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Same-Sex Marriage: Not in the Best Interest of Children

October 15th, 2009

By Trayce Hansen, Ph.D.

As mental health professionals, it’s our ethical and moral obligation to support policies that are in the best interest of those we serve, particularly those who are most vulnerable—namely, children. Same-sex marriage may be in the best interest of adult homosexuals who yearn for social and legal recognition of their unions, but it’s not in the best interest of children.

Proponents of same-sex marriage believe love is all children really need. Based on that supposition, they conclude it’s just as good for children to be raised by loving parents of the same sex, as by loving parents of the opposite sex. But that basic assumption—and all that flows from it—is naively simplistic and denies the complex nature and core needs of human beings.

According to decades of research, the ideal family structure for children is a two-parent, mother-father family.(1,2,3) That research consistently shows that children raised in such families are more likely to thrive—psychologically, mentally, and physically—than children reared in any other kind of family configuration.

Extensive research also reveals that not only mothers, but also fathers, are critical to the healthy development of children. Swedish researchers reviewed the best longitudinal studies from around the world that assessed the effects of fathers on children’s development. Their review spanned 20 years of studies and included over 22,000 children, and found that fathers reduce behavioral problems in boys and psychological problems in girls, enhance cognitive development, and decrease delinquency.(4)

It’s clear that children benefit from having both a male and female parent. Recent medical research confirms genetically determined differences between men and women and those fundamental differences help explain why mothers and fathers bring unique characteristics to parenting that can’t be replicated by the other sex. Mothers and fathers simply aren’t interchangeable. Two women can both be good mothers, but neither can be a good father. One-sex parenting, whether by a single parent or a homosexual couple, deprives children of the full range of parenting offered by dual-sex couples.

Only mother-father families afford children the opportunity to develop relationships with a parent of the same, as well as the opposite sex. Relationships with both sexes early in life make it easier and more comfortable for a child to relate to both sexes later in life. Overall, having a relationship with both a male and female parent increases the likelihood that a child will have successful social and romantic relationships during his or her life.(5)

Moreover, existing research on children reared by homosexuals is not only scientifically flawed and extremely limited (6,7,8) but some of it actually indicates that those children are at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes.(6) Other studies find that homosexually parented children are more likely to experiment sexually, experience sexual confusion, and engage in homosexual and bisexual behavior themselves.(5,6,9) And for those children who later engage in non-heterosexual behavior, extensive research reveals they are more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders, abuse alcohol and drugs, (10) attempt suicide, (11) experience domestic violence and sexual assault, (12) and are at increased risk for chronic diseases, AIDS, and shortened life spans.(13,14,15)

It shouldn’t be surprising that studies find children reared by homosexuals are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior themselves (16,9,17) since extensive worldwide research reveals homosexuality is primarily environmentally induced. Specifically, social and/or family factors, as well as permissive environments which affirm homosexuality, play major environmental roles in the development of homosexual behavior.(18,19,20,21) There’s no question that human sexuality is fluid and pliant.(22) Consider ancient Greece and Rome—among many early civilizations—where male homosexuality and bisexuality were nearly ubiquitous. That was not so because most of those men were born with a “gay gene,” rather because sexuality is malleable and socially influenced.

Same-sex marriage no doubt will increase sexual confusion and sexual experimentation by young people. The implicit and explicit message of same-sex marriage is that all choices are equally acceptable and desirable. So even children from traditional homes—influenced by the all-sexual-options-are-equal message—will grow up thinking it doesn’t matter whom one relates to sexually or marries. Holding such a belief will lead some—if not many—young people to consider sexual and marital arrangements they never would have contemplated previously.

It also must be expected that if society permits same-sex marriage, it also will have to allow other types of non-traditional marriage. The legal logic is simple: If prohibiting same-sex marriage is discriminatory, then disallowing polygamous marriage, polyamorous marriage, or any other marital grouping also will be deemed discriminatory. In fact, such legal maneuverings have already begun. The emotional and psychological ramifications of these assorted arrangements on the developing psyches and sexuality of children would be disastrous.

To date, very little research exists that assesses long-term outcomes for homosexually parented children. According to Charlotte Patterson, a self-proclaimed, pro-same-sex-marriage researcher, there are only two longitudinal studies of children raised by lesbians.(23) And no long-term studies of children raised by homosexual men. A professional organization dedicated to the welfare of its patients cannot and should not support drastic change in social policy based on just two, small and non-representative longitudinal studies.

Certainly homosexual couples can be just as loving toward children as heterosexual couples, but children need more than love. They require the distinctive qualities and complementary natures of a male and female parent. The accumulated wisdom of over 5,000 years concludes that the ideal marital and parental configuration is composed of one man and one woman. This time-tested wisdom is now supported by the most advanced, scientifically sound research available.

Importantly, and to their credit, many self-proclaimed pro-same-sex-marriage researchers acknowledge that there is as of yet no definitive evidence as to the impact of homosexual parenting on children. Regardless, some of those advocates support same-sex marriage because they believe it offers a natural laboratory in which to assess the long-term impact on children.(24) That position is unconscionable and indefensible.

Same-sex marriage isn’t in the best interest of children. While we may empathize with those homosexuals who long to be married and parent children, we mustn’t allow our compassion for them to trump our compassion for children. In a contest between the desires of some homosexuals and the needs of all children, we cannot allow the children to lose.

CAMFT, like all mental health organizations, must base policy decisions on scientific evidence and research findings, not personal belief and political opinion. Most importantly, they must never allow children to be used as guinea pigs in unwise and potentially harmful social experiments.

The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) published a special issue of their bi-monthly journal “The Therapist” dedicated to the subject of same-sex marriage. Guest authors were asked to contribute articles, half of the writers in support and half opposed to same-sex marriage. A stated goal of the issue was to determine whether the organization should adopt a formal position on the matter.

Subsequent to publication of the May/June 2009 special issue (Volume 21, Issue 3), homosexual activists within and without the organization pressured CAMFT to not only apologize, but also expunge from their organizational archives those articles that voiced opposition to same-sex marriage. CAMFT capitulated to those demands. The Director of CAMFT apologized for publishing articles critical of same-sex marriage and all the “offending” articles were censored from the CAMFT website archives. So much for intellectual debate and freedom of opinion.

Click here for references: http://www.drtraycehansen.com/Pages/writings_notinthebest.html

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  1. Sean McLaughlin
    October 20th, 2009 at 12:54 | #1

    In all the onerous debate over same sex marriage, its proponents NEVER address this most obvious and fundamental issue of what’s best for the children involved. And, they believe that once the “social stigma” against gays and gay marriage is dampened or removed, that somehow magically, the inherent needs and problems of children exposed to those situations will be removed.
    I couldn’t disagree more. The rights of children are what are at stake here. As society makes decisions as to what’s best for everyone, children’s rights cannot and must not be ignored, what’s best for them needs to be put first and foremost in a legal sense.

  2. Kristi Richman
    October 20th, 2009 at 14:23 | #2

    A very thought provoking article. Where is the outcry amongst the public against further allowing this sector of our society free reign which results in children’s lives and emotions being damaged and confused values? I think more people need to know the facts about the permanent harm that is inflicted on innocent children’s lives because of these people’s lifestyle choices. Even then, could they conclude they are hurting and not helping the children in our society by the raising of children in same sex married couples’ homes and admit their error? I wonder. This information was helpful and I plan on sharing it. Thanks.

  3. Jim Kraai
    October 20th, 2009 at 18:12 | #3

    Have you noticed that every prime time TV show seems to have extremely wise and well adjusted gay characters. Whatever happened to the traditional family?

  4. Jim Kraai
    October 20th, 2009 at 18:14 | #4

    Have you noticed that many prime time TV show seem to have extremely wise and well adjusted gay characters. Whatever happened to the traditional family and values?

  5. Richard K Munro
    October 20th, 2009 at 21:22 | #5

    Yes, the issue is not whether homosexuals are capable of loving and raising children (I believe they are). I have never opposed, for example, “Gay” (homosexual) persons adopting children. It might be better for a child to be in that situation than to be an orphan or bounce around foster homes. But that having been said, I know grandparents who also raise children

  6. Richard K Munro
    October 20th, 2009 at 21:35 | #6

    I agree that we should be wary of just accepting so-called “Gay-Marriage” as interchangeable with traditional mother-father families. I have never opposed Gay persons adopting children because I know that Gay persons can be loving and excellent guardians. Grandparents also can be loving and excellent guardians of children. But to me both of these cases are EMERGENCY LAST RESORTS only. It is far better for the children’s parents or legal guardians to raise the children. I believe adoption agencies should have the right to give preference to younger guardians and to mother-father traditional marriage situations. History and much research has shown that young children need a father figure and a mother figure for their full phychological and mental development. Men and women compliment each other in a way same sex couples do not. And no one is denying anyone a “civl right.” Every Gay person I know has the same right as I do to marry someone of the opposite sex but they choose not to. What they want is a very special right: the right to marry the opposite sex AND the right to marry the same sex. I do not have the right now nor do I think I should have that right. Same sex marriage is a pandora’s box. No one knows what effect it will have on marriage, monogamy or on children. We do know it would be a special right for an ultra minority of individuals without any proven benefit for society or children (the common good). To me the whole Gay marriage movement is just an excercise in egotism and selfishness. If they want to play act at marriage I have no problem with that. But undermining our already weakend marriage bond would be a fatal mistake for California and American society. If necessary we should move to have a Constituional amendment to protect marriage. I am convinced it would pass 40 states or more. Every state which has put marriage on the ballot has won. The progress made elsewhere has been by activist judges or secular elites in unresponsibe legislatures. The American people, however, have much more sense than to embrace this untried and unneccary act of pure narcissism. If America embraces Gay Marriage it will be a very sad day for children above all. So-called Gay Marriage does not respect the marriage bond. It ridicules and disrespects it.

  7. Lake Effect
    October 22nd, 2009 at 10:56 | #7

    The outcome of legalizing gay marriage would mean the overthrow of the U.S. Constitution. It would also mean the total destruction of marriage and the family as it has stood for over 5,000 years.

    If gay marriage is sanctioned by the State, then anyone opposing it will be punished. They will be silenced by loss of job, fines imposed, or jail time. Church leaders will be punished for preaching against homosexuality, and churches will lose their tax-free status, so that they can be taxed out of existence. We have already seen some of this in certain countries. So much for freedom of religion or conscience, free speech, right of association, security in your papers, and so forth.

    I don’t recall any teachings about hetersexual marriage throughout my education in U.S. schools. But upon the sanction of gay marriage by the government, it is gay marriage that will be taught to children in all the schools, and promoted as an acceptable institution. Children will be encouraged to tell what is being taught to them at home, so that parents who speak against homosexuality can be declared unfit and not in compliance with the law, followed by the children being removed from the home. So much for parental rights. We’ve seen it happening. If gay marriage is sanctioned, ONLY gays will have rights. As things currently stand, everyone in our country already has the same rights. Why change that?

    Traditional marriage is a product of religion. Indeed, it IS religion. Marriage is ordained of God for the benefit of mankind. Governments have almost always protected it for obvious reasons: for freedom of religion or conscience, for the perpetuation of the race, and for the protection of women and children. Gay marriage is a product of the State. It has nothing to do with conscience. But it will become the “state religion,” except that it will not be called by that name; and it threatens to supplant and replace all other religions as it is forced upon us, contrary to our free will.

    You can NOT have it both ways. You cannot sanction traditional marriage and gay marriage at the same time. It won’t work. The one will supplant the other. It is like trying to mix oil and water. You cannot do it. If the selfish indulgence of homosexuality is sanctioned, then the rights that go with religion and traditional marriage will be utterly destroyed in time. What is at stake here is the freedom of all nations. And the attack against it is authored by anti-Christ.

  8. Susan Wilson
    October 23rd, 2009 at 19:52 | #8

    The recent passing of the “hate crimes” legislation makes me wonder if parents will be prosecuted for teaching their children about the differences between heterosexual and gay marriage. Once the child repeats these views at school, who knows what will happen???

  9. Jake
    November 11th, 2009 at 06:15 | #9

    Get out of America. I’m an American who lives abroad, and it’s great for me and my family. In the country I live in, people expect me to be Christian because of my nationality. Shows how much they know, but whatever keeps you and your family safe. Leave the United States of America, and do not go to Europe. That place is worse than the States.

  10. Betsy
    November 11th, 2009 at 11:25 | #10

    So, Jake, where DO you live then? You’ve piqued our curiosity with that set-up.

  11. Brad
    January 9th, 2010 at 19:16 | #11

    The AMA, APA, APedA and ALL other similar mainstream organizations in this country disagree with this article. Across the board, their research and studies have shown conclusively that children raised in same sex families grow up to be as ‘normal’ as in traditional families. Think about how many children can be helped. A gay couple who are friends of mine were contacted by the county child support services. They has a baby who was taken from his mother on a raid of a crack house. The mother was a crack addict and they were unsure of how much the baby had been affected. The service was overwhelmed with available children and could not place this baby because of the possible side effects. My friends took Ryan regardless. Thankfully, ryan had minimal side effects from his mother’s addiction. He is growing up in a healthy, loving home as a well-adjusted young boy who is e tremely happy and full of smiles–except when he’s hungry or has dirty pants. The social worker visits regularly and LwYs comments on what a wonderful thing my friends are doing for Ryan. They are giving him a life. If most of the visitors to this website had their way, Ryan would be sentenced to a life of Zero opportunity with his mother or in a county-run home. But, thankfully, he will have every opportunity to have a blessed life because of this gay couple.

  12. Tim
    January 10th, 2010 at 03:00 | #12

    Thats because they are wise and well ajusted! When are you people going to understand that! They are awsome parents as well. Please leave them alone and live your own life.Gay people are picking up the pieces where Heterosexuals screw things up, by mentoring our children when the father is off doing drugs and sleeping with other childrens mothers.Open your eyes and mind and you just might learn that gay people do not hurt anyone.You people are doing a lot of damage! More damage than you can possibly understand. Count my words, someday you all will have to get on your knees and beg for forgiveness from the same God that is going to judge you just as you are judging them.God IS NOT going to judge you for having compassion for your fellowhuman beings! If you are real Christians you would understand that!

  13. January 11th, 2010 at 14:39 | #13

    Hello Brad, This article makes many points, so you are going overboard a bit in saying that all these organizations disagree with everyting in the article. Just to give one example, relevant to the previous comment: there is no longer any consensus about the origins of homosexual orientation. Here is a recent statement from the American Psychological Association:

    What Causes a Person To Have a Particular Sexual Orientation?
    There are numerous theories about the origins of a person’s sexual orientation. Most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, sexual orientation is shaped at an early age. There is also considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.

    It’s important to recognize that there are probably many reasons for a person’s sexual orientation, and the reasons may be different for different people.

    In another place, the APA makes an even stronger statement:

    There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.

    So, chill, you guys. The APA is on your side enough, as it is. There is no need to exaggerate their actual position!

  14. January 11th, 2010 at 14:56 | #14

    Tim, Tim! Are you trying to tell us that ALL gay people are wise and well-adjusted? You are arguing yourself into a corner here. All I have to do is find a single counter-example, that is, one gay person who is not wise and well-adjusted, to disprove your generalization.
    All gay people are awesome parents?? What about that guy from Duke university who sold the sexual services of his adopted son to gay men? There is one counter-example for you.
    Please, Tim, Calm yourself. Dr. Hansen has been reading statistical literature as the basis for the claims she made in her article. She cites the sources. She is not saying that all gay people have the problems she discusses. She is just saying they are statistically more likely. that is all. you dont’ have to defend every action of every gay person, as far as i’m concerned. the arguments about redefining marriage are serious arguments. the statistics are a part, but not the whole of that argument. (you notice i don’t usually make those types of arguments myself. but i do think they are relevant, and should be discussed.)

  15. Heidi
    May 17th, 2010 at 12:34 | #15

    I really wish people would learn to mind their own business and their own children and leave other people’s children and families alone. My partner and I have successfully raised my teenage daughter and are now raising my drug-affected niece. Both girls are happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids–my niece IN SPITE OF the choices that her natural mother made that hurt her own child. If you don’t like same-sex parenting, then don’t partner with someone of the same sex and raise children. If you don’t like same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same sex. But keep your narrow-minded attitudes away from MY family and MY children because we are all doing just fine, thank you very much! Of course, my heterosexual teenager really wishes that her mother could get married to the love of her life (as do I), and she, like the majority of her peers, doesn’t understand why people are so judgmental and cruel when it comes to a simple matter of equality. But her generation gives me hope that it won’t be that much longer before equality is a reality and not just a wish.

    “Same-sex marriage isn’t in the best interest of children. While we may empathize with those homosexuals who long to be married and parent children, we mustn’t allow our compassion for them to trump our compassion for children. In a contest between the desires of some homosexuals and the needs of all children, we cannot allow the children to lose.”

    With all due respect, this statement is a load of baloney. Gays and lesbians are ALREADY parenting children, and as stated above, my kids are just fine, thank you very much! Except they wonder why their parents aren’t allowed to get married, and why we have to jump through hoops as a family that other families don’t have to deal with. My advice to you folks: worry about your own kids, please, and leave mine alone.

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