Gay Parents Spend More Time With Their Kids, Supporting Development

Chalkboard drawing of same sex parents
Same-sex parents spend more time with their kids than straight parents, especially straight fathers, a new study finds. Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

For many with dreams of parenthood, the suggestion that they couldn’t provide the love and support needed to raise their children would be as demeaning as it would be ludicrous. Yet, that’s the reality same sex couples have had to endure for decades from religious commentators, morality watchdogs, and even sociologists.

As societal attitudes have shifted, though, these criticisms of same-sex parenting have quietened from boisterous accusations of poisoning the nuclear family well to soft-landing implications that we simply don’t have the information needed to know if same sex couples could possibly, potentially, somehow, be bad parents. This latest study from the journal Demography, while not the last word on the subject, goes a long way toward dismantling these latter criticisms. It found that not only do same-sex parents spend plenty of time with their children; they’re actually around more often than heterosexual parents, and particularly more than straight fathers.

Jumping into data from the American Time Use Survey, a nationally representative poll of how Americans spend their waking hours, the researchers looked at the time spent by people identified as either same-sex or straight parents from the years 2003 to 2013. They then specifically keyed in on the participants’ responses that could be considered child-focused time, in other words, time spent directly interacting with their children. Across the board, they found same-sex couples on average spent appreciably more time per day (3.5 hours) with their kids than straight couples, as much as an hour more, after controlling for factors known to impact parenting like wealth, education, and family size.

For the straight dads in the audience, the results are more embarrassing, as it was their relative lack of interaction that weighted down straight couplings; the women spent about the same time with their children, regardless of sexual orientation, as did gay fathers, while straight men spent only half as much time as any of the other groups. “These results support prior research that different-sex couples do not invest in children at appreciably different levels than same-sex couples,” the authors wrote, correctly noting that the majority of research, even as it has focused on small samples, does not find any negative influence specifically tied to the parents’ sexual orientation.

In a post for The Society Pages, study authors Kate C. Prickett and Dr. Alexa Martin-Storey are forceful about their study’s conclusions. “A key implication of our study is that the focus on whether same-sex parents provide depreciably different family contexts for healthy child development is misplaced,” they wrote, “If anything, the results show that same-sex couples are more likely to invest time in the types of parenting behaviors that support child development.” Of much more importance to family stability is financial stability, they add.

With ongoing legal battles in the Supreme Court centered on whether same sex marriages deserve to be legally recognized, this study and others of its kind provide further proof that when it comes to matters of the heart, there’s no difference to be found between straight or gay.

Source: Prickett K, Martin-Storey A, Crosnoe R. A Research Note on Time With Children in Different- and Same-Sex Two-Parent Families. Demography. 2015.

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