Same-sex parented families in Australia
Deborah Dempsey

This research paper reviews and synthesises Australian and international literature on same-sex parented families. It includes discussion of the different modes of conception or family formation, different family structures, and the small number of studies on bisexual and transgender parents. Particular attention is paid to research on the emotional, social and educational outcomes for children raised by lesbian and gay parents, and the methodological strengths and weaknesses of this body of work.

Full publication

Key messages

  • About 11% of Australian gay men and 33% of lesbians have children. Children may have been conceived in the context of previous heterosexual relationships, or raised from birth by a co-parenting gay or lesbian couple or single parent.
  • Overall, research to date considerably challenges the point of view that same-sex parented families are harmful to children. Children in such families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual couple families.
  • Some researchers have concluded there are benefits for children raised by lesbian couples in that they experience higher quality parenting, sons display greater gender flexibility, and sons and daughters display more open-mindedness towards sexual, gender and family diversity.
  • The possible effect of important socio-economic family factors, such as income and parental education, were not always considered in the studies reviewed in this paper.
  • Although many Australian lesbian-parented families appear to be receiving good support from their health care providers, there is evidence that more could be done to develop policies and practices supportive of same-sex parented families in the Australian health, education, child protection and foster care systems.
  • Additional key messages, relating to specific family structures and psychosocial outcomes for children raised by lesbian and gay parents, are included throughout the paper.

Author

Dr Deborah Dempsey is Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology.

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks to Judy Cashmore, Abbie Goldberg, Jennifer Power, Damien Riggs and Nicola Surtees who generously gave their time to read drafts of this report and provide helpful suggestions about structure, content and additional references. The author would also like to thank Rhys Price-Robertson, Elly Robinson and Daryl Higgins for their encouragement, support and feedback.

Publishing details

CFCA Paper No. 18
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2013, 26 pp. ISSN 2200-4106 ISBN978-1-922038-30-2

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