Kids in the longest-running study of same-sex parenting are doing just fine at 25

Conservatives are still trying to justify discrimination against same-sex families.

Zach Wahls, who made his first political splash in a viral video testifying on behalf of his moms, is now running for the Iowa Senate. CREDIT: Facebook/Zach Wahls
Zach Wahls, who made his first political splash in a viral video testifying on behalf of his moms, is now running for the Iowa Senate. CREDIT: Facebook/Zach Wahls

The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has been following a contingent of lesbian families since they first started to plan to have kids in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those children are now about 25 years old, and the researchers have confirmed that they’re doing swimmingly.

Compared to their peers who were not raised by same-sex couples, researchers found no significant differences with respect to “adaptive functioning (family,  friends, spouse or partner relationships, and educational or job performance), behavioral or emotional problems, scores on mental health diagnostic scales, or the percentage of participants with a score in the borderline or clinical range.”

In short, the longest running study of same-sex parenting found that kids raised by same-sex couples turn out pretty much the same as everybody else. The NLLFS has a number of limitations, including that there were no same-sex male couples, that it was not a random sample, and that the families were not racially or economically diverse. It nevertheless jibes with countless other studies that have found children raised by same-sex families turn out just fine. 

For example, a 2016 study that did rely on a random sample of same-sex families found that there was no difference in outcomes for the children, even though it did find higher levels of stress in the same-sex couples. The fact that this stress did not translate into less favorable outcomes in the children speaks to the resilience of these families.


Another 2016 study included a mix of two-men, two-women, and man-woman couples recruited through five adoption agencies and also collected feedback from the children’s teachers to make sure parents weren’t biasing the results. Researchers found no differences among any of the families based on orientation.

One of the world’s largest studies of same-sex families, conducted in Australia, found that the children raised by same-sex couples were actually happier and healthier than their peers. This was true even across families with different levels of parent education and household income.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in favor of marriage equality, same-sex families are still under attack. Several states have passed laws granting adoption agencies the right to discriminate against them, and Republicans in Congress recently adopted a similar amendment that could create such a license to discriminate at the federal level.

Fights over this kind of discrimination against families are still playing out in courts. The ACLU is challenging a Michigan law that allows child placement agencies to continue receiving state money even though they refuse to serve same-sex couples. Last week, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled against a Catholic adoption agency that objected when the city suspended its operations because it violated Philadelphia’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination law.

These religious adoption agencies, and the anti-LGBTQ groups defending them, insist that they should be able to practice their religious belief that children are better off with a mother and a father. In reality, there has been scientific consensus on the validity of same-sex parenting for decades and the latest research is just icing on the cake.