Mar 18, 2011

Lesbian and Gay Parenting

         The APA Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns Office has worked since 1975 to eliminate the stigma of mental illness which has been mistakenly associated with same-sex sexual orientation and to reduce prejudice, discrimination, and violence against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Major functions of the office include support to APA's Committee on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns; liaison with the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues (APA Division 44) and with other APA groups that have an interest in lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns; policy analysis, development, and advocacy for APA policy; technical assistance, information, and referral to APA members, other professionals, policymakers, the media, and the public; and development and dissemination of publications and other information on lesbian, gay and bisexual concerns in psychology.

The Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns Office is housed within the Public Interest Directorate, which works to advance psychology as a means of promoting human welfare. Other programs within the Public Interest Directorate work on issues related to AIDS; adolescent health; aging; children, youth and families; disability; ethnic minorities; urban issues; violence; women; and workplace health.

Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Summary of Research Findings 

Like families headed by heterosexual parents, lesbian and gay parents and their children area diverse group.  Unlike heterosexual parents and  their children, however, lesbian and gay parents and their children are often subject to prejudice because of their sexual orientation that can turn judges, legislators, professionals, and the public against them,sometimes resulting in negative outcomes, such as loss of physical custody, restrictions on visitation, and prohibitions against adoption.  
Negative attitudes about lesbian and gay parenting may be held in the population at large .As with beliefs about other socially stigmatized groups, the beliefs held generally in society about lesbians and gay men are often not based in personal experience, but are frequently culturally transmitted . The purpose of this summary of research findings on lesbian and gay parents and their children is to evaluate widespread beliefs in the light of empirical data and in this way ameliorate negative effects of unwarranted prejudice.
Because many beliefs about lesbian and gay parents and their children are open to empirical testing, psychological research can evaluate their accuracy.

Systematic research comparing lesbian and gay adults to heterosexual adults began in the late 1950s,
and research comparing children of lesbian and gay parents with those of heterosexual parents is of a
more recent vintage. Research on lesbian and gay adults began with Evelyn Hooker's landmark study
(1957), resulted in the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Case reports on children of lesbian and gay parents began to appear in the psychiatric literature in the early
1970s  and have continued to appear  . Starting with the pioneering work of Martin and Lyon (1972), first person and fictionalized descriptions of life in lesbian mother families and gay father families  have also become available. Systematic research on the children of lesbian and gay parents began to appear in major professional journals in the late 1970s and has grown into a considerable body of research only in recent years. As this summary will show, the results of existing  research comparing lesbian and gay parents to heterosexual parents and children of lesbian and gay parents to children of heterosexual parents are quite clear: Common stereotypes are not supported by the data. Without denying the clarity of results to date, it is important also for psychologists and other professionals to be aware that research in this area has presented a variety of methodological challenges. As is true in any area of research, questions have been raised with regard to sampling issues, statistical power, and other technical matters. Some areas of research, such as gender development, and some periods of life, such as adolescence, have been described by reviewers as understudied and deserving of greater attention . In what follows, efforts will be made to highlight the extent to which the research literature has responded to such criticisms.

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