Same-Sex Parenting, Child Sexual Orientation and Sexual Experiences

A central question regarding same-sex parenting is how it might impact the sexual orientation and identification of children raised in such homes.

Only a few published studies have examined this question and nearly all involve lesbian-headed families.

These studies consistently show a markedly greater likelihood of children raised by same-sex parents to identify with and experience same-sex or bi-sexual contact than children raised in heterosexual homes.Gartrell, Bos and Goldberg, 2011

A study published in late 2011 by the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) reported that, "daughters of lesbian mothers were significantly more likely to have had same-sex contact" compared with their peers from heterosexual-parented homes. Nanette K. Gartrell, Henny M. W. Bos and Naomi G. Goldberg, "Adolescents of the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Sexual Orientation, Sexual Behavior, and Sexual Risk Exposure" Archive of Sexual Behavior, 40 (2011):1199-1209, p. 1199. Boys were not as likely to identify as homosexual as the girls, but more so than boys raised by heterosexual parents.

Girls from planned lesbian-mothered families were:

  • Dramatically more likely to have used emergency contraception.
  • Significantly less likely to have used other forms of contraception.
  • More likely to identify as bisexual. Gartrell, Bos and Goldberg, 2011. See Table 3, p. 1204; Table 4, p. 1205.

Contrasting Young Adults Identifying as Exclusively Heterosexual by Parent-Type Gartrell, Bos and Goldberg, 2011, Table 3; National Survey of Family Growth, Cycle 6, Table 3.5.









Adolescent Use of Emergency ContraceptionGartrell, Bos and Goldberg, 2011, Table 4, p. 1205.


Mothered Girls


Mothered Girls



Girls Reporting Sex with Other GirlsGartrell, Bos and Goldberg, 2011, Table 4, p. 1205.


Mothered Girls


Mothered Girls



Boys raised by lesbian moms were less sexually active in all categories, compared with boys raised in mother/father homes, which is consistent with other studies below.

Biblarz and Stacey, 2010

This study only addresses family type and child sexual practice/identification briefly by referring to an unpublished working paper from the University of Amsterdam. While not offering exact data, the authors report that daughters of lesbian mothers were less likely to report "heterosexual identity" than daughters of heterosexual couples. Timothy J. Biblarz and Judith Stacey, "How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?" Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (2010): 3-22, p. 15. Sons appeared to show similar outcomes with other studies of greater sexual reticence.

Stacey and Biblarz, 2001

The next major study was a review published in the prestigious American Sociological Review by a lead author strongly sympathetic with GLBT causes. Her team describes the outcomes from the two different family types as "striking": 64 percent of young adults raised by lesbian mothers reported considering having same-sex erotic relationships (in the past, now or future). Only 17 percent of young adults in heterosexual families reported this.Stacey and Biblarz, 2001, p. 170.

Likewise "girls raised by lesbian mothers appear to have been more sexually adventurous and less chaste." Boys raised in such homes tended to be more sexually reticent. Stacey and Biblarz, 2001, p. 171.

Tasker and Golombok, 1997

One of the first major studies to examine this question – comparing outcomes among lesbian and heterosexual moms – found "significantly more young people from lesbian mother families than from heterosexual mother families reported having experienced a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender." Fiona L. Tasker and Susan Golombok, Growing Up in a Lesbian Family: Effects on Child Development, (New York: The Guilford Press, 1997), p. 111.

The study shows more young adults raised by lesbian mothers experienced each of the following attitudes and behaviors than peers raised by heterosexual mothers by the following differentials. Tasker and Golombok, 1997. Table 6.1, p. 107


Greater Likelihood of Lesbian-Parented Young Adults

Same-Sex Attraction


Identify as Gay/Lesbian/Bi


Considering S-S Relationships


Considered Such in the Past


Had S-S Relationships


They also reported a mild trend in the data "suggesting that mothers who reported…that they would accept their child's developing a non-heterosexual orientation tended to have children who at follow-up were more likely to report same-gender sexual interest." Tasker and Golombok, 1997, p. 117.

Such findings seem to indicate a developmental nature for same-sex practice and identification among young adults.

Glenn T. Stanton is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of five books on various aspects of the family, his two most recent: Secure Daughters Confident Sons, How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Waterbrook, 2011) and The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, (Moody, 2011).

© 2012 Focus on the Family.