Parenting Types And Legal Concerns, Research On Children's Adjustment
An increasing number of lesbians are choosing to become parents. Estimates of the number of gay and lesbian parents in the United States alone range from two to eight million, with the number of children of these parents estimated at four to fourteen million (Patterson 1995). Although more research exists on lesbian families than on gay male families, the lack of cross-cultural research is notable. Most research has been conducted in the United States using white lesbian samples. In many nations, the preponderance of negative attitudes toward homosexuality, the religious condemnation of homosexuality, or the complete invisibility of homosexuals accounts for the lack of cross-cultural research findings. Thus, the majority of the research findings presented below are from Euro-American perspectives.
Several terms are important to understanding the cultural environment of lesbian parents (Gruskin 1999). Homophobia is often used to describe antigay feelings related to some type of action. Some argue that this term assumes that fear is the primary cause of antigay feelings, when many factors other than fear may be involved. As a result, some prefer the term homonegative to describe negative or hostile attitudes towards lesbians and gays. Another term relevant to establishing the climate in which lesbians live is heterosexism. Heterosexism essentially denies the existence of homosexuals under the assumption that all individuals are heterosexual. Whether the widespread lack of acceptance and support of lesbian families (Bigner 2000) is attributed to homophobia, homonegativity, or heterosexism, the effect on these families deserves attention.
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