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April 2017
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SAME SEX PARENTING: THE STRUCTURE OF A ‘NEW’ FAMILY

SAME SEX PARENTING

Introduction
The term ‘same sex parenting’ was created to describe all family situations in which at least one of the parents of a child in a family unit is homosexual.

Psychological, sociological and legal aspects
Numerous studies have been carried out that show that same sex parenting does not harm the healthy development of a child. Even though homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1974 and it is now considered to be a natural expression of feeling erotic and sexual attraction to a member of the same sex, homosexual individuals still sometimes feel hindered, rejected and all too often humiliated.
Same sex parenting must be considered from more than one point of view: it must not be considered only from a maternity/paternity point of view because the maternal and paternal responsibility is equally as important since some homosexuals may already have children from previous heterosexual relationships. There are many European countries that approve and recognise same sex parenting, marriages and unions (such as France, Spain, Belgium, Germany and England), thus it would be a good idea at this point to try to describe some of the important characteristics of this social, cultural and human phenomenon.
In an ever-evolving society, it is useful to remember that the family unit, just like everything else, must be observed and readapted since it is the ultimate expression of education and the representation of the growth of single components. As a sort of teaching institute, the family unit must adapt its methods and internal features just like any other institute so as to allow for the health and growth of the children regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation and the different composition of the family unit.
What is more, today it is very easy to see multiple families within which certain aspects, that have always been considered fundamental, are under discussion since they are no longer considered absolutely necessary. For example, by taking a child into consideration, and referring to the aspects of the a ‘contemporary’ family, we can see that these aspects fall into one of two categories: bi-parenting or multi-parenting.
Bi-parenting is a family in which there are two adults (married/unmarried, homosexual/heterosexual) who bring up a child. The notion of ‘the couple’ is the heart of this structure. Multi-parenting families, on the other hand, are characterised by more than two people bring up children and the centre of this unit is shared by the biological and step parents.
All prejudices and false beliefs about same sex parenting, which can often been seen when the topic of sexuality comes up, must be erased because they fuel and instigate ignorance and, in this case, homophobia.
Before providing a description about same sex parenting, it would be useful to remember which stereotypes still exist today when we refer to a homosexual couple and their children.
The most common stereotype is definitely that a homosexual couple has not considered the fact that a child needs both a mother and father and they cannot provide these conditions. Then there are other prejudices which consider homosexuality to be a disease and with these come assumptions about how homosexuals are not capable of bringing up children, lesbians are less maternal than heterosexual women and that gay men are paedophiles. Last, but certainly not least, are thoughts about how male homosexual relationships are less stable than heterosexual relationships therefore they cannot offer continuity, or the overwhelming idea that homosexuals’ children have more psychological problems than heterosexuals’ children and that homosexuals’ children are more likely to become homosexual too. However, as mentioned, science disconfirms these ideas.

Same sex parenting
Breaking these patterns and defeating these stereotypes means trying to understand the possible misconceptions that lie behind the biological and social concepts of being male and female. Even though the first level of maternity and paternity is obviously biological, we must be careful not consider this purely as society tells us too, that is, that a family is made up of only two people, one male and one female. Furthermore, we must also remember that science has made massive progress as far as procreation techniques are concerned, as we can see from the following example taken from the journal New Scientist: some years a group of British scientists announced that they could turn women’s bone marrow into sperm and therefore the male role in reproduction could be excluded. This shows us how even elements which appear to be indisputable can, over time, vary, thus certain presumed, social and cultural dogmas can also be considered from a different point of view (such as homosexual parenting) and this helps to defeat and/or transform stereotypes.
Lesbian same sex parenting is probably more accepted in society that gay same sex parenting. Usually, lesbian same sex parenting units are made up of two women, one of whom previously had children in a heterosexual relationship (usually a marriage). However, there are also homosexual women who get pregnant in or out of a homosexual relationship and they do this by undergoing various methods to realise their dreams of motherhood.
As far as gay same sex parenting is concerned, the situation is a bit more complicated. In some situations, the males’ child(ren) may have come from a previous heterosexual relationship, however having a right to see/have custody of their child(ren) depends on the laws of the country. If a gay man has not got children from a heterosexual relationship, then everything becomes a lot more complex as far as becoming a father is concerned because the pregnancy must involve a woman and this factor must be dealt with outside of the homosexual relationship. In many countries, gay couples can adopt children or foster children who have problems within their families, which is an interesting alternative that can be controversial if same sex parenting is not socially accepted.
However, same sex parenting does bring problems with it and they do not only concern injustices and social problems for the parents, because the children who are born into, grow up in and live in same sex parenting families also risk having to deal with the consequences.

A look at the children
In their 2001 publication, Stacey and Biblarz said that close attention should be paid to the social obstacles that same sex parenting couples face and that it is important that researchers closely evaluate studies about same sex parenting. In 2005, two other figures, Bottina and Danna, said that, as well as approving the strong points of a same sex parenting couple, vulnerability factors and factors regarding not giving parents, what Bottina and Danna refer to as ‘marks’ (hierarchical model) should also be welcomed, and the relationship dynamics should be considered using an approach that genuinely evaluates and keeps the ‘plurality’ of different family situations in mind.
Data from the most important international studies on same sex parenting, carried out by Danna & Booty, highlights important and significant findings. The two authors divided the research into two periods: a) that from 1981-1988; b) that from 1999-2004. No ‘worrying’ results were reported from either of these categories regarding the children’s psycho-physical well-being and cognitive functions. What is more, the score for parenting style and level of investment in same sex parenting families was equal to that of heterosexual parents, and the quality of relationships did not appear to be affected by the homosexual orientation, but rather by the parent’s gender. However, what must not be underestimated is the fact that children who grow up in same sex parent families face more social stigmatisation. This concerns homophobia, and homophobic discrimination and behaviour are the only acceptable reasons why having same sex parents could have a negative influence on a child.
In support of these findings, further research showed that, even for the children themselves, it is not the sexual preference itself that can cause a problem, rather it is the attitude towards this preference found in social and cultural contexts that can be a problem. The children said they do not have a problem with their parents’ sexual orientation, rather they have problems with the difficulties they face as a result of their parents divorcing and integrating their parents’ new partners into their lives, which is exactly what happens when heterosexual parents split up. 
Thus, the most accredited knowledge and scientific proof shows us that there is no difference between heterosexual and same sex parenting and, above all, it makes no difference to the development and growth of the children in these new types of families.

Conclusion
All social, cultural and individual changes need time in order to be ‘digested’ and truly understood. Same sex parenting appears to be going through a tiring process though but it is constantly sustained by scientific contributions and especially by those directly involved, even though they come across many problems along the way.
To finish, here is an extract from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) from an essay by Lingiardi (2007):

The basis on which all decisions regarding the custody of children and the rights of parent should be made is the best interest for child. There is no proof supporting the hypothesis that bisexual or homosexual parents are different or any less able to be parents or understand childhood problems or develop parent-child attachments compared to heterosexual parents.
It has been established for quite some time that homosexuality is not related to any disease whatsoever and there is no basis on which to assume that having homosexual parents makes a child any more likely to become homosexual. Studies on the educational outcome of children who have grown up with same sex parents compared to children who grew up with heterosexual parents showed no major degree of instability as far as the parent-child relationship and development disorders in the children are concerned.

SAME SEX PARENTING

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