Same-sex couples’ parenting

Today’s NY Times has a discussion of the parenting of same-sex couples.  It looks at Abbie E. Goldberg’s new book, “Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children,” which  is an analysis of more than 100 academic studies, most looking at groups of 30 to 150 subjects.   Most of the focus is on lesbian parenting, since gay men parented much less until  recently.  The news is all good for the cause of same-sex marriages.  And some is  intriguing. 

First of all, the children are the same as children of heterosexual marriages on all the standard measures of doing well socially.  They are popular, make friends and don’t have gender identity problems – at least all in the same measure as other children.   And this is interesting:

More enlightening than the similarities, however, are the differences, the most striking of which is that these children tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families.

Girls in particular are more likely to be interested in jobs like being a doctor over being a nurse, and they’re more likely to play with “boy’s” toys.

Of course, when I first read it, I thought of all those studies that claim that within a few days of birth gender interests are showing up.  Could the environment of same-sex parents show that’s not innate?  But I now suspect not.  After all, supposing an interest in Barbie is innate, it’s just the sort of thing one might think lesbian parents lack and so don’t pass  on. O dear!  

I guess we’re just back to the basic implausibility of 20th century gender markers being carried by those pesky old genes.

9 thoughts on “Same-sex couples’ parenting

  1. Interesting. Though, just a small note: I am not sure what a “gender identity problem” is. I’m not sure there is any such thing. I can’t see how identifying oneself in any gendered or non-gendered way should be problematic.

  2. I assume that a “gender identity problem” is not a matter of merely identifying (or not identifying) oneself in a particular way, but rather experiencing some some sort of anxiety or maladjustment about this; like an identity crisis.

  3. Studies that claim innate gender interests, like studies that claim any other chromosomal determinance of the mind, obviously lack controls. What’s needed is an experimental environment in which an entire society privileges female children, female family members, female employees, and female public figures. People raised in that society could then undergo the same tests, for comparison of the results. The science might be better than just begging the nature/nurture question, and the means would justify the ends.

  4. In fact, the ‘gender identity problem’ was a product of my confusion. The NYT article mentions gender identity confusion and I thought that meant kids who were confused about their gender identity, which certainly seems possible to me. One aspect of that might be worrying about whether one is a real, acceptable M or F. I don’t endorse that conceptualization, but I was certainly encouraged to worry myself.

    But it turns out that ‘gender identity confusion’ is a psychiatric category and it means bascially thinking your gender is not that of your sex.

  5. Let me just add, regarding 4 above, that I certainly don’t endorse the ideas behind labeling a transperson “confused”.

  6. Actually becoming a nurse or doctor has little or nothing to do with gender identity. As far as I have observed, women who are doctors or women who are nurses do not differ in any significant way in terms of traditional feminine appearance or interests, or certainly not in degree of heterosexuality. So how is it asserted that a woman being a doctor is an indicator of someone who is less likely to follow gender norms? Can you offer proof of that assertion? Would it surprise you to know that women doctors are sometimes assumed to be nurses? How is that possible? Because they look exactly the same! So apparently they all played with Barbies after all?

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