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Study shows no difference in children raised by gay or heterosexual parents

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Sept. 29, 2009)   —   Three college educators have determined there is no significant difference in how adopted children grow up when comparing gay and lesbian couples to heterosexual couples as parents.
In a study published this month in Adoption Quarterly, Paige Averett and Blace Nalavany, assistant professors of social work at East Carolina University, and Scott Ryan, dean of the University of Texas School of Social Work, compared the extent of emotional and behavioral problems of adopted children in light of the sexual orientation of their adoptive parents.   
The researchers used survey results from parents who adopted children through Florida’s public child welfare system and data from gay and lesbian couples throughout the United States. The study included 155 gay and lesbian couples and 1,229 heterosexual couples. Couples responded to questions about parent and child characteristics, family composition and dynamics, the child’s pre-adoptive history (maltreatment history), and current emotional and behavioral functioning.
“We found that the sexual orientation of the adoptive parents was not a significant predictor of emotional problems,” said Averett. “We did find, however, that age and pre-adoptive sexual abuse were predictors of emotional problems. We also found that an increase in annual income, family functioning, and parental satisfaction with adoption preparation services was predictive of significantly less emotional problems.”
Nalavany said they also found that an increase in annual income, family operation and parental satisfaction with adoption preparation services could lead to significantly less emotional problems.

“But we did not find sexual orientation to be a significant predictor of behavioral problems,” Nalavany said.
Ryan said what makes the study special is the comparative nature between gay and lesbian couples, and heterosexual couples. He said the study also had a “robust sample size.”
As of 2007, there were approximately 130,000 children in the child welfare system waiting to be adopted. Yet Congress noted that there were “serious shortages” of qualified adoptive parents (Library of Congress, 2007). The American Civil Liberties Union has stated that many gay and lesbian families are interested and willing to adopt children and are often open to adopting the harder to place children such as those that are older. Yet, policies of adoption agencies, social stigma, and state laws have created barriers to adoption for gay and lesbian couples.
Ryan said Florida has the only adoption system in the country that asks a couple whether they’re gay. He said what makes Florida even stranger is that gay and lesbian couples can be foster parents there.
“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,” said Averett.

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Contact: Paige Averett and Blace Nalavany, ECU School of Social Work; or (252) 328-4193; 737-2053


Contact: Peggy Nototny, College of Human Ecology | (252) 328-2882