1 minute read

Gay- and Lesbian-Headed Families

Openly gay and lesbian people are choosing to have children in increasing numbers, although the largest group of lesbian- and gay-headed families is still comprised of those parenting children from prior heterosexual relationships. Methods for creating "intentional" families include adoption, foster parenting, alternative insemination, and surrogacy. Laws regarding adoption and foster parenting vary by state as well as by country (in the case of international adoption). The exact number of lesbian- and gay- headed families is difficult to ascertain. Secrecy is still a fairly common practice because of the risk of losing children and employment as a result of sexual orientation. One study reported that in 1999, 3.9 million children age nineteen and under had gay or lesbian parents. Gay- and lesbian-headed families experience a variety of forms of discrimination, including under-representation in governmental policy, legal protection, educational environments, communities of faith, access to medical treatment and reproductive technology, insurance coverage, and the media. Several research studies have shown that children raised in lesbian- and gay-headed households score on par with other children in measures of socio-emotional well-being. Some studies have found that children of lesbian and gay parents display a higher degree of empathy and awareness and respect for diversity than children of heterosexual parents.


Buxton, Amity. The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses. Santa Monica, CA: IBS Press, 1991.

Kaeser, Gigi. Love Makes a Family: Portraits of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Parents and Their Families, edited by Peggy Gillespie. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.

Aimee Gelnaw

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 3