Gay Adoptive Fathers and their Children: Family Processes and

Report
Adoptive Parents and Their Children:
Does Sexual Orientation Matter?
Charlotte J. Patterson
Department of Psychology
Studies in Women & Gender Program
University of Virginia
2nd European Conference on LGBT Families
April 2012
Overview
• Lesbian/gay adoption
– Many children need homes
– Many lesbian/gay adults want to adopt
– Should sexual orientation of prospective parents enter into
placement decisions?
– Little research
• What is life like for children and parents in
lesbian/gay parent adoptive families?
Adoptive Families Study
Rachel H. Farr, Stephen L. Forssell & Charlotte J. Patterson
University of Virginia
• Lesbian, gay and heterosexual couples
• Each with an adopted child, 1 - 5 years old
• Systematic sampling frame
– 5 adoption agencies
– Families living in 12 states in USA
• Information from multiple sources
Farr, R. H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Adoptive Families Study: Sample
• 106 Families
56 same-sex couples (27 lesbian, 29 gay)
50 heterosexual couples
• Domestic adoptions
• Couples are all legally recognized parents
• Groups well matched
Farr, R. H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Adoptive Families Study: Sample
• Parents
– 81% white
– 42 years old
– Most work full time
– Well educated
– High incomes
• Children
– 42% white
– 3 years old
– Adopted at birth
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
Transracial Adoption
• More common among same-sex couples
– 54% of lesbian/gay couples
– 30% of heterosexual couples
• Both types of families are otherwise
demographically similar
• Both transracial and same-race adoptees
show positive adjustment
Farr & Patterson (2009). Transracial adoption by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples…
Adoption Quarterly, 12, 187 – 204.
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
Parent Adjustment
- Parent discipline techniques
- Arnold, O’Leary, Wolff & Acker, 1993
- Standardized parent report scale
- Parenting Scale
Parent Discipline Techniques
Average Discipline Score
Dysfunctional
Functional
N = 212 parents
Parent Discipline Techniques
N = 212 parents
Average Discipline Score
Dysfunctional
Functional
 Parents in all three types of families report using positive discipline techniques.
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
Parental adjustment
- Parent discipline techniques
- Parenting stress
- Abidin, 1990
- Standardized parent report
- Parenting Stress Index
Parenting Stress
Total Stress Score
High stress
Low stress
N = 212 Parents
Parenting Stress
N = 212 Parents
Total Stress Score
High stress
Low stress
 Parents in all three types of families report relatively low parenting stress.
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
• Parent adjustment
• Child development
- Child Behavior Problems
Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000
Parent report: Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)
Teacher report: Teacher Report Form (TRF)
Farr, R. H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Child Behavior Problems
N = 106 children
T score
Many
None
Farr, R. H.,Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Child Behavior Problems
N = 106 children
T score
Many
None
 Children of lesbian/gay parents have no more behavior problems than others
Farr, R. H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
• Child development
- Child behavior problems
- Gender role behavior
- Golombok & Rust, 1993
- Standardized parent report
- Preschoolers Activities Inventory (PSAI)
Farr, R. H.,Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Gender Role Behavior
Age-adjusted score
N = 106 children
Farr, R. H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Gender Role Behavior
Age-adjusted score
N = 106 children
 Gender role behavior was similar among children in all three family groups
Farr, R. H.l, Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010). Parenting and child development in adoptive families:
Does parental sexual orientation matter? Applied Developmental Science, 14, 164 - 178.
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
Parental adjustment
Child development
Couple adjustment
- Relationship satisfaction
Spanier Dyadic Adjustment Scale
Self-report by couples
Couples’ Overall Relationship Quality
Very satisfied
N = 106 Couples
Total Satisfaction
140
120
100
80
60
40
20
0
Spanier
Population
Mean
(Enduring)
Gay Couples
Lesbian
Couples
Heterosexual
Couples
Spanier
Population
Mean
(Dissolved)
 All couple types report strong relationship satisfaction.
Adoptive Families Study: Topics
Parental adjustment
Child development
Couple adjustment
- Relationship satisfaction
- Division of labor
- Cowan & Cowan, Who Does What?
- Couples report on their division of labor
- Focus here on childcare
Couples’ Division of Labor - Childcare
Average Childcare Labor
“I do it ALL”
9
N = 106 Couples
8
7
*
6
5
Parent A
4
Parent B
3
2
1
“My partner
does it ALL”
Gay Fathers
Lesbian Mothers
Heterosexual Parents
A = Mom
B = Dad
 Same-sex couples share, but other-sex couples show specialized pattern.
Adoption Study: Interim Summary
• Gay/lesbian/heterosexual parents and their
adoptive children similar in many ways
• One important difference: Division of labor
– Division of labor studied via parental reports
– What do the findings mean?
– Role of observational data
• Observational data collected here
– Blanket and standard sets of toys
– Two parents play with their child
– Video records
Couples’ Participation
in Parent/Child Interactions
5.5
.
5
*
Participation
4.5
4
3.5
Parent A
3
Parent B
2.5
2
1.5
1
Lesbian
Gay
Heterosexual
 Lesbian/gay couples participated equally, but heterosexual couples did not.
What Did Observational Data Reveal?
• Results confirm self-reports about division of labor
– Lesbian & gay couples participate equally – they “shared”
– Heterosexual couples did not – they “specialized”
– Heterosexual mothers are more involved than fathers
What Did Observational Data Reveal?
• Results confirm self-reports about division of labor
– Lesbian & gay couples participate equally – they “shared”
– Heterosexual couples did not – they “specialized”
– Heterosexual mothers are more involved than fathers
• Equality of participation not related to child
adjustment
What Did Observational Data Reveal?
• Results confirm self-reports about division of labor
• Equality of participation not related to child
adjustment
• Some aspects of family interactions were related to
child adjustment
– Well adjusted children had involved parents who did not compete
– True for all family types
To summarize:
At this age, children don’t care if parents share or specialize;
but they flourish best when there is harmony
Adoptive Families Study:
Conclusions
• Lesbian and gay couples’ parenting styles differ
from those of heterosexual couples, but the
differences do not affect child development
• Parental sexual orientation irrelevant to overall
adjustment of adopted children
• However, many differences among adoptive
families emerge in observed interactions, and
these are related to children’s behavior
• We are beginning to explore and even understand
the meaning of individual differences among these
families
• However, much work remains
Thank you:
• Participating agencies and families
• Rachel H. Farr, Ph.D., & Stephen L. Forssell, Ph.D.,
Co-Investigators on Adoptive Families Study
• Support from Lesbian Health Fund and from the Williams Institute,
UCLA School of Law
Research Assistants at GWU:
Research Assistants at UVA:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Jacqueline Wheeler
Kathleen Doss
Brittany Sheen
Katherine Jetton
Dylan Comstock
Tim Tuan
• Janine Beha
• Claudia Amendola
• Charlotte Blutstein
• Thomas Lotito
• Mike Kohn
• Scott Kraiterman
• Carly Roberts
• Lindsay Walter-Cox
Contact Information
Charlotte J. Patterson
Department of Psychology
P. O. Box 400400
University of Virginia
Charlottesville VA 22904
USA
(434) 924-0664
[email protected]
http://people.virginia.edu/~cjp/

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