A new study has found that same-sex couples are unlikely to
influence the gender identity of their adoptive children one way or another.
When a child is born, the midwife or doctor looks at the baby’s genitals and declares whether it's a boy or girl. In most cases, this method of assigning gender at birth fits the person without any problems.
However, a person’s gender is actually quite complicated and as a result this simple method of assigning gender doesn’t always work.
A small number of people find that the gender they are assigned does not match their gender identity.
Gender and sexual orientation are different
There is also an obvious distinction between gender (who you are) and sexual orientation (who you are attracted to) as discussed in a previous Health24 article.
Starting with preschool, researchers tracked the gender identity development of kids from 106 lesbian, gay or heterosexual families.
"Parental sexual orientation and family type did not affect children's gender conformity or nonconformity in any significant way," said study author Rachel Farr of the University of Kentucky.
At the start of the study, parents filled out questionnaires. The researchers also observed the preschoolers' play and the toys they used. The children were then interviewed five years later.
The researchers found that in most cases children displayed behaviour and play styles commonly associated with their birth gender, and those patterns were established in early childhood.
Bucking gender norms
Family structure was far less associated with gender identity development than the types of play preschoolers engaged in, the researchers said.
Those few preschoolers who tended to play with toys not usually associated with their birth gender were more likely to buck gender norms as they aged. However, bucking gender norms was not found to be more common among children raised by either gay or lesbian parents.
The findings were published recently in the journal Sex Roles.
"Our results suggest that the gender development of children adopted by both lesbian and gay parents proceeds in typical ways, and is similar to that of children adopted by heterosexual couples," Farr said in a journal news release.
"It therefore appears that having both a male and female role model in the home is not necessary for facilitating typical gender development among adopted children," she added, "nor does it discourage gender nonconformity".
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