Statistics Reflect Social Change for Same Sex Parents
The latest statistics from the Pew Research Center show that of the 15 countries worldwide to permit gay men and lesbians to marry, eight have done so since 2010. Six in ten Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, up from 49% in 2007. In 2010, the first year that the census began counting same sex couples, the total number of same sex households in the U.S. was 901,997, still under 1%. However, the number of same sex couples living together in the U.S. has increased by 345% in the last decade. The number increased by 90% in the U.K., where there were 69,000 same sex couples living together in 2012. According to the Office of National Statistics, 12,000 of those are parents.
The 2013 New Zealand census reported 11,220 same sex couples, with slightly more females than males. In Australia, one in ten same-sex couples had children living with them. In Canada, the 2006 census reported 45,300 same-sex couples. One website devoted to global gay family issues reports that world-wide, a greater number of female same sex couples have children living with them than male couples. On average, same sex couples also have fewer children.
The Law and Social Change for Same Sex Parents
One of the most important ways social change for same sex parents is reflected is by changes in the laws, many of which, until recently, criminalized homosexuality. Governments, while taking into consideration the traditional religious beliefs of their citizens, have begun granting homosexual couples the same civil and legal rights as heterosexual couples. For example, in New Zealand, civil unions were legalized in 2004, and gay marriage in 2013. This demonstrates that most societies require a number of years to become comfortable with social change for same sex couples.
In addition to laws regarding marriage, other laws restricting homosexual couples from having and raising children are also being changed.
For example, in 2008, the U.K. removed legal barriers to lesbian couples receiving fertility treatments. Additionally, gay adoption is also now legal in the UK.
Other countries that have legalized gay adoption include Sweden, Belgium, Argentina, Spain, and Iceland. In the United States, only 19 states allow same sex couples to adopt, while six states still forbid same sex couples from adopting or even becoming foster parents.
These laws reflect a lingering belief by many that homosexuality is linked to child molestation, which a large body of research has refuted. These beliefs resulted in laws forbidding homosexuals from becoming teachers in many countries. Those laws, too, are slowly changing.
The Effects of Social Change for Single Sex Parents on Families
There have been several research studies that have attempted to measure the effects on children of being raised by same sex parents. However, the results of those studies have often been contradictory, a phenomenon which can be attributed in part to funding sources and political agendas. For example, according to one of the world’s largest studies on same-sex parenting, children being raised by same-sex couples are thriving. This study of 500 children in Australia found that for overall health and family cohesion, children of same sex couples scored higher than the national average. The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Simon Crouch, theorized that this could be attributed to the families having to cope with social bullying. According to one study, 70 percent of gay and lesbian students in the state of Queensland, Australia experienced bullying from both students and teachers.
Another article points to a different study involving 512 children of same-sex couples, which concluded that children from same-sex households were more at risk for a number of problems such as depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder. This study was conducted by D. Paul Sullins, who is a sociology professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. It cites statistics showing that only 4 percent of children who live with both biological parents experience emotional problems, with the figure rising to 10 percent for children living with only one biological parent, and to 21 percent of those living with no biological parents.
According to the study, 19 percent of children living with same sex parents experienced ADHD or learning disabilities, compared to 10 percent of children living in opposite-sex households. Other studies have shown that adopted children with no biological relationship to either parent also face a higher risk for emotional or behavioral problems.
While results of studies may differ, social change for same sex parents points to one very important change that benefits all of humanity–the elimination of social bullying. For many years, one of the arguments against same sex couples raising children was that it was unfair to expose them to the damaging effects of potential schoolyard taunts and social exclusion. Individuals and societies are beginning to refuse to participate in social bullying or allow it to determine their life choices. Jodie Foster and Robert DeNiro are among the successful people raised by same sex parents, and who advocate for continued positive social change.