Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 167–184

Lesbian mothers and their children: A comparison with solo parent heterosexual mothers and their children

  • Richard Green
  • Jane Barclay Mandel
  • Mary E. Hotvedt
  • James Gray
  • Laurel Smith


Two types of single-parent households and their effects on children ages 3–11 years were compared. One type comprised 50 homosexual mothers and their 56 children, and the other was a group of 40 heterosexual mothers and their 48 children. There were 30 daughters and 26 sons of homosexual mothers and 28 daughters and 20 sons of heterosexual mothers. The sexual identity and social relationships of the children were assessed in relation to the sexual orientation of the mothers. The samples consisted of families from rural and urban areas in 10 American states. All have lived without adult males (18 years or older) in the household for a minimum of 2 years (average 4). Families with heterosexual mothers were matched to families with homosexual mothers on age and race of mother; length of mother and child separation from father; educational level and income of mother; and number, age, and sex of children. Data are reported from childrens' tests designed to provide information on general intelligence, core-morphologic sexual identity, gender-role preferences, family and peer group relationships, and adjustment to the single-parent family. No significant differences were found between the two types of households for boys and few significant differences for girls. Concerns that being raised by a homosexual mother might produce sexual identity conflict and peer group stigmatization were not supported by the research findings. Data also revealed more similarities than differences in parenting experiences, marital history, and present living situations of the two groups of mothers. The postulated compromised parental fitness of lesbian mothers, commonly asserted in child custody cases, is not supported by these data.

Key words

sexual identity lesbian father absence homosexuality child custody 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Green
    • 1
  • Jane Barclay Mandel
    • 2
  • Mary E. Hotvedt
    • 3
  • James Gray
    • 4
  • Laurel Smith
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science, Neuropsychiatric InstituteUCLA Medical CenterLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family PracticeMedical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Family and Community MedicineUniversity of Arizona Health Sciences CenterTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Veterans Administration Medical CenterNorthportUSA
  5. 5.Department of StatisticsTexas A & M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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