The science is clear: Children raised by same-sex parents are at no disadvantage

They have just as good a shot at happiness as anyone.
They have just as good a shot at happiness as anyone.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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But what about the children?

The debate over gay marriage—addressed this week by the US Supreme Court but by no means settled—frequently turns to concerns about the emotional well-being of children raised by same-sex parents. But science tells us the fears are overblown.

In January, researchers from the Columbia Law School examined 76 studies published after 1985 and found that only four of them concluded that children raised by gay couples faced additional adversity as a result of having same-sex parents. To be considered, each of the studies had to meet established guidelines that accounted for credibility and relevance.

More recently, researchers from the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Oregon used the tool Web of Science to examine the ways in which scientific papers analyzed children of same-sex parents over time, and how each paper cited others to back its analysis. They found that over time, more and more papers cited other research that highlighted that there’s “no differences” in the outcomes for children based solely on whether they were raised by same-sex, heterosexual, or single parents.

“I found overwhelming evidence that scientists agree that there is not a negative impact to children of same-sex couples,” says Jimi Adams, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Denver and co-author of the paper.

Not all of the research on the topic shares this conclusion. In January, Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and sociology professor at Catholic University, published a paper (paywall) that found that children raised by same-sex parents were twice as likely to have emotional problems versus those raised by heterosexual parents. Though critics accused him of failing to draw distinctions between children from stable, same-sex-parent households and those from households where the parents had divorced or separated, conservatives took the paper as another opportunity to discredit the arguments for legalizing same-sex marriage.

In the end, the US Supreme Court came down on the same side as a majority of the recent science. From the court’s landmark ruling issued on June 26:

A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education. … Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser.

It’s also worth noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics supports all different kinds of parents that provide children with a stable home.