Gay fathers and their children continue to experience stigma and avoid situations because of fear of stigma, a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics has found.
The study, published on January 14, surveyed men who identified as gay and as fathers, drawing on 732 respondents from 47 states across the United States.
Respondents were asked how they had become a father, whether they had encountered any barriers, and whether their child(ren) had experienced stigma in various social contexts.
“The frequency and pathways by which gay men are becoming fathers is changing, but barriers and stigma remain,” the study found.
One of the more common experiences of stigmatisation was associated with religious institutions, with (34.8%) of the study group saying they experienced stigmatisation in religious environments. Overall, the study found 63.5% of respondents had experienced stigma based on being a gay father.
Becoming gay fathers
The study acknowledged increased acceptance of gay and lesbian parenting, with many court cases over the past decade being resolved in favour of same-gender parents’ rights to legal parenthood.
Today, half of gay teenagers expected to become fathers, the study said.
“Their possible pathways to parenthood have expanded enormously.”
However, research on the experience of gay fathers has been limited, with national parenting surveys omitting questions on sexual orientation.
Gay men reported suspicion and criticism for their decision to be parents from gay friends who had not chosen parenthood.
They also experienced barriers in adopting children and isolation in their role as parents.
Those who had moved out of a heterosexual relationship were challenged by maintaining custody or obtaining legal parenting rights for a new spouse.
“Gay fathers have to contend with the still-prevalent belief that children need a mother to thrive and stereotypes associated with gay men as frivolous, unstable and unfit parents.”
“Children with gay fathers must learn to cope with the pressure of being different from their peers in both their biologic origins and family structure.”
The Child Family Community of Australia reports 11% of Australian gay men have children.
“Children in such families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as their peers from heterosexual couple families.”
Some researchers have concluded there are benefits for children raised by lesbian couples in that they experience higher quality parenting, sons display greater gender flexibility, and sons and daughters display more open-mindedness towards sexual, gender and family diversity.
Same-sex parented families in Australia - Australian Institute of Family Studies
Barriers and Stigma Experienced by gay fathers and their children - The American Academy of Pediatrics
One gay couple's path to adoption: SBS News
Supporting involved fatherhood: Better4Men campaign AMHF