The Dynamics of Same Sex Parenting
The world in which we live and raise our children is far more complex than that of any other generation.
Admittedly, those who came before us had their share of challenges, but none as baffling as those which present themselves today. Perhaps one of the most divisive and murky of these issues is that of same sex parenting. With the emergence of more and more same sex couples into the mainstream, these couples wish to share their love, knowledge and parenting skills to raise happy, functional and productive children. In this quest, however, there have been roadblocks, challenges, and the question of whether or not same sex couples can provide the same benefits to children as would the traditional male/female dynamic. In this paper, several key issues surrounding the same sex parenting issue will be presented and explored; ultimately, upon the conclusion of the research, information based on fact will come to light.
The Origins of Same Sex ParentingIn order to fully understand exactly how same sex parenting has come to the level of frequency and visibility that it now exhibits in the 21st century, one must first grasp exactly from where this child rearing scenario began. While same sex parenting has undoubtedly existed in one form or another as long as there have been children to raise, the practice has quite literally come to the light of day in the last several decades because of legal wrangling and the pursuit of civil rights on the part of same sex couples themselves.At the heart of the entitlement of same sex couples for the rights and protections like those of so-called “conventional” male/female couples is the Constitutional protection of equal rights for everyone. While race, religion, and so forth are explicitly spelled out in the text of the United States Constitution, as well as many of the constitutions of individual states, sexual preference was not addressed, at least originally. However, pivotal legal challenges, such as those in the states of Hawaii and New Hampshire in recent years have given same sex couples the protections that all other couples enjoy (Allen, 2006).
Empowered by the ability to form legal marriages in some jurisdictions, and along with that ability the wherewithal to benefit from employer-based health insurance, estate laws, etc, same sex couples have sought to build nuclear families-two parents and children- with a twist. The twist, of course, is that the parental unit may consist of two males or two females. With the legal challenges out of the way in many cases as previously cited, the question arises as to if the gender of parental units makes one child-rearing situation superior, or inferior, to the other.
Who Makes the Better Parent?Same sex parents, having made the shift to the mainstream of society and enjoying legal protection like never before, still have some other considerable roadblocks that need to be addressed. Opponents of same sex parenting have made the argument that having an unconventional “father-mother” arrangement, which could be “father-father” or “mother-mother”, may in fact be detrimental to the children being raised. In response to this challenge, professional studies have been conducted to accurately measure the effect, good or bad, that same sex parenting has on the children involved.Universally recognized as one of the pivotal studies on same sex parenting is a 2002 study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which concluded the following, to quote a passage from the study itself:”There is a considerable body of professional literature that suggests children with parents who are homosexual have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as children whose parents are heterosexual.” (Washington Times, 2002, A15).
In fairness, however, the mainstream existence of same sex parenting has had a relatively short lifespan, and therefore, a low volume of data upon which to base a comprehensive study is in place. What this means, however, is not that same sex parenting is inferior to conventional parenting, but rather that there is not enough data to make a determination one way or the other. One thing that can be fairly said, even based upon a cursory examination of the media and more in-depth studies, is that sub-par parenting exists in any domestic situation, and is not necessarily linked to the gender of the parents, marital status, socioeconomic standing, or the like (Cain, 2001). This being said, there is some evidence that suggests that economics play a factor in the success of parenting, regardless of the gender of the parents themselves.
With this in mind, a closer look at the economics of same sex parenting is worthwhile.A Matter of Dollars and “Sense”Although one cannot artificially manufacture a loving and nurturing environment in which to raise a child at any price, it makes logical sense that children raised in a household that offers the opportunity for children to receive top-notch education, food, shelter, clothing and medical care is a distinct advantage in comparison to the absence of these entitlements. Therefore, one can say that in parenting, “dollars make sense”. Far from a catchy motto, this maxim raises some interesting points.First, the advantages of cohabitation are quite important, especially when a couple is recognized as married in the legal sense. Because of the aforementioned advantages in healthcare, estate planning, and on and on, the institution of marriage as a legal instrument has very definite financial benefits and efficiencies built into it (Strasser, 1999).
Using a strong financial base as the foundation of the raising of children, parents have a better chance of raising functional, well adjusted children. Therefore, in the interest of the well-being of children and their proper development, perhaps the focus should not be on the gender of parents but rather on their merit on a case by case basis in terms of being effective parents. Using this standard, it makes sense that parents of the same gender can be great parents, are have no less of a chance of being good parents than anyone else.Reality dictates that same sex parents would be no better or worse than any other parents; individual cases are really where fair comparisons can be made, and the ability of parents cannot be based on gender anymore than they can be based on height, eye color, or favorite baseball team, to give a farfetched example. There may be, and indeed are, cases where the personal value systems of those who are judging same sex parenting cloud a fair and accurate assessment of the issue.
In the case of heterosexual parenting couples, their inability to understand the emotions and many challenges that same sex couples face on a day to day basis could lead the heterosexuals to discount same sex parenting as a whole because it does not meet their standards of what they think a parental dynamic should be. In response to this, there are likewise examples of same sex parental unions that are superior to heterosexual ones.“Mom and Mom Know Best”Some who have studied the quality of parenting have determined that in many cases, the existence of two parents is really the factor that lends itself to good parenting as opposed to single parent households, regardless of whether the parents are heterosexual or same sex couples-again, it all comes down to the quality of the parents, not their gender or sexual preference (The Daily Mail, 2006).Certain parental dynamics in two parent households can in fact lend themselves to superior parenting.
Opponents to same sex parenting have made the argument that the creation of masculinity in male children can be hampered by the lack of a male parent in the home. While this may be the case in some situations, research has shown that female/female parenting teams have made an exceptional effort to increase the masculinity of male children, thereby overcoming the lack of a male parent in the home through extra diligence, often known as maverick motherhood (The Washington Times, 2005). Bottom line is that once again, the results of same sex parenting are mixed at best from the viewpoint of practicality. Morally, however, raises in itself another set of questions.“The Voice of God” Speaks OutThere are some sad realities that show that same sex parenting can be undesirable, if not from the financial and legal standpoints, then from the moral, religious and ethical points of view, as well as societal opinions. As an example, Catholic church as said that from a religious standpoint, same sex parenting is a form of child abuse (Henneman, 2005).
This, however, probably has as much to do with the dogma of the church as it does with any empirical evidence surrounding the issue. Other religious sects have been able to take off the blinders of obsession with religious technicalities and realize that the well being of children is really the issue, especially in the case of orphaned children who can be taken into loving, same sex parent homes, and enjoy a fruitful childhood (The Daily Mail, 2006).The divide among the religious communities of the world on same sex parenting once again indicates that there is no black or white answer to the phenomenon, but rather the answer lies within the shades of grey.ConclusionThis paper has taken a look at same sex parenting from social, religious, ethical and financial standpoints to reach a verdict as to its propriety and effectiveness. In the final analysis, however, the clearest conclusion is that same sex parenting is not completely good or bad, any more than traditional parenting would be; in either case, it depends on a variety of factors.
However, one thing is clear- society should not condemn same sex parenting wholesale because of preconceived notions or ancient hatreds. What should be done, is to fairly consider the future of our children, for in their hands lies the very future of the human race.