For the past four years, researchers working for the American Academy of Pediatrics have conducted an extensive review of the evidence on gay marriage, specifically examining how it impacts the health and well-being of children.
The review led to a new policy statement for the Academy – an organization of 60,000 pediatricians – that says same sex marriage helps guarantee rights, benefits and long-term security for children. The Academy also stated that when marriage is not an option, children should not be deprived of foster care or adoption by single parents or couples, whatever their sexual orientation.
The review cites 60 studies on family make-up and child well-being. The evidence demonstrates that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support than by the gender or the sexual orientation of parents.
The review also found evidence that children raised by homosexual parents perform as well emotionally, cognitively and socially as those raised by heterosexual parents.
“Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families’ stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members,” the report said.
There were some limitations to the evidence. Studies on gay and lesbian families used small sample sizes that weren’t representative of the national population. And many studies use parents assessments of their children, which are not found to be as accurate as those conducted by researchers’.
Still, the review is a step in the right direction. More research would certainly help paint a clearer picture. But looking at the evidence on an issue as politically contentious as gay marriage is a welcome change, and an important contribution to future policy-making.