Do children need both a mother and a father?

Jan 21, 2010

The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Barack Obama endorsed the vital role of fathers in a 2008 speech: "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 lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that "fatherless" children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of than women.

"Significant have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father. Yet, there is almost no research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents," said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Extending their prior work on gender and family, Biblarz and Judith Stacey of NYU analyzed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents. "That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical," Stacey said.

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the "partial exception of lactation," noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children's and social success.

As the researchers write: "The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home. Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [heterosexual two-parent] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents."

Indeed, there are far more similarities than differences among children of lesbian and heterosexual parents, according to the study. On average, two mothers tended to play with their children more, were less likely to use physical discipline, and were less likely to raise children with chauvinistic attitudes. Studies of gay male families are still limited.

However, like two heterosexual parents, new parenthood among lesbians increased stress and conflict, exacerbated by general lack of legal recognition of commitment. Also, lesbian biological mothers typically assumed greater caregiving responsibility than their partners, reflecting inequities among heterosexual couples.

"The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well," Biblarz said.

Stacey concluded: "The family type that is best for 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 only matters in ways that don't matter."

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User comments : 14

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frajo
3 / 5 (4) Jan 21, 2010
The gender of parents only matters in ways that don't matter.
Yes.
And it doesn't even matter whether they are biological parents.
otto1923
not rated yet Jan 21, 2010
"The village raises the child" -the true state of social development during the Pleistocene when high attrition rates often left children without a parent. Childhood itself was a lot shorter back then too; adolescence didnt exist. Maintaining dependence on 'adults' through this period could be permanently crippling to an individuals feeling of independence and self-determination.
deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 21, 2010
"The village raises the child" -the true state of social development during the Pleistocene when high attrition rates often left children without a parent. Childhood itself was a lot shorter back then too; adolescence didnt exist. Maintaining dependence on 'adults' through this period could be permanently crippling to an individuals feeling of independence and self-determination.

Yes, and it could also make us make more dependent on "Big Brother" to take care of us, or at least make it easier for us to accept that idea - keeping us in line to be told what to do by the narcissists and sociopaths that some of us call or leaders.
otto1923
not rated yet Jan 21, 2010
narcissists and sociopaths
Or Those who believe that order and domestication of the species is favorable to the rule of the narcissistic and psychopathic rabble who shout 'gimme gimme_I demand_you owe me' all the time. :-)

The classification of adolescents as children and their confinement in classrooms reduces explosive pop growth in the absense of Pleistocene attrition rates.
Mauricio
1 / 5 (2) Jan 21, 2010
There is A LOT of data showing for example that:

- the presence of the biological father inhibits the early sexual development in females. The presence of a stepfather actually accelerates sexual development in girls.

- Males raised without a father have a higher incidence of criminal behavior (a very well known fact indeed!).

- Females raised without their biological father engaged in early pregnancies.

and so on and on.

But these facts are not good enough for a society that is destroying itself, of course.

Let's keep lying to ourselves, live in denial, pretend that the biological dimorphism in humans is meaningless. Pretend that the family structure is arbitrary.

And don't forget, when things collapse, act surprised :)

We are having people dying of "natural causes" in their 30's. So anything is possible next...
Caliban
1 / 5 (3) Jan 21, 2010
I think it is safe to say that two competent, caring, parents, actively involved in raising a child is almost always optimal. Gender appears to be secondary to the level of commitment of those resources to the child. There are some gender/biological parent issues involved as well, as Mauricio points out, and of course let's not forget the hereditary contribution expressed in the child's "nature". In general though, the more of these natural advantages are missing, the less well- adapted the child is. Slanting the science, as this article does, doesn't change realtiy.
denijane
5 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2010
There is A LOT of data showing for example that:

- Females raised without their biological father engaged in early pregnancies.



I am a female raised without my biological father and I NEVER considered early pregnancy! Quite the contrary. Because I know how difficult life can be for a woman if she choose to become a mother too early or with the wrong partner, I would never do that. And my guess is that a lot of children with one parent will be just as careful too, because they know better.

So, I question the data you cite. I think it's more comfortable lies to keep people chained into bad marriages, than anything else. Because in the end, one good, caring and responsible parent is much better than 2, one of which is violent or uncaring or irresponsible.
frajo
2.5 / 5 (2) Jan 22, 2010
let's not forget the hereditary contribution expressed in the child's "nature". In general though, the more of these natural advantages are missing, the less well- adapted the child is

You take it for granted that the hereditary contribution always is a natural advantage? Even with parents of bad character?
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2010
There is A LOT of data showing for example that:

- the presence of the biological father inhibits the early sexual development in females. The presence of a stepfather actually accelerates sexual development in girls.
In which cultures? Throughout history and globally?
Males raised without a father have a higher incidence of criminal behavior (a very well known fact indeed!).
Do you have a link for this claim? And what about males with a criminal father?
- Females raised without their biological father engaged in early pregnancies.
Which centuries, which cultures?
May I assume that the abovementioned "facts" are valid only for a certain culture (Christian, western) and only for a certain range of centuries?

We shouldn't err in the pars pro toto manner. The idea that a family is defined to consist of two parents of different sex and their biological children is by no means global and by no means an old one.
Truth
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 22, 2010
By making light of the importance of the father/mother unit in raising children, we are in effect saying that the ultimate experimental laboratory, namely evolution, is something to be derided and tossed aside. Well, I knew a girl who was raised by two women, namely her mother turned lesbian and her female lover. This girl was one of the saddest and most confused persons I have ever met. In fact, my emotional involvement with her stemmed mostly from a sense of pity. In time she told me of the perverted things she saw them do, which made her hate her mother and even plan the murder of her mother's lover. It was only the intervention of a Rabbi that dissuaded her from doing it. Today, she is a mother of two children, and is a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage. Yes, she might be a unique case, but I wonder if by tinkering with the wisdom of evolution, we might not end up making a mistake that won't show up for years.
otto1923
not rated yet Jan 23, 2010
1. We are NOT a Blank Slate.
2. Our genes WANT to pass themselves on to the next generation.
3. Lasciviousness is NOT good around children.
4. Peer pressure can be just as influential and formative and painful as parental example.
5. Individual instances mean nothing in statistical studies.

-did I leave anything out? Oh yeah-
6. Our memories are shaped and colored by our current state of mind.
-and of course:
7. Some people, somehow, get disconnected from the overpowering urge to reproduce. Or rather it becomes misdirected. Natural species pop control or abherration? You decide-
otto1923
not rated yet Jan 23, 2010
Some people, somehow, get disconnected from the overpowering urge to reproduce. Or rather it becomes misdirected. Natural species pop control or abherration?
Or Contrivance by Those who seek to modulate our propensity to overpopulate, by instilling fear of conception, offering lucrative alternatives, or tempting the weak-willed to stray? If overpop is the greatest threat to civilization then any means would be employed to counter it. 'There is a Time to embrace and a Time to refrain.'
Caliban
1 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2010
let's not forget the hereditary contribution expressed in the child's "nature". In general though, the more of these natural advantages are missing, the less well- adapted the child is

You take it for granted that the hereditary contribution always is a natural advantage? Even with parents of bad character?


Frajo- perhaps I didn't make myself clear-
My point is that children are born with various character predispositions, and that some children will be more thoughtful, resilient and well-adjusted BY NATURE, and others less so, regardless of the particular parenting scenario.
peteone1
1 / 5 (2) Jan 25, 2010
There is absolutely nothing *scientific* about trying to be the official mouthpiece for homosexual activists who seek nothing more than overturning the natural order in which men, women, & children are the normal and natural blueprint for what a family should be.