Parents & Children

One goal of our research is to provide information and education about how donor-assisted families fare over time. We anticipate this information will be helpful to intended parents, existent families, gamete donors, mental health and medical providers and to society at large.

Two common questions we hear are:

  • How are the children doing?

  • How do the children do when they are raised by lesbian moms?

To answer this, we teamed up with Drs. Charlotte Patterson and Raymond Chan and their colleagues at the University of Virginia. Dr. Patterson is known for her ground-breaking work on the development of children in lesbian and gay families.

The answer is that the children are doing very well and are well-adjusted. Families created through donor insemination at TSBC fared well and the children were developing normally. Parental relationship status and sexual orientation did not predict anything; what did were family dynamics. For more details, see below.

The Study

  • Compared levels of mental health and well-being among lesbian mothers and their children with a matched group of heterosexual parents.
  • 80 TSBC families participated: 34 families headed by lesbian couples, 16 by heterosexual couples, 21 by single lesbian mothers and 9 by single heterosexual mothers.
  • Information about child adjustment was obtained from the parents and (separately) the children's teachers.
  • All children were at least 5 years old at the beginning of the study; the average age was 7.

The Findings

Family dynamics predicted child well-being.

  • Child adjustment was similarly good across all family types.
    • We found no differences in child adjustment related to parental sexual orientation or whether the child had one or two parents.
  • Child adjustment was related to parental satisfaction with their own relationship and with the division of household labor.
  • For parents, no differences emerged on self-esteem, depression or parenting stress as a function of parental sexual orientation or whether one was parenting singly or with a partner.

The Conclusions

Healthy children were as likely to be in one-parent homes as in those with two parents. In addition, parental sexual orientation did not matter to the well-being of the child. Instead, what mattered were the family dynamics, such as parental relationship satisfaction and interpersonal conflict. These results add to other research findings that children conceived via donor insemination develop in normal ways. In fact, in comparison to national norms, the children were well above-average in their adjustment.

Support

The Lesbian Health Fund of the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association supported this research. We thank all the families who took the time to participate in this study and share their experiences with us.
 

References

  • Fulcher, M., Sutfin, E.L., Chan, R.W., Scheib, J.E. & Patterson, C.J. (2006). Lesbian mothers and their children: Findings from the Contemporary Families Study. In A. Omoto & H. Kurtzman (Eds.) Sexual Orientation and Mental Health: Examining Identity and Development in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual People (pp. 281-299). Washington, DC: APA.
  • Fulcher, M., Chan, R.W., Raboy, B. & Patterson, C.J. (2002). Contact with grandparents among children conceived through donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Parenting: Science and Practice, 2, 61-76.
  • Chan, R.W., Raboy, B. & Patterson, C.J. (1998). Psychosocial adjustment among children conceived via donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Child Development, 69, 443-457. 
  • Chan, R.W., Brooks, R.C., Raboy, B. & Patterson, C.J. (1998). Division of labor among lesbian and heterosexual parents: Associations with children's adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 12, 402-419.