Gay and Heterosexual Single Father Families Created by Surrogacy: Father–Child Relationships, Parenting Quality, and Children’s Psychological Adjustment

  • Nicola CaroneEmail author
  • Roberto Baiocco
  • Vittorio Lingiardi
  • Lavinia Barone



The present study examined father-–child relationships, parenting quality, and child psychological adjustment in 35 gay single father surrogacy families, 30 heterosexual single father surrogacy families, 45 gay two-father surrogacy families, and 45 heterosexual two-parent IVF families, when children were aged 3–10 years.


In each family, fathers were administered standardized questionnaires and interviews, and participated in three video-recorded observational tasks with their child. Teachers and a child psychiatrist further rated child adjustment.


The only differences across family types indicated greater parenting stress in gay and heterosexual single fathers. Irrespective of family type, lower sensitivity and supportive parenting predicted greater father-reported child internalizing problems; whereas lower rough-and-tumble play quality and sensitivity, greater negative parenting and parenting stress, and the child male gender predicted greater father-reported child externalizing problems. In teachers’ ratings, the child female gender was associated with greater child internalizing problems, whereas greater negative parenting, lower rough-and tumble play quality, and the child male gender were associated with greater child externalizing problems.


The results confirm that the adjustment of children born to gay and heterosexual single fathers through surrogacy is more a function of family processes than family structure.

Policy Implications

The results enable practitioners to develop an informed view of the influence of assisted reproduction on the adjustment of children born to single fathers through surrogacy. In this vein, it is empirically unfounded for policymakers to consider children born to single fathers through surrogacy at risk of developing psychological problems, as well as to continue to ban single men from accessing fertility treatments.


Single father family Surrogacy Parent–child relationship Parenting Child adjustment Sexual orientation 



We are grateful to all children and their fathers and teachers who have made this research possible. We thank Prof. Roisman and his research team who kindly shared their Parenting Quality Interview with us. Alongside, we also thank Prof. Fletcher and his research team who agreed on using their coding manual for the assessment of observed rough-and-tumble play quality.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Brain and Behavioral SciencesLab on Attachment and Parenting – LAG, University of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Developmental and Social PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of Dynamic and Clinical PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

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