Kids have the same level and quality of social competence
CanWest News Service - Parenting by same-sex families is just as good -- if not slightly advantageous -- for children when compared to heterosexual families, a Justice Department study has concluded.
Commissioned by the then-Liberal federal government in 2003 at the height of the same-sex marriage debate, the academic study was not released until recently when its main author, Prof. Paul Hastings at Concordia University, obtained it by making a request using the Access to Information Act.
Hastings, with the assistance of research students, reached the study's conclusion after reviewing existing research relating to the impact on children of being raised in different family types.
The report says the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels and qualities of social competence.
"A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in 'traditional nuclear' families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences," says the $25,000, 74-page study.
The paper references about 100 studies on parenting.
The study found that most of the available research on gay parents is on lesbian mothers, which fits into other studies that conclude women generally spend more time with their children than men.
But the report says there is still too little research, especially about gay male parents, to reach any final conclusions.
Hastings said it is only speculation but he believes that the study was being held back from being published by the Justice Department once Stephen Harper's Conservative government came into power in 2006. The Conservatives upheld their election promise to review the issue of same-sex marriage when a government motion on the question of revisiting the definition of marriage was defeated in the House of Commons in December.
The psychology professor pointed out that a government-commissioned study which suggests that same-sex parents may even be advantageous to children would probably not be appreciated by the federal Tories.
Question period notes and media lines recently obtained by CanWest News Services, via an Access to Information request, reveal the department distancing itself from the research paper by stating it simply represents the opinions of the study's author "and not those of the department."
As well, in notes prepared for question period, it stresses that there has been "very little research in this area" but that "the Government of Canada has a duty to fully support all children and their families."
Hastings, who specializes in research review, disagrees, rejecting any suggestion that the study is biased on the question of parenting, or represents simply his opinion on the matter.
Prepared in anticipation of the study's release after Hastings' information request, the media lines also bring up a French Parliamentary Committee's report last year on Family and Children's Rights: "A portion of that report refers to the recommendation against legalizing same-sex marriage because of concerns about the impact on the Civil law system of tracing the lineage between parents and children, and in particular the ability for a child to know their origins."
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In fact, there have been numerous studies confirming the positive side of same-sex parenting. In an article by WebMD in 2005 reporting on a study by Ellen C. Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston:
- Some studies showed that single heterosexual parents' children have more difficulties than children who have parents of the same sex. They did better in discipline, self-esteem, and had less psychosocial difficulties at home and at school.
- Two other large studies involving more than 100 couples found that same-sex parents also had contact with extended family, had social support, and had a more equitable division of labor in the home.
- "Lesbian couples share household responsibilities and chores more equitably," Perrin says. "And, the children of lesbian couples are less aggressive, more nurturing to peers, more tolerant of diversity, and more inclined to play with both boy's and girl's toys.
- Children seem to adjust better when there is a more equal division of labor in the home and the parental relationship with the children had a higher rating, she says.
- The combined data presented by Perrin showed that children whose parents are lesbian have no more problems than the rest of the children and actually may be more tolerant of differences, she says. There was suggestive evidence that there were more stresses due to the gender of same-sex parents, but the children also reported greater well-being, more nurturing, and a greater tolerance for differences.