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Parenting: What it Takes

January 26, 2010

With the Prop 8 trial underway, there is a lot being said about what it takes to raise healthy, well-adjusted children.  Opponents of marriage equality frequently invoke that children need one mom and one dad to thrive.  Beyond the fact that this is insulting to the millions of successful single parents (looking in the direction of Barack Obama’s mother), it ignores the fact that gay couples are raising children across the country.  The only thing different about their families is that they don’t have legal protections enjoyed by families led by couples of different sexes.  But I guess that’s what it means to care about children and have family values.

Here is an example of the argument that we hear from people like Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of National Organization for Marriage:

But new research adds to the long list of research that counters this ridiculous claim (Women can’t change oil? Men can’t be nurturing?).

“That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical,” [Judith Stacey of New York University] says.

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

Speaking to the implications in the realm of politics and policy, the researchers highlighted the fact that,

“Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father.

“Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim,” argues Timothy Biblarz, associate professor sociology at the University of Southern California. “One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents.”

So what is the bottom line to take from this study?

“The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.”

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