NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Being raised by two mothers does not hinder healthy psychological development, according to a study conducted as the first generation of children conceived by lesbians via donor insemination turn 18.
In fact, lesbian mothers rated their 17-year-olds higher in social and academic skills, and lower in rule-breaking and aggression, than mothers of teenagers who also had a father.
However teenagers whose mothers said they experienced homophobia and bullying were more anxious and had more depressive symptoms than their peers although it was not clear if the anxiety was a product of the bullying or the other way around.
The U.S. study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to follow children of lesbian couples all the way from conception to adolescence. "There are so many places in the United States where same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt or foster children in need," said Dr. Nanette Gartrell of the University of California, San Francisco, who started the "U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study" in 1986.
"(But) there is not a single study that has shown there are any problems in terms of psychological adjustment (of the child)."
Gartrell said opponents of same-sex parenting often mention cultural or religious values, some also contend that growing up with two mothers or two fathers can't be healthy for the child.
But there is no solid evidence that homosexual parenting is any worse or better than its conventional counterpart, according to Gartrell, who is in a same-sex partnership.
"The things we know that make for good parenting are love, resources and being very involved in your child's life," she said. The findings are based on 77 families of both girls and boys. The researchers interviewed the lesbian mothers about their children and then rated the teenagers on the child behavior checklist, a standardized assessment used for decades.
Each teenager also filled out an Internet-based psychological questionnaire.
When comparing the results to how mothers living in conventional families rated their teenagers, children of same-sex couples were more competent in school, had fewer social problems, broke fewer rules and were less aggressive.
Based on how the children reported themselves, they did just as well, whether or not they knew the identity of their biological father.
According to recent data, about 250,000 American children are living with same-sex parents.
It is unclear why children of same-sex couples would be in better psychological shape than those of heterosexual parents.
But Gartrell said one reason could be that lesbian mothers had planned their parenthood carefully and were prepared to help their children through any discrimination they might face.
"These were chosen children, they weren't accidents," Gartrell said.
Reporting by Frederik Joelving, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith