Washington, Jan 22 : That children need both a mother and a father is a belief universally ingrained in human beings. However, a study challenges the idea that "fatherless" children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.
"Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father," said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the University of Southern California (USC).
"Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents."
Extending their prior work on gender and family, Biblarz and Judith Stacey of New York University (NYU) analysed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents.
They found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the "partial exception of lactation", noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children's psychological adjustment and social success.
Indeed, there are far more similarities than differences among children of lesbian and heterosexual parents, according to the study.
On average, two mothers tended to play with their children more, were less likely to use physical discipline, and were less likely to raise children with chauvinistic attitudes.
However, like two heterosexual parents, new parenthood among lesbians increased stress and conflict, exacerbated by the general lack of legal recognition of commitment.
Also, lesbian biological mothers typically assumed greater caregiving responsibility than their partners, reflecting inequities among heterosexual couples, says a USC release.
These findings are slated for publication in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family. (IANS)