 349-64. Print.

Regnerus, Mark. “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same – Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.” Social Science Research, 41.4 (2012): 752-70. Print.

Tasker, Fiona. “Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children: A Review.” Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 26.3 (2005): 224-40. Print.

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