The mamas and the papas: The invisible diversity of families with same-sex parents in the United States

  • Rimalower L
  • Caty C
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This literature review is intended for administrators, educators, and counselors to generate discussion and awareness of the issues facing families with same-sex parents in the United States, a demographic that is rapidly growing and needing service and attention from its communities. To provide educators with background into how these families are formed, research exploring the emotional and legal dynamics of conception and adoption is included. In the context of school settings, disclosure of family structure to teachers and peers is discussed, with consideration for the effects of homophobia and heterosexism. Speaking to a highly contended issue, the literature indicates that children raised by same-sex parents are not disadvantaged compared with their peers raised in households headed by heterosexual parents. In fact, more than biological or legal status, research points to the quality of relationships with caregivers as the greatest predictor of outcomes in a child’s development. While the research has been confounded by bias and limited demographics, the needs of this population and the discrimination it experiences appear to be minimized by observers and the families themselves, a factor that may compromise existing research and requires further study. With the gay population progressively becoming more visible, a body of research is slowly emerging that includes children born to and raised by established same-sex couples. This review focuses primarily on research from the United States but the issues presented are increasingly relevant internationally. As these children and their parents join school communities, it is vital for administrators, educators, and counselors to create curricula with sensitivity to the issues facing this new generation of families, and to actively participate as collaborators in safety, respect, and understanding within the school environment and in connection with parents.

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  • Lucy Rimalower

  • Caren Caty

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