Parent's Gender Doesn't Matter

Most people believe that a child is somehow robbed of something very important if he lacks a father and a mother. This idea has been much in use by those who aim to wipe out Proposition 8 and any chance for same-sex marriage or same-sex adoption. But even liberals think that two kinds of parents are crucial to a child's upbringing. Consider Barack Obama's 2008 speech on the role of fathers, "Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation."

Separate Skills?

But now, the results of a new study challenge this very established line of thinking. The February 2010 issue of Journal of Marriage and Family shows that children without fathers suffer no disadvantage. It also shows that men don't offer a different type of necessary parenting skills as separate from a woman's.

Sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences had this to say, "Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father. Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents."

Taken For Granted

Biblarz worked in tandem with Judith Stacey of NYU to extend their body of work on gender and family with this newest study which looks at studies on parenting, including single parent households, and same-sexed gay parenting. Stacey explains the need for this work, "That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical."

During the course of their analysis, the researchers found no suggestion that parenting abilities were specific to one gender or another, except when it comes to lactation. There seems to be no negative impact on a child who is motherless or fatherless. There are no associated psychological adjustment issues or problems with social success in children with parents of only one sex.

The report criticizes earlier studies on the subject for not taking into consideration same-sexed parenting which caused skewed results, "The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home. Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [two-parent heterosexual] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents."

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