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Eric Johnson PSY 304 The Psychological Impact of Adoption by Homosexual Couples

If you dont like gay marriage, blame straight people. Theyre the ones who keep having gay babies.

On July 24, 2011 New York will join five other states and the District of Columbia in the legal recognition of gay marriage. These U.S. jurisdictions along with ten foreign countries represent the vast minority of political entities capable of approving such unions. Indeed the U.S. alone has twenty-nine states with constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage and an additional twelve states have laws with similar prohibitions. Whether homosexual marriage is addressed through serious debate or through billboard quips like that above, such a divisive issue has infiltrated various factions of modern American society and has become a hot-button issue dividing political parties, religious institutions and communities. The implications of approving homosexual marriage are moral, economic and social. As a social implication, the approval of homosexual marriage is related to the normalization of homosexual child rearing. As gay couples do not reproduce, the option for those who desire children is to adopt. To some, the psychological

implications of being raised by a homosexual couple are detrimental while to others the parents sexual orientation has no psychological effects on the child at all. The following represents my comparison of these perspectives and synthesis of unbiased research supporting this second position; namely, that children experience no negative psychological effects when raised by a gay or lesbian couple. In a recent Senate debate regarding the repeal of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Senator Al Franken confronted a representative from the evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family, Tom Minnery. In citing a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from December 2010, Mr. Minnery wrote Children living [] with their own biological and/or adoptive mothers and fathers are generally healthier and happier, have better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild to severe emotional problems, do better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared to children in any other family form. Such bold claims are based on Mr. Minnerys gross misrepresentation of the studys findings and blatant disregard for appropriately defined terminology. As Sen. Franken reveals, the study attributes these positive outcomes to children living in nuclear families, which it defines as one or more children living with two parents who are married to each other and who are the biological or adoptive

parents of all the children in the family. No reference is made to the sexual orientation of the parents (Grenoble, 7/21/2011). While studies like this can be easily manipulated to appeal to certain ideologies, the fact remains that this report represents one of many research-based publications eschewing any negative consequences of homosexuality on ones self or children. Indeed the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are among the more prominent institutions having issued statements denouncing intrinsic negative effects of a homosexual orientation. When considering the effects of adoption by gay couples, several specific questions merit consideration: Does adoption by a homosexual couple impede a childs ability to form normative social relationships? Are there negative effects experienced in a childs emotional and personal development as a result of gay adoption? What is known about a childs own formation of gender identity when raised by gay or lesbian parents? In a comparison of children of heterosexual and homosexual couples, self-report research indicates that children with gay parents develop normal social interaction with their family members, peers and adults outside the nuclear family and that this observation is corroborated by outside observers (Patterson, 2009; Tasker & Golombok, 1997). When surveying a host of personality

issues, including self-identity, moral judgment, self-esteem and intelligence, no significant differences exist between children of straight and gay couples (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). When considering emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, victimization and substance abuse, there is a similar lack of correlation involving the parents sexual orientation. Perhaps most surprising is the data regarding childrens sexual self-identity and understanding of normative gender roles. Use of a parental survey designed to indicate a childs preference for gendered toys and games found no differences in the understanding and application of gender roles of children adopted by gay couples and those of heterosexual couples (Patterson, Farr and Forssell, 2009). Comparison of studies regarding the sexual identities of children of lesbian and gay couples, respectively, found that the vast majority of these children identify as heterosexual (Tasker & Golombok, 1997; Bailey et al., 1995). In these crucial areas of development no observable differences are noted in children raised within a nuclear family, whether with heterosexual or homosexual parents. Such data support the claims by the Department of Health and Human Services that it is not the sexual orientation of the parents that matter, but rather their willingness to support and encourage their children and raise them in a loving environment.

Claims contrary to this evidence are often rooted in deeply entrenched religious ideology and can be made evident through inflammatory and discriminatory propaganda. When ones religious convictions form a part of the equation in developing opinions on controversial issues, it is often the scientifically derived research that is ignored. This is evidenced in the refutation of the Big Bang Theory and evolution by natural selection, and is also observable in the treatment of issues regarding homosexuality. Even claims not influenced by religious affiliation fail to appropriately integrate research like that referenced earlier. In his conservative blog The American Spectator, author David Hogberg says, There is the very real possibility that children [adopted by gay couples] will develop emotional problems, sexual-identity confusion, and depression. Again, this is not because gays and lesbians are naturally bad parents. It is due to the fact that children are unlikely to adjust as well to being raised by same-sex couples as opposed to heterosexual ones. He continues by referencing Robert Lerner who claims that studies like those cited earlier are riddled with flaws including lack of controls and insufficient and unrepresentative samples (Lerner). He also compares the effects of gay adoption to those of divorced families and cites Barbara Dafoe Whiteheads book The Divorce Culture. Ms. Whitehead claims that as America liberalized its divorce laws in the

1960s the resulting rise in divorce had traumatic effects on childrens ability to form attachments, resulted in economic insecurity, and increased behavioral and learning disabilities. While these statistics may be true, the claim the Mr. Hogberg makes is that a fundamental restructuring of the family such as gay adoption will have as dramatic negative effects as divorce. In his own words, Given what we know about the results of one major change in family structure, our society should be, at the very least, reluctant to tolerate another one (Hogberg, 7/2/2003). One can deduce from his words that preference should be given to an unstable heterosexual couple raising children over a loving and supportive homosexual couple raising adopted children. Whether being made by religiously passionate or logically unsound individuals, the fact remains that opponents to homosexual adoption fall short in providing empirical support for their claims. Unfortunately for those who would wish to see legislation that prohibits gay adoption overturned, the evidence acquired by such vocal opponents is often sufficient to influence the voting power of their listeners and readers. There have been, however, attempts by researchers to provide legitimate data claiming negative psychological effects of homosexuality, including gay adoption. Most famously Paul Cameron, who interestingly has ties to Focus on Family, has attempted to legitimize his claims that are openly derived from personal

convictions. His analysis of demographic information and use of interview research resulted in comprehensive data regarding the sexual practices, health tendencies, and psychological conditions of around 4300 people in 1983 (ISIS). These data, along with other correlational research regarding homosexuality, child abuse and violent crime are often cited by opponents of issues involving homosexuality, including marriage, adoption, and anti-discrimination legislation. What often goes unnoticed, however, are the various flaws present in his methodology. Psychologist Dr. Gregory Herek is a prominent opponent to Camerons findings and lists the following among his perceived faults: a mischaracterized sample from only seven cities cannot be used to derive national trend data, use of biased interview procedures, and Camerons publicized bias of his research goals prior to completion of all interviews. With the information derived from his arguably tainted study, Dr. Cameron proceeded to found the Family Research Institute which to this day conducts studies with the express goal of "restoring a world where marriage is upheld and honored, where children are nurtured and protected, and where homosexuality is not taught and accepted, but instead is discouraged and rejected at every level. With such clearly stated goals, it is difficult to trust the unbiased nature of claims promoted by an organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It thus seems that even when

attempts have been made to prove the psychological detriment caused by gay adoptions, such research is corrupt before it has even commenced. The issue of homosexuality is highly fragmented in its aspects and implications. For some, deep-seated religious convictions prevent or discourage the individual from considering homosexual activity (including child rearing) as an acceptable alternative to heterosexuality. For others, seemingly logical conclusions drawn by comparing other social phenomena like divorce with homosexual adoption have influenced their conclusions. Whatever the stance,

both of these positions fail to look past the limitations of their ideology or logic in an attempt to find broad applications for the entire population. Such applications have indeed been provided by psychologists engaging in thoughtful and unbiased research that is peer-reviewed and published for society at large, a claim that cannot be made for Paul Camerons studies. Whether gay or straight, the fact is that your ability to raise a child is not drawn from who you are attracted to, but rather from your ability and sensitivity in interacting with your baby. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times writes, gay marriage and adoption rights seek to cast gay men and lesbians in the most benign, conservative light imaginable, not as enemies of tradition but as aspirants to it (Bruni, 6/25/2011). As the issues involving homosexuality continue to receive

media and legislative attention in this country, it is my hope that homosexuals like Mr. Bruni and myself will one day avoid the discrimination experienced in various facets of our lives, including our desire to adopt and raise children.

Works Cited

Bailey, J. M., Bobrow, D., Wolfe, M., & Mikach, S. (1995). Sexual orientation of adult sons of gay fathers. Developmental Psychology, 31, 124129. Bruni, F. (2011, June 25). To Know Us Is to Let Us Love. In The New York Times Sunday Review. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from _r=2&ref=samesexmarriage Grenoble, R. (2011, July 21). Sen. Al Franken Grills Focus On The Family's Tom Minnery Over Questionable DOMA Research. In Huffington Post. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from Herek, G. (2007, September 6). The Cameron Group's Survey Studies: A Methodological Critique. In Beyond Homophobia. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from #Error6/ Hogberg, D. (2003, July 2). No To Gay Adoption. In The American Spectator. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from Lerner, R., & Nagai, A. K. (2001). No Basis: What the Studies Don't

Tell Us About Same Sex Parenting. Patterson, C. J. (2009, November). Children of lesbian and gay parents: Psychology, law, and policy. American Psychologist, 64, 727736. Patterson, C. J., Farr, R. H., & Forssell, S. L. (2009, April). Sexual orientation, parenting, and child development in adoptive families. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, Colorado. Stacey, J., & Biblarz, T. J. (2001). (How) Does sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 65, 159183. Tasker, F. L., & Golombok, S. (1997). Growing up in a lesbian family: Effects on child development. New York: Guilford Press.