Conservative advocacy groups such as the Family Research Council have long claimed that children adopted by gay couples suffer from more emotional issues than those placed with straight couples. Even though, as the American Psychological Association states, "beliefs that gay and lesbian adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation," such prejudices have persisted. Last week, a study of over 1,300 adoptive couples provided further evidence of an intuitive truth: children adopted into gay families are every bit as emotionally healthy as straight couples' adoptees.
The new study was conducted by professors at the University of Texas at Arlington and at East Carolina University, using data from a survey of parents who adopted children through Florida's state child welfare agencies, as well as data on gay and lesbian adoptive couples nationally. The Florida survey results are particularly important because Florida is the only state that explicitly bans gays and lesbians from adopting, in fact requiring adoptive parents to sign a statement declaring that they are not gay. (Want to know if gay adoption is legal in your state, and on what terms? Click here for a state-by-state assessment of the law.) The study included nearly 1230 straight couples and 155 gay and lesbian couples. All were surveyed about their own characteristics and those of their children, their family's make-up and dynamics, the children's pre-adoptive history and their current emotional and behavioral functioning.
The results, published this month in the Adoption Quarterly, show that, in the words of lead study author Scott Ryan, dean of the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Arlington, "There is no difference in children raised by gay or lesbian parents and heterosexual parents. People are people." Added Paige Averett, an assistant professor of social work at East Carolina University, "There are implications for social work educators, adoption professionals and policy makers in this and other recent studies. We must pay attention to the data indicating that gay and lesbian parents are as fit as heterosexual parents to adopt, because at least 130,000 children are depending on us to act as informed advocates on their behalf." Averett was referring to the estimated number of children currently awaiting adoption in the U.S.
In fact, the study found that the major predictors of emotional problems in adopted children were age at adoption and pre-adoption sexual abuse, not the sexual orientation of any of the parents. Likewise, reduction in emotional problems was associated with higher annual income, a fluid adoption process, and functionality within the family—not with straight parents. As Blace Nalavany, another of the study authors and a professor of social work at East Carolina University told the press, "We did not find sexual orientation to be a significant predictor of behavioral problems." Period.