Families with parents from ‘sexual minorities’ fare as well as traditional families, study finds

Sexual orientation of parents not important determinant of children’s development, researchers say

Families with parents from “sexual minorities” fare as well as, or better than, traditional families with parents of the opposite sex, according to new research

The sexual orientation of parents is not an important determinant of children’s development, the study published in BMJ Global Health suggests.

Sexual minority families covers children brought up by parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or have a gender identity “considered outside cultural, societal or physiological norms”, according to the Chinese authors of the study.

It reviewed 34 studies carried out since 1989 in countries where same-sex relationships are legally recognised and based its findings on 16 of them.


The studies were categorised into 11 main themes: children’s psychological adjustment; physical health; gender role behaviour; gender identity/sexual orientation; educational attainment; parents’ mental health; parenting stress; parent–child relationships; couple relationship satisfaction; family functioning; and social support.

The analysis showed most family outcomes were similar between the two family types. In some areas, such as child psychological adjustment – for pre-schoolers, in particular – and child-parent relationships, outcomes were better in sexual minority families.

“Growing up with sexual minority parents may confer some advantages to children. They have been described as more tolerant of diversity and more nurturing towards younger children than children of heterosexual parents,” say the researchers.

The analysis indicated sexual minority parents didn’t outperform different parental sex families on couple relationship satisfaction, mental health, parenting stress or family functioning.

Risk factors for poor family outcomes for sexual minority families included experiencing stigma and discrimination, inadequate social support and cohabiting rather than married parents.

“Legal marriage confers a host of protections and advantages to the couples who marry and to their children,” note the researchers.

The results showed children who lived in sexual minority parent families were less likely to expect to identify as straight when they grew up than other children.

The researchers acknowledge limitations to their findings, including that the included studies were limited to regions where same-sex relationships were legalised, and where the social climate for these families was generally favourable.

Most of the study participants were also from gay and lesbian households and it wasn’t possible to account for potentially influential demographic factors.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.