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AUSTRALIA – Children of same-sex attracted parents have above average health and wellbeing, according to University of Melbourne research published in the journal BMC Public Health.
The study did warn that stigma was an ongoing challenge for these children and could have an impact on their health and wellbeing. The research is based on data from the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS), largest of its kind in the world, which took input from 500 children from 315 same-sex parents. Of those families 80 percent had female parents while 18 percent had male parents.
The research expands upon and confirms earlier findings from the same data set which revealed that children in same-sex parent families were six percent more likely than children with heterosexual parents to have increased general health and family cohesion.
Dr. Simon Crouch, the lead researcher from Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne said the findings suggested Australian children from LGBT families were developing well.
“These children are growing up in a range of family contexts formed in a range of ways; from previous heterosexual relationships, to assisted reproductive technologies and same sex co-parenting arrangements,” Crouch said.
On measures such as temperament, mood, behavior, mental health, emotional role and self-esteem the children from same-sex couples were equivalent to those from the general population. However, in the areas of general health and family cohesion, the youths from same-sex couples were doing better than those from straight parents.
“We know that same-sex attracted parents are more likely to share child care and work responsibilities more equitably than heterosexual parent families, based more on skills rather than gender roles. This appears to be contributing to a more harmonious household and having a positive impact on child health,” Crouch said.
This is particularly relevant not only in an Australian political context but for LGBT politics all over the world.
“This study shows that children can thrive in a range of family contexts and the ways that these families are constructed can bring their own particular benefits to child health and wellbeing,” he said.
But the stigma that these kids deal with because of their parents’ sexuality has lasting effects. Two thirds of children with same-sex attracted parents experience some sort of stigma, which impacts their mental and emotional wellbeing. The harassment can be subtle like letters being sent to the home, but also overt such as bullying and abuse in school.
But any amount of harassment for sexual identification is too much; for parents but especially for kids.
“What we have found is that the more stigma these families experience the greater the impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of children,” Crouch said.
However, Crouch did say that through improved awareness of stigma, these findings could play an important role in developing health policies that improve child health outcome.
To further understand these results, new studies will work to report on child perspectives of health and, with the help of interviews with LGBT families, explore the issues of stigma and discrimination in greater detail.