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Same-sex parenting

Summary of the findings of a
suppressed Canadian government report

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About the report:

The report that the Canadian Conservative Party, under the leadership of Stephen Harper, apparently hoped would never see the light of day is titled "Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types." It is dated 2006-JUL. 2 It was only released after a request using the Access to Information Act by the lead author. The report notes that:

"Canada has recently debated a profound redefinition of 'marriage' by extending its parameters through the legalization of civil marriage between same-sex adults"

It was issued approximately twelve months after marriage was extended to same-sex couples across Canada.

The report was prepared by a team led by Paul D. Hastings who holds a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology. The group included Johanna Vyncke, Caroline Sullivan, Kelly E. McShane, Michael Benibgui. and William Utendale. It was supplied to the group that commissioned the report: the Family, Children and Youth Section of the Canadian Department of Justice.

The report is a 74 page meta study that summarized the results of over 100 individual studies into various family types and parenting competencies.

A point of confusion:

Like most reports and studies on same-sex parenting, this one sometimes confuses "homosexual couples" with "same-sex couples." The difference between the terms is that same-sex partners can be:

  • Both homosexual -- i.e. either both lesbians or male gays. This is the most common combination; or

  • One homosexual and one bisexual; or

  • Two bisexuals.

We strongly advocate the use of "same-sex couples" and "same-sex marriage" instead of "homosexual couples and "homosexual marriage."

Quality of parenting:

The report states:

"Research has consistently shown little difference in children's social competence, parental socialization, and family functioning between families of heterosexual parents and families of gay or lesbian parents. The few differences that do emerge consistently suggest that:

  1. Gay and lesbian couples tend to have a more egalitarian and satisfying balance of child-care tasks than heterosexual couples.

  2. Gay and lesbian parents may be marginally more effective socialization agents than heterosexual parents, and

  3. Children with gay or lesbian parents may be more concerned with or even experience more discrimination due to their parents' sexual orientation, although this does not appear to interfere with their social competence.

From the perspective of risk and protective factors, the marginally, more effective socialization practices of gay and lesbian parents might act to protect their children from the adverse effects that could otherwise result from concern about or experience of teasing, bullying and discrimination because of the sexual orientation of their parent(s). Additionally, the marginally more positive home environment that likely results from lesbian and gay parents' greater support of each other's childcare activities might provide a marginally more supportive context for children's development of feelings of security and self-worth."

In one study, "mothers reported that 18% of children had experienced some form of homophobic discrimination from peers or teachers, and adverse social events that would be a source of stress unique to children raised in gay and lesbian families."

Such bigotry is hardly unique to children with same-sex parents. It is also experienced by children who are black, of mixed-race, whose parents follow a minority religion, who are recent immigrants, with a different mother tongue, who are developmentally challenged, who are visibly disabled, or a multitude of other differences. The encouraging fact is that the vast majority of same-sex parents reported no homophobic prejudice from outside of the family.

Financial challenges:

The report discusses financial aspects experienced by same-sex parents:

"Relative economic hardship is common for gay and lesbian parents, as well. ... Gay men earn 11% to 27% less than heterosexual men with the same education, experience, and occupation, who live in the same region; lesbians also earn less than heterosexual women, although the difference is smaller. Lesbian mothers are more likely to experience job loss than heterosexual mothers, and lesbian mothers tend to be less affluent than heterosexual mothers."

"It is curious, therefore, that overall gay and lesbian parents are equally good, or marginally better, socialization agents than heterosexual parents. Their relatively greater financial stresses do not appear to undermine the quality of their parenting. Perhaps anticipating that their children may be at risk of social disadvantage due to discrimination, gay and lesbian parents may put extra effort into meeting the needs of their children and providing them with strong social and emotional resources. Thus, the expected deleterious effects of economic stress on the quality of parental socialization may be ameliorated to some extent by the added childcare motivation present in many homes with gay or lesbian parents."

(Citations deleted for clarity)

Compensating factor: Quality of the parents' relationship:

It seems likely that the high quality of parental socialization within lesbian and gay two-parent families acts to protect children from the adverse effects of this addition stress and discrimination. In turn, gay and lesbian parents are protected by the quality of their relationships with their partners. On the whole, lesbian and gay couples in two-parent families report sharing the tasks of child-rearing more equally than many heterosexual couples, and also report having more satisfying couple relationships."


"Parents need to not be alone in the job of raising their children. Supportive and engaged partners, and accessible and supportive social networks, help parents to provide their children with the socialization experiences that foster the development of good social competence. The experience of stresses related to economic hardship and, in the case of lesbian and gay parents, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, undermine the quality of parental socialization when good social support is lacking. As a society, we should endeavour to eradicate poverty and discrimination because of their adverse effect on children and families. In addition, we should support the social factors that protect families against the adverse effects of these risk factors. All two-parent and one-parent families should be accepted and supported, and the positive social support networks of lone-parent and two-parent families should be fostered and encouraged."


"The strongest conclusion that can be drawn from the empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels of social competence. A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in traditional nuclear families, even fewer studies show the opposite, and most studies fail to find any differences. The very limited body of research on children with two gay fathers supports this same conclusion."

References used:

  1. Kevin Bourassa & Joe Varnell, "Harper shoves family study into the closet. Cons[ervatives] & Christian extremists don't want you to know," Equal Marriage, 2007-MAY-09, at:

  2. "Children's Development of Social Competence Across Family Types", Department of Justice, Canada, 2006-JUL at:

Copyright 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-JUN-19
Latest update: 2008-JUN-19
Partly written by: B.A. Robinson

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