Friday, July 2, 2010

Relax, the kids are OK!

In case you missed it, the latest findings from the USA National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) have recently been released into the media.

The NLLFS is a longitudinal study of a group of lesbian mothers and their families. All of the mothers conceived their children via donor insemination in the 1980s. The children are now in their twenties.

The latest data from the study were published in the Journal of Paediatrics on June 7. The findings indicate that not only do the children involved in this study fair just as well as their heterosexual-parented peers, in some aspects they do better.

The media pounced on this story. They loved it and headlines emerged all over the world: The Kids are OK!

I am with them on this one. I love this story too. Good news stories about same-sex parenting, with a bit of good research to back them up, are rare. So this is great. While I feel a little bit unsure about the 'who's a better parent than the other person?' angle, I appreciate that the media need an 'angle'. And for the most part, the stories were really positive and gave a lot of airplay to a fantastic piece of research.

I think about 12 people sent me an email with a link to an article on this study, so I kept a bit of a running tally on headline themes (there is nothing scientific about this analysis):

Firstly we learn that lesbians' kids do better socially, are well adjusted and, in some cases, they are actually happy. Fair enough. There are a lot of people out there who do worry that kids with lesbian parents might be teased, alienated, isolated or insecure. But we can all relax, the kids are doin' fine:  Kids with lesbian parents do better in social activities (Global Times);Children Raised By Lesbian Parents Are Well Adjusted (Medical News Today); Lesbian Parents Have Very Well-Adjusted Kids, study finds (LA Times online); Kids With Lesbian Parents Do Just Fine (Medicine.net); The Kids Are Just Fine (The Nation); Children of lesbian parents do better than their peers (New Scientist); Lesbian families 'have happy children' (BBC); Lesbian parents raise healthy, happy kids sans father (New World News).

Secondly, we learn that lesbians' kids do better in school. Huh?  I understand that this was a significant finding of the study, so it is interesting to report. And I appreciate that there might be a link between alienated, isolated kids and poor grades (good to know neither of these issues are of concern). But I find the use of this as a leading headline a bit bizarre. Were the general public really worried about how well the children of lesbians were doing in their maths tests?: Children of lesbian couples do well in school (Reuters); Lesbians' kids better in social, academic competence (USA Today); Study Shows that Children of Lesbian Couples Succeed (SheWired.com).
 
Inevitably, there were a few headlines reassuring fathers that they still have a role to play: Two Mums Better than Dad? (Sydney Morning Herald); Science can't prove fathers matter. That doesn't mean we don't. (The Washington Post); Study on lesbian moms says plenty about dads too: When it comes down to it, kids succeed when parents — homosexual or heterosexual — take an active role in their lives (Chicago Tribune).
 
And finally, we can rest, assured that children of lesbians are simply better behaved. Phew!! : Kids of lesbians have fewer behavioral problems, study suggests (CNN); Children of lesbian couples are better behaved (Blisstree.com); Lesbians' Children Are Better Behaved, Study Finds (Politics Today).

On another note, I just wanted to make a little mention of Johanna Sigurdardottir, the Prime Minister of Iceland who legally married her long term partner this month. Sigurdardottir is the first openly lesbian or gay Prime Minister in the World and is now the first head of any government to marry their same sex partner. I hope she has good politics, beacuse if I was Icelandic I would be voting for her!

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