One of the longstanding fears about same-sex parenting has been the effect on the children of having only one gender of role model. Do boys with two moms and no dad have a normal "gender psyche," for example, or would they be more feminine? Will boys without masculine role models be missing the masculine traits and virtues?
Now, a study released last week from UCLA's Williams Institute and the University of Amsterdam suggests that children of lesbian couples, both female and male, do not suffer from lack of a male role model.
The study has a small sample (only 78 families) but is, the researchers told Yahoo! Shine, the longest-running real time study of same-sex parents. It started in 1986 with pregnant lesbian volunteers, and has continued with follow-up questionnaires throughout the years.
The questionnaires attempted to determine how much the children identified with traditional gender attributes such as compassion (femininity) and assertiveness (masculinity), and found no difference between the gender characteristics of boys (sons of lesbians) who had a strong male influence in their lives through a family friend, relative or authority figure such as a teacher, and those who did not.
According to the official study results, "No differences were found between adolescents with and without male role models on the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) femininity and masculinity variables, independent of gender of the offspring."
Why compare kids with and without "a male role model" as opposed to comparing kids with two moms vs. kids with a mom and a dad?
"In scientific research, when you are examining the influence of a single factor on life experience, you must compare groups that are as similar as possible on other dimensions," said, Dr. Nanette Gartrell, one of the study's authors. "In looking at the influence of male role models, in lesbian families, the male role models are not co-parent fathers who have lived with and reared the children since birth, in contrast to two-parent intact heterosexual families. You need to match the male role model's relationship to the child (live-in fathers to live-in fathers, teachers to teachers etc) in order to do an effective comparison."
Gartrell said that the research will continue. So far, at least, however, it suggests that the kids are all right.