The American Academy of Pediatrics Report Supporting Gay Adoption and Parenting

Dr. Antwon Chavis is a general pediatrician practicing in Portland, Oregon. Antwon has a wide array of interests, such as adolescent medicine, mental health, and working with children and adolescents with behavioral or developmental issues. He and his partner, Nate, are proud fathers of two cats, Doc and Blerg.

Dr. Antwon Chavis

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a professional organization of 64,000 pediatricians and pediatric sub-specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. More specifically, the AAP has a direct impact on how virtually every pediatrician in the United States advocates and practices medicine. The practice guidelines issued by the AAP form the basis of pediatric healthcare. Pediatricians across America refer to the guidelines issued by the AAP everyday.

The AAP recently released a policy statement entitled “Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian”. Below are the four key points addressed in the report:

1. Our community is growing!

The US 2010 Census reported that 646,464 households included two parents of the same gender. When combined with single gay and lesbian parents, it means that almost two million children are being raised by gay and lesbian parents in the US.

2. The children of gay and lesbian parents have comparable developmental and psychological outcomes.

In a literature review of 23 articles published over the last 30 years (that included 615 children raised by gay and lesbian parents versus 387 controls), the two groups did not differ in emotional/behavioral functioning, sexual orientation, experiences of stigmatization (adolescence is hard, regardless of the sexuality of your parents), and cognitive functioning.

3. All parents, regardless of sexuality, play a role in their child’s development.

While research has shown that being a gay parent doesn’t negatively affect development, it has found multiple factors that do have an effect on the kinds of people our children become. The evidence suggests that a child’s well-being is affected less by the sexuality of the parents than it is by:

  • Their relationship with those parents
  • The parents’ sense of competence and security
  • The presence of social and economic support for the family.
  • Parenthood is challenging, as is growing up. But the majority of parents do a superb job in raising their children. Encouraging honest and open communication with your children from a young age will help determine their understanding of social stigma and will ultimately help us to make progress as a community.

    It is worth bearing in mind that when you read about studies that describe negative outcomes among children with gay and lesbian parents, those studies are usually limited and for a variety of reasons:

  • They include small, selective and non-comparable samples. Studies performed in places where gays can’t marry are unable to draw meaningful comparisons between married straight parents and their gay and lesbian counterparts. Recognition of marriage and civil union removes legal and health disparities in health insurance, social security, medical consent, and adoption.
  • They rarely report longitudinal data. They don’t evaluate families over the course of childhood and/or adolescence. The results from any single point in time don’t represent the complicated dynamics of growing up.
  • They have no control group. If a study doesn’t compare children with gay parents to a control group of teenagers with the same demographics but heterosexual parents, its results cannot be generalized.
  • 4. Pediatricians are continually challenging themselves to be better doctors.

    Depending on a provider with unknown attitudes towards gay parenting can be a barrier for some. A family may be uncomfortable with scheduling a child’s visit to the doctor in an effort to protect them from hostile questions and negativity. For myself and other pediatricians in the LGBT community, this is heartbreaking. Pediatricians have been challenged to understand their own biases, and to recognize that an LGBT family constellation is rarely the cause of a child’s physical or emotional disorder. If you don’t feel that your doctor has your family’s well-being as their priority, I encourage you to either bring it to their attention or to change providers. There are too many good doctors out there to feel “stuck” with an unsupportive one!

    As a pediatrician, I am truly not surprised by the results of theses studies and the conclusion of this report. The majority of us are excited to rally around families of this community (a community that I personally am a part of). An accompanying editorial noted: “Can these data reassure those who fear that homosexual relationships with or without children will herald the end of the family as we know it? Our experience tells us that the resilience of children who are loved and know love. And when we see these moms or dads with their kids in our practice, we call them families.”

    American Academy of Pediatrics: “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian”

    American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on the Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. Promoting the well-being of children whose parents are gay or lesbian. Pediatrics. 2013; in press

    Hagan J. What shall we call them? Pediatrics. 2010;126(1):175–176.

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