Sex Roles

, Volume 61, Issue 1–2, pp 55–71 | Cite as

Heterosexual, Lesbian, and Gay Preadoptive Parents’ Preferences About Child Gender

  • Abbie E. Goldberg
Original Article


Little research has explored the child gender preferences of preadoptive parents. This study utilized a mixed-methods approach to explore child gender preferences (and individuals’ reasons for such preferences) in a geographically diverse, US sample of 93 heterosexual, 61 lesbian, and 48 gay male preadoptive couples. Heterosexual men were the least likely to demonstrate a gender preference and gay men were the most likely. Individuals in heterosexual relationships were more likely to prefer girls than individuals in same-gender relationships. In explaining their preferences, sexual minorities often emphasized gender socialization considerations (e.g., their perceived inability to socialize a child of the opposite gender) and concerns about heterosexism (e.g., some gay men preferred girls because they felt a boy would encounter more harassment).


Adoption Child gender Gay Lesbian Preferences 


  1. Arnold, F. (1997). Gender preferences for children. Demographic and Health Surveys Comparative Studies, no. 23. Google Scholar
  2. Arnold, F., & Kuo, E. (1984). The value of daughters and sons: A comparative study of gender preferences of parents. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 15, 299–318.Google Scholar
  3. Bachrach, C. A., Stolley, K. S., & London, K. A. (1992). Relinquishment of premarital births: Evidence from the national survey data. Family Planning Perspectives, 24, 27–32, 48.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brodzinsky, D., & Pinderhughes, E. (2002). Parenting and child development in adoptive families. In M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (pp. 279–311). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Bryman, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: How is it done? Qualitative Research, 6, 97–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Calhoun, C. (1997). Family outlaws. Philosophical Studies, 85, 181–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Callan, V. J., & Kee, P. K. (1981). Sons or daughters? Cross-cultural comparisons of the sex preferences of Australian, Greek, Italian, Malay, Chinese, and Indian parents in Australia and Malaysia. Population and Environment, 4, 98–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carlson, H., & Steuer, J. (1985). Age, sex-role categorization, and psychological health in American homosexual and heterosexual men and women. Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 203–211.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Coombs, L. C., & Fernandez, D. (1978). Husband–wife agreement about reproductive goals. Demography, 15, 57–73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Angelo, R. J., McGuire, J. M., Abbott, D. W., & Sheridan, S. (1998). Homophobia and perceptions of people with AIDS. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 157–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daniluk, J. C. (2001). “If we had to do it over again…”: Couples’ reflections on their experiences of infertility treatments. The Family Journal, 9, 122–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gartrell, N., Hamilton, J., Banks, A., Mosbacher, D., Reed, N., Sparks, C. H., et al. (1996). The national lesbian family study: 1. Interviews with prospective mothers. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 66, 272–281.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gates, G., & Ost, J. (2004). The lesbian and gay atlas. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gates, G., Badgett, M. V. L., Macomber, J. E., & Chambers, K. (2007). Adoption and foster care by gay and lesbian parents in the United States. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  16. Goldberg, A. E., & Allen, K. R. (2007). Lesbian mothers’ ideas and intentions about male involvement across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 352–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gravois, J. (January 16, 2004). Bringing up babes: Why do adoptive parents prefer girls? Slate. Retrieved October 21, 2008 from
  18. Greil, A., Leitko, T., & Porter, K. (1988). Infertility: His and hers. Gender & Society, 2, 172–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hammer, M., & McFerran, J. (1988). Preference for sex of child: A research update. Individual Psychology, 44, 481–491.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hank, K., & Kohler, H. P. (2003). Sex preferences for children revisited: New evidence from Germany. Population, 58, 131–143.Google Scholar
  21. Herrmann-Green, L. K., & Gehring, T. M. (2007). The German lesbian family study: Planning for parenthood via donor insemination. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 3, 351–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hesse-Biber, S. (1995). Unleashing Frankenstein’s monster: The use of computers in qualitative research. Studies in Qualitative Methodology, 5, 25–41.Google Scholar
  23. Hicks, S. (2006). Maternal men—Perverts and deviants? Making sense of gay men as foster carers and adopters. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 2, 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hortacsu, N., Bastug, S. S., & Muhammetberdiev, O. B. (2001). Desire for children in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan: Son preference and perceived instrumentality for value satisfaction. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 309–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jones, J. (2008). Adoption experiences of women and men and demand for children to adopt by women 18–44 years of age in the United States, 2002. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 23, Number 27. Google Scholar
  26. Juni, S., Rahamim, E. L., & Brannon, R. (1985). Sex role development as a function of parent models and oedipal fixation. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 146, 89–99.Google Scholar
  27. Kane, E. (2006). “No way my boys are going to be like that!”: Parents’ responses to children’s gender nonconformity. Gender & Society, 20, 149–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Katzev, A. R., Warner, R. L., & Acock, A. C. (1994). Girls or boys? Relationship of child gender to marital instability. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 89–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kreider, R. (2003). Adopted children and stepchildren, 2000. Census 2000, special reports. Washington, DC: US Bureau of Census.Google Scholar
  30. Marleau, J. D., & Saucier, J. F. (2002). Preference for a first-born boy in western societies. Journal of Biosocial Science, 34, 13–27.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Matthews, J., & Cramer, E. (2006). Envisaging the adoption process to strengthen gay and lesbian headed families: Recommendations for adoption professionals. Child Welfare, 85, 317–340.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McDougall, J., DeWit, D. J., & Ebanks, G. E. (1999). Parental preferences for sex of children in Canada. Sex Roles, 41, 615–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meyers, L. W., Gamst, G., & Guarino, A. J. (2006). Applied multivariate research: Design and interpretation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Notman, M. K. (2006). Mothers and daughters as adults. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 26, 137–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Okun, B. S. (1996). Sex preferences, family planning and fertility. An Israeli subpopulation in. transition. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 469–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Oomman, N., & Ganatra, B. R. (2002). Sex selection: The systematic elimination of girls. Reproductive Health Matters, 10, 184–187.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Parry, D. C. (2005). Women’s experiences with infertility: The fluidity of conceptualizations of ‘family.’. Qualitative Sociology, 28, 275–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  40. Pollard, M. S., & Morgan, S. P. (2002). Emerging parental gender indifference? Sex composition of children and the third birth. American Sociological Review, 67, 600–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Raley, S., & Bianchi, S. (2006). Sons, daughters, and family processes: Does gender of children matter? Annual Review of Sociology, 32, 401–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Steinbacher, R., & Gilroy, F. (1985). Preference for sex of child among primiparous women. The Journal of Psychology, 119, 541–547.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Steinbacher, R., & Gilroy, F. (1990). Sex selection technology: A prediction of its use and effect. The Journal of Psychology, 124, 283–288.Google Scholar
  44. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Swetkis, D., Gilroy, F., & Steinbacher, R. (2002). Firstborn preference and attitudes toward using sex selection technology. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 163, 228–238.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tasker, F., & Golombok, S. (1997). Growing up in a lesbian family: Effects on child development. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  47. Walker, M. K., & Conner, G. K. (1993). Fetal sex preference of second-trimester gravidas. Journal of Nurse Midwifery, 38, 110–113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Warren, M. (1985). Gendercide: The implications of sex selection. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld.Google Scholar
  49. Williamson, N. (1976). Sex preferences, sex control, and the status of women. Signs, 1, 847–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyClark UniversityWorcesterUSA

Personalised recommendations