Polyamorous Parenting in Contemporary Research: Developments and Future Directions



Polyamory and other forms of consensual non-monogamies (CNM) are becoming increasingly popular among members of the general public and especially among LGBTQ+ populations. CNM remains under-researched and comparatively little is known. Consequently, family service providers are often ill-informed about CNM and require additional information to adequately serve CNM communities. Seeking to contribute to that discussion, in this chapter we first identify four issues that frame the academic and social conversations about polyfamilies and provide an overview of recent academic research and theoretical development regarding polyparenting. Next, we review the authors’ original and ongoing research, using data from three studies (two in Australia and one in the USA) to identify common trends in the cumulative findings, both inside polyamorous families and the pressures they face in the external world. Findings internal to families indicate a free-range parenting style, collaborative parenting, and permeable family boundaries with extended chosen kinship. Issues external to polyfamilies include disclosure and exposure, impacts of coming out to children, and interactions with health, welfare, legal systems, and media. We close this chapter with directions for future research, implications for health and welfare practitioners, and a call for visibility, inclusion, and intersectionality.


Bisexualities Blended families Chosen families Consensual non-monogamy Custody and child welfare Disclosure and passing Parenting Polyamory Queer kinships Stigma 



To the wonderful group of parents from PolyVic and the women in the Women with Bisexual Male Partners research. Many thanks to Peter Haydon and Anne Hunter with whom some of this work was published in the first edition (2013) of this book. And many thanks to Sara Lubowitz with whom the Women with Bisexual Male Partners research was conducted.

Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli and Ruby Mountford

Thank you to all of the participants in the Longitudinal Polyamorous Families Study, your candor and willingness to take time for participation have made the research possible.

Elisabeth Sheff


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Sheff ConsultingChattanoogaUSA
  3. 3.Melbourne Bisexual NetworkMelbourneAustralia

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