As the option for same-sex couples to use surrogacy as a means of having children popularizes, so does skepticism and legislation.
And so, researchers decided to test heterosexual fears about the well-being of kids with gay dads who used surrogates.
Unlike the United States, attitudes toward commercial surrogacy in Europe remain restrictive. Their laws reflect this sentiment. Many European countries have a ban on the family planning practice, and even more ban it specifically for same-sex partners.
To combat an uphill cultural and legal battle, researchers looked at the well-being of 67 families with two dads, along with 67 families made up of heterosexual parents.
All were in Europe, and all had children between 18 months and 10 years old. The study, published in Family Process in November 2023, only included children who were genetically related to one of their dads.
American, Italian, and Belgian researchers reported that “children of gay fathers via surrogacy showed fewer externalizing and internalizing problems compared to children of heterosexual parents via unassisted conception.”
Overall, children with gay dads were not only equal to, but measurably functioned better on average, than their peers coming from heterosexual parenting units.
Sometimes, the simplest answer is the right one. Both parents and children gave answers to the researchers’ questions that led those running the study back to the same sentiments LGBTQ parents have been echoing for decades — gay couples bring children into the world on purpose, and therefore bring a high level of preparedness to the family planning process not always present in their heterosexual counterparts.
To navigate the cultural, legal, and financial barriers associated with surrogacy in their home countries, gay men (as the focus of this particular study) had to really want to bring children into the world. The study results revealed that this desire translated to parental attitudes which widely benefited children.
Gay fathers reported more positive co-parenting, more equal task sharing, greater satisfaction with task sharing, and greater couple relationship satisfaction relative to heterosexual parents, according to researchers Salvatore D’Amore, Robert-Jay Green, Benedicte Mouton, and Nicola Carone.
The above factors were cited as catalysts for the fathers to spend more quality time with their children, and in more secure environments.
In such environments, kids had fewer behavioral problems and more successful methods of self-expression.
One caveat, however, lies within the introduction of microaggressions against the parents and families from external factors that are “associated with more child internalizing problems, lower positive co-parenting, and lower social support from family and friends.”
To this point, researchers suggested engagement with family therapists who acknowledge these specific challenges in families with gay dads would be beneficial in offering children more ways to cope with such surroundings.
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