Does Being Gay Affect Parenting?

Does Being Gay Affect Parenting?

Over the last several years, as state courts, and in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court hear cases on whether same-sex marriage is a legal right, a common argument made by those who oppose same-sex marriage has been that a "traditional" family setting is best for children, and that same-sex parents pose risks to children's development and well-being by denying them either a mother or a father in the home. This argument trades on stereotypical gender roles and norms, and on the misguided notion that a "nuclear family" composed of a mother, father, and children living in the same household has ever been the norm. (For research on the reality of family structure, see The Way We Really Are by Stephanie Coontz.)

Social scientists have actually been investigating this claim for several years now, and what they found, overwhelmingly, is that there is no difference in child development, well-being, or outcomes among those raised by same-sex versus different-sex parents. In fact, the American Sociological Association submitted a report summarizing all of this research in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in March, 2015, in support of legalizing same-sex marriage. In the report, members of the ASA wrote,

The clear and consistent social science consensus is that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents. Decades of methodologically sound social science research, including multiple nationally representative studies and expert evidence introduced in courts around the country, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and the child, and sufficient parental socioeconomic resources. The wellbeing of children does not depend on the sex or sexual orientation of their parents.

However, a study published in Demography in April, 2015 has found that children of same-sex couples actually have a very important advantage over those of different-sex couples: they get more quality face time with their parents. The study, conducted by sociologists Kate Prickett and Robert Crosnoe, and developmental psychologist Alexa Martin-Story, analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey to measure how much time parents spend on child-focused activities daily. (They defined child-focused as that spent actively engaged with children in support of their physical and cognitive development, including reading to and playing with children, and helping them with homework, for example.)

When they looked at how this data shook out for same-sex versus different-sex parents, they found that on average, women and men in same-sex couples, and women in different-sex couples, spent 100 minutes per day on child-focused activities. However, men in different-sex relationships spent on average just 50 minutes per day doing the same. This means that children with same-sex parents get an average of 3.5 combined focused daily hours of parenting, while those with different-sex parents get just 2.5. (See here for another startling finding pertaining to gender from the American Time Use Survey data.)

The authors of the study point out that studies overwhelmingly show that poverty is the greatest threat to the development and well-being of America's children, so those concerned about this issue should focus their energy on equalizing the great wealth and income divides that unjustly punish our youngest citizens.

Further, the study shines light on the negative influence that traditional gender roles and norms can have on families and society at large, for it's hard to imagine what else would cause straight men to spend less quality time with their kids than do gay men.