Children with gay parents 'happier' - research

COMMON SENSE: Lesbian mum and comedian Urzila Carlson says the most important thing any parent can give their child is love.
COMMON SENSE: Lesbian mum and comedian Urzila Carlson says the most important thing any parent can give their child is love.

Children with gay parents are happier and healthier than kids from the average family, new research shows.

The preliminary findings from the Australian study contradict stereotypes that a family without an obvious dad or mum would harm the children, said lead researcher Dr Simon Crouch.

He said there were a lot of strongly-held beliefs about what a family was, and if people saw  something missing then they thought there must be a problem.

‘‘Our research does not support this. There are a lot of same sex families where there isn’t a mother figure or there isn’t a father figure and we find that the children are doing really well,’’ he said.

Crouch, who is himself a gay man with four-year-old twin boys, ran the world’s largest study on homosexual families at the University of Melbourne.

The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families collected data on the physical, mental and social well being of 500 children aged 5 to 17, from 315 gay, lesbian and bisexual parents. 

Eighty per cent of the parents who completed the questionnaire on child health were women.

The interim results found that children from same sex couples showed no statistical difference to the rest of the population in physical and mental health, their interaction with others, and their relationship with their parents.

But children from same sex couples scored significantly higher than the national average on measures of general health and family cohesion. 

Local lesbian mum, comedian Urzila Carlson, says it is common sense - the most important element to a good family is love. 

She and partner Julie have just had their first child, and she believes as long as their daughter is raised in a family with love, the lack of a father figure didn’t matter.

‘‘Are you happy, healthy, warm, having breakfast before you go to school? Stuff like that should matter,’’ Carlson said.

Social perceptions on what made a family successful were always a slow to catch up to reality, she said.

‘‘If you look back in the 80s people were saying if those parents got divorced those kids are not going to be ok. As long as both parents love you, it doesn’t matter, you will turn out alright,’’ she said.

However, the study found that children of same-sex couples are likely to face discrimination because of their parents’ sexual orientation. The interim results do not analyse the effects of discrimination but will be part of the study’s greater findings. 

‘‘One of our hypotheses is that this experience of discrimination does have an impact on child health and well being,’’ Crouch said.

The study was prompted when Crouch found politicians on both sides of the debate on gay adoption and marriage believed the best way to raise a child is in a traditional family with a biological mother and a biological father.

During New Zealand’s parliamentary debate about the Marriage Amendment Act, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman voted against the bill because he believed an ideal family had a mother and a father.

‘‘There wasn’t a lot to support what they were saying and contrary to what they were saying there were issues that needed to be resolved,’’ Crouch said.

Sunday Star Times