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Will The Sexual Orientation Of Parents Affect Childhood Development?

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Rachel H. Farr conducted a longitudinal study during the early 2000’s to see whether parental sexual orientation effected childhood development in early to middle childhood of children that were adopted (Farr, 2017).

The participants for the study were recruited from five private adoption agencies from across the continental United States, where adoption by same-sex couples was legal (Farr, 2017). The researchers conducted the study over two time periods 2007-2009 and 2013-2014 with a gap of five years in between the first and second parts of the study. The participants that were involved in the study did so on a voluntary unpaid basis. The participants were from a cross section of society comprising of married couples from different sexual orientation, ages and different races as well as the children from both sexes and different racial backgrounds, however the one thing that all the children had in common was that none of them were biologically related to their respective parents (Farr, 2017). For the first part of the experiment children form age one to age five were used, for the second part children from age eight to age ten were used. The researchers conducted the experiment by asking teachers and parents to answer questionnaires regarding the children’s behavioral adjustment as well as development additionally the researchers asked the parents to answer questions about parenting stress, couple relationship adjustment and family functioning as it related to their marital relationship and its possible effect on their children’s development (Farr, 2017). The researchers used three different methods to interpret the data gathered from the two parts of the study, namely Hierarchical linear modeling, SPSS Amos 23 and Actor-Partner Independence Model (Farr, 2017).

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As the debate still continues about which family structures are best for positive childhood development, the researchers found that all the children involved in the study exhibited an increase in behavioral problems as they progressed from preschool age to middle school age and developed equally irrespective of their adoptive parents’ sexual orientation (Farr, 2017).The researchers observed that school-age children from families with same sex parents were more likely to experience discrimination from their peers (Farr, 2017). The researchers also found that with the increase of age and behavioral problems in the children, parents of all sexual orientations had an increase in parenting stress (Farr, 2017).The researchers concluded from the results of the questionnaires that child sex was strongly related to behavioral problems, with boys exhibiting more behavioral problems than girls (Farr, 2017). The researchers noted that families with boys reported worse family functioning than families with girls (Farr, 2017). The researchers also found that as time progressed children’s behavioral problems did not change based on their parents’ sexual orientation (Farr, 2017). The researchers reported that although parenting stress increased with a child’s age and more frequently occurring behavioral problems during middle childhood, parents described their married relationships as being happier and more stable as during this time period opposed to the time period directly after adoption of infants (Farr, 2017). In conclusion, Farr reports (as cited in Lamb, 2012) the researchers found that, adoptive families with parents varying in sexual orientation much like other families emphasized positive childhood development is more dependent on family functioning than family structure.

I was primarily interested in this article because it related to me as a gay man that will soon be married, and my partner Myles and I are interested in adoption in the future. I Found that the article aligned with my beliefs that parental sexual orientation doesn’t matter as long as the parents have a well-functioning relationship among themselves as well as with their children.

As one of three boys that came from a dysfunctional and abusive family with heterosexual parents, I believe my family’s dysfunctionality effected my personal growth and development as a child that directly effects my adult life. If my family functioning was better or “normal”, I feel that I would be more well-rounded emotionally speaking, more trusting and open, etc. With that said, the former mentioned does not define me as a person.


  1. Farr, R. H., (2017), Does parental sexual orientation matter? A longitudinal follow-up of adoptive families with school-age children, Developmental Psychology, 53, 252-264
  2. Lamb, M. E., (2012), Mother, fathers, families, and circumstances: Factors effecting child adjustment, Applied Developmental Science, 16, 98-111
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