Ever since U.S. sperm banks began to accept lesbian clients in the mid-1980s, critics have argued that same-sex parenting could damage children’s psychological well-being. In June a 25-year, ongoing study published in the journal Pediatrics (pdf) came to a very different conclusion, finding that children of lesbian mothers experience healthy social, emotional, and psychological development. The study, led by University of California, San Francisco psychiatrist Nanette Gartrell, included 78 kids conceived through donor insemination and raised by lesbian mothers. Beginning in 1986 Gartrell interviewed women in San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C., during pregnancy and again when their children turned 2, 5, 10, and 17; she also used clinical questionnaires to define behavior. At 17 those children scored higher, on average, than their peers in social and academic competence and lower in aggressive behavior and social problems.
The results have appeared in legal briefs, documentaries, and research papers. “The study is continually brought up to counteract non-science-based allegations against same-sex marriage or adoption,” Gartrell says. She admits that there is more research to be done, however. By including only mothers who sought donor insemination before it was largely accepted, the study does not reflect the diversity of female couples raising children today.