A study published in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family looked into the presumption that children need both a mother and a father.
That presumption has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to say that same sex marriage is not healthy for the children involved.
The vital role of fathers has often been highlighted. United States President Obama endorsed the role in 2008 saying that “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.”
The study How Does the Gender of Parents Matter? written by sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Judith Stacey of NYU challenges the idea that fatherless children are at a disadvantage or that men's parenting skills provide a different set of skills than women.
Biblarz noted in a press release: “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. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents.”
The authors analyzed studies about parenting in various family types including single parent homes, gay male parents and lesbian parents.
They found that other than nursing there is no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities.
Research shows more in common in children of lesbian and heterosexual parents than differences. On average children with two mothers have parents that play with them more, are less likely to use physical discipline and less likely be raised to have chauvinistic attitudes. There have yet to be enough research to evaluate gay male families.
In lesbian families increased stress and conflict are common for new parents, something that is common to two heterosexual parents.
Stacey noted: “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.”