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A list of studies that compared children
raised by two same-sex parents with
those raised by two opposite-sex parents.
The ACHESS survey in Australia.

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Australia is one three large, predominately English-speaking countries in the world that has not yet given access to marriage to same-sex couples. The other countries are Ireland and Northern Ireland. Recent national polls indicate that 64% to 68% of Australian adults support marriage equality as do 53% of adult Christians. However, Australian Prime Minister Abbott, who leads the ruling coalition in Parliament, has consistently refused to allow a conscience vote in which members of Parliament could freely vote on a bill to attain marriage equality. Political commentators generally believe that same-sex marriage (SSM) would be legalized if the Members of Parliament (MPs) were allowed to vote freely instead of being forced to vote along party lines.

There have been many studies across the world which have compared how well the children of same-sex parents thrive in comparison of the children of opposite-sex parents. Unfortunately, these studies had been plagued by small sample sizes and other problems.

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Review of previous studies:

The Australian Institute of Family Studies reported in 2014:

"To date, there has been far more research conducted on the wellbeing of children raised by lesbian parents than children raised by gay male, bisexual or transgender parents.

Studies conducted prior to the late 1990s focused on same-sex parented children conceived in the context of heterosexual relationships. See:

  • Andersson et al, 2002;
  • Barret & Robinson, 2000;
  • Tasker, 2005;
  • Tasker & Patterson, 2007, for reviews).

A considerable body of literature comparing children raised in planned lesbian-parented families with samples of heterosexual families now exists. See:

  • Anderssen et al., 2002;
  • Biblarz & Savci, 2010;
  • Crowl et al., 2008;
  • Stacey & Biblarz, 2001;
  • Tasker & Patterson, 2007).

At the time of writing, there were no known published comparative studies of children's development or wellbeing in families created by gay men through surrogacy, and only one comparing children in families with known "donor dads" with children from heterosexual parented families (Bos, 2010). Furthermore, no comparative research of this kind has been conducted in Australia or New Zealand."

"... To turn now to closer analysis of the literature comparing children in same-sex parented families with children raised in other kinds of families, this body of literature arises from a range of largely unsubstantiated concerns about the effect of parental sexual orientation on children's development or welfare (see Bozett, 1987; Clarke, 2001; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). There are several kinds of concerns guiding the literature: those relating to children's family relationships; their psychological adjustment; their experiences with peers, particularly with regard to teasing or bullying; and concerns about their sexuality or gender identity. Further to this, a number of studies also consider how well lesbian- and gay-parented children fare educationally."

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2013: A national study in Australia by:

ACHESS logo The ACHESS study in Australia was the world's largest to date of this type. It was conducted by the researchers at Melbourne University in Australia. They collected data on 500 children selected from across the country who were under the age of 18. 1 By "same-sex families" they appear to mean families led by same-sex parents.

An abstract of the ACHESS study, published in 2012 said that:

"Research to date lacks a holistic view with the complete physical, mental and social well-being of children not yet addressed. In addition, most studies have focused only on families with lesbian parents and have studied only small numbers of children.

ACHESS is a national study that aims to determine the complete physical, mental and social well-being of Australian children under the age of 18 years with at least one parent who self identifies as being same-sex attracted. There will be a particular focus on the impact that stigma and discrimination has on these families." 2

The research team consisted of five individuals. They studied 315 lesbian, gay and bisexual parents who were in a relationship with a person of the same sex.

Highlights from their interim report, released in mid-2013, concluded: 3

"SUMMARY: These early findings suggest that Australian children with same-sex attracted parents are developing well. They are growing up in a range of contexts and score well on measures of health and wellbeing in the face of discrimination. Further analysis of the ACHESS data will identify in what ways this discrimination affects children and their families, as well as characterising overall health and wellbeing in more detail..."

Children of same-sex parents are doing as well as or better than the rest of the population as measured by a number of important health indicators:

  • They thrive equally well when compared to the rest of the population in self-esteem, emotional behavior, and the amount of time spent with parents.

  • They scored higher than the national average for overall health and family cohesion -- a measure of how well family members get along.

  • "For all other health measures there were no statistically significant differences"

  • 93% of the children's parents are currently in a relationship.

  • They "continue to face discrimination in a variety of contexts." 3

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Dr Simon R. Crouch, the lead researcher said:

"Because of the situation that same-sex families find themselves in, they are generally more willing to communicate and approach the issues that any child may face at school, like teasing or bullying. ... 'This fosters openness, and means children tend to be more resilient. That would be our hypothesis.'' 1

Kate Coghlan, who is raising three children with her partner Susan Rennie agreed with Dr Crouch. All three of their children were conceived via artificial insemination with the cooperation of the same man. She said:

"We talk about everything: from how they were conceived to the different relationships that people have, They are very accepting and more tolerating of diversity. ... They say 'yes, we have got a dad; he just doesn't live with us'.''' 2

During 2014, the ACHESS team published an article in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health describing the difficulties in recruiting a large and representative sample of same-sex parents. They said:

"Internationally, there is an increasing number of children growing up with at least one same-sex attracted parent. Due to the hidden and diverse nature of the population, however, it is often difficult to identify and access the full range of families with same-sex attracted parents. Traditional snowball recruitment techniques have often been used to capture these families, which has led to homogenous samples of Caucasian women from high socioeconomic backgrounds.' 4

The term "snowball recruitment" involves researchers asking participants in a study to recommend other potential subjects from among their friends and acquaintenances.

ACHESS' report continued:

Alternatively, attempts have been made to draw same-sex families from population surveys; however, this has resulted in small sample sizes that are limited to same-sex couples in marriage-like relationships.

In order to better represent same-sex parent families, alternative methods need to be utilized to recruit -- and then study -- health and well-being in such contexts. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS) was designed to capture child health and well-being across a diverse range of family types, while at the same time maximizing recruitment of this hard-to-reach population. Here we summa rise the methods used to recruit same-sex parent families in the ACHESS and identify successful strategies for working with this population in the future." 4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Vince Chadwick, "Tick for same-sex families," The Age, Victoria, 2013-JUN-05, at:
  2. Simon Robert Crouch, et al., "ACHESS – The Australian study of child health in same-sex families: background research, design and methodology," BMC Public Factor, 2012-AUG-2012, at:
  3. "The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS) Interim Return, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2013-JUN, at:
  4. Simon Crouch et al,. "Triumphs and challenges in recruiting same-sex parent families," Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol. 38, #1 (2014), at: This is an accursed PDF file.
  5. "Children's wellbeing in same-sex parented families," Australian Institute of Family Studies, last modified 2014-APR-02, at:

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Copyright 2014 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-APR-24
Latest update: 2016-JAN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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