The start of summer 2015 will go down in history as a good time for children. And for their parents. And for people like me who have worked long and hard to see that all children have ready access to medical care, a stable family to grow up in, and healthy air and water.
In June, Pope Francis urged that attention be paid to what the human race is doing to our planet, noting that children, especially poor children, will be the innocent victims of unhealthy air, polluted water and natural disasters.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act kept children and parents from losing health-care benefits. And the court upheld gay marriage so that all gay people can create a family recognized in all states.
A stable family consisting of two parents is the best way to ensure children get nurturing and loving care until they reach adulthood.
Some gay and some straight marriages will end in divorce, but the ideal is a two-parent family.
The child has two parents to share the tasks of parenting and bring resources into the home. There are two different people with different strengths and talents to learn from. And there is insurance against orphanhood.
This is not a put-down of single parenthood. I am truly in awe of those single parents (they used to be mostly mothers, but there are increasing numbers of devoted single fathers) who do it alone (see parentkidsright.com/single_mothers). But it is a monumental task, especially for single families who live in poverty.
There has been lots of buzz over the years about whether being raised by gay parents is harmful to children. At one time, homosexuality was feared to be “catching,” and parents were advised to keep children away from them. We have gone beyond such primitive and erroneous thinking … homosexuality is not taught any more than heterosexuality is. Both come naturally.
I just googled “effects of gay parenting on children,” and got nearly 7 million search results. I scanned the first few dozen entries, finding a consensus among social scientists concerning the effects on children of living in same-sex households.
When compared with children in different-parent households on measures of well-being, there was no difference in school performance, social or cognitive development, psychological health, early sexual activity or substance abuse.
Another study in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies noted, “Gay and Lesbian adoptive families in this sample fell into the desirable range of the parenting scale and their children have strength levels equal to or exceeding the scale norms.” An Australian study of 500 children living in same-sex parent homes (BMC Public Health) found these children to be both healthier and living in a “stronger family unit.”
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Health, while acknowledging that children in same-sex families are as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents, notes there are some special challenges related to discrimination their family may encounter or to the taunts of other children.
What does affect child well-being all over the world? You guessed it: family stability and socioeconomic status. One study in Pediatrics out of Tufts University noted the stress in gay or lesbian couples caused by not being allowed to marry could affect the well-being of the entire family.
Some studies I found question the above studies, which is not a surprise given that opposition to same-sex families is the reason the Supreme Court had to resolve the issue. These articles seemed less scientific and more affected or biased by religious, political or geographic factors.
However, the studies of the last three decades, my own experience with children of same-sex families and friendship with several grandparents of such children leave me exceedingly unworried.
One grandmother said, “I have one gay and one straight child. They each have two children. Both marriages are stable, all four kids are doing beautifully. What’s all the fuss about?”