Study: Children of Same-Sex ‘Parents’ Twice As Likely to Be Depressed

By Emily Blatter | July 19, 2016 | 3:01pm EDT

(AP image)

( A recent study by Donald Paul Sullins, a research professor at the Catholic University of America, Department of Sociology, reveals that children raised by same-sex parents are twice as likely to suffer delayed-onset depression as their peers raised by heterosexual parents. 

Specifically, "[a]t age 28, the adults raised by same-sex parents were at over twice the risk of depression as persons raised by man-woman parents," reads the study abstract.

“As the first study to examine children raised by same-sex parents into adulthood," says Sullins, "this exploratory study aims to contribute new information for understanding the effects of same-sex parenting through the life course transition into early adulthood."

The research article is entitled, Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression Among Adults With Same-Sex Parents, and was published in the journal Depression Research and Treatment

The study followed a representative sample of Americans from adolescence through young adulthood, interviewing the subjects at ages 15, 22, and 28. This “longitudinal” approach allowed Sullins to test the long-term effects of homosexual parenting on children.

Sullins used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (“Add Health”), which monitors the development of a sample of Americans from age 15 to 28, to ensure his sample would be as representative as possible.

The study found that children raised by homosexual parents were more than twice as likely to be depressed as adults as were their peers raised by opposite-sex parents.

Although children of same-sex parents were slightly less likely to be depressed during adolescence, more than half suffered depression symptoms as adults.

Sullins examined a variety of factors that have been shown to be related to depression, including child abuse, obesity, perceived stigmatization and parental distance.

Children raised by homosexual parents showed higher rates of all these factors than their peers with heterosexual parents.

However, Sullins said "these findings should be interpreted with caution. Elevated risk was associated with imbalanced parental closeness and parental child abuse in family of origin; depression, suicidality, and anxiety at age 15; and stigma and obesity. More research and policy attention to potentially problematic conditions for children with same-sex parents appears warranted."

(AP image)

Children of gay parents, and particularly children of lesbian parents, reported a significantly higher rate of abuse than children of heterosexual parents, according to the study. Ninety-two percent of children with same-sex parents said that their parents had abused them in some way during childhood (verbally, physically, emotionally), and 23% percent reported having been sexually abused.

For comparison, 58% of children with opposite-sex parents reported being abused in some way – verbally, physically or emotionally.

Sullins’ study is the first to report such high levels of abuse, partly because previous studies interviewed the parents, who were more likely to downplay abusive behavior. Sullins’ longitudinal study interviewed the children as they matured, who exposed parental abuse that previous studies failed to uncover.

Sullins also found that children of same-sex parents are more likely to become obese than their peers with heterosexual parents. While obesity is not a cause of depression, it frequently occurs alongside depression.

Although a significant amount of prior research had been done on children of same-sex parents, most of the data were taken from unrepresentative samples. Children legitimately raised by same-sex parents are few in number, making it difficult to gather a sample large enough to count as representative.

In addition, most of the children with same-sex parents who participated in these previous studies were gathered from advertisements, LGBT bookstores, youth events, and other such sources. Participants knew the objective of the study, and were disproportionately inclined to give positive feedback on same-sex parenting. 

In its conclusion, the study states, "the present findings should be interpreted with caution and balance, based on the limited evidence presented, and (it is hoped) neither exaggerated nor dismissed out of hand on preconceived ideological grounds. However, well-intentioned concern for revealing negative information about a stigmatized minority does not justify leaving children without support in an environment that may be problematic or dangerous for their dignity and security."

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