Co-parenting among Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Couples: Associations with Couple Relationships and Child Outcomes

Farr, Rachel Hollingworth, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Patterson, Charlotte J., Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Coparenting, or the ways in which two parents cooperate in completing the tasks of childrearing together, is associated with child behavior in families with heterosexual parents. For instance, more supportive coparenting has been found to be associated with fewer child behavior problems. Less is known, however, about coparenting or about its associations with child adjustment in adoptive families with lesbian and gay parents. Among lesbian and gay couples, the aspect of coparenting that has generally been studied is division of labor. In the current study, associations among division of labor, other aspects of coparenting, couple relationship adjustment, and child adjustment were explored among 104 families headed by lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive couples, using multiple methods of assessment, including observational data. As expected, lesbian and gay couples reported patterns of shared parenting, while heterosexual couples reported specialization, with heterosexual mothers being more involved in childcare than heterosexual fathers. In observations of family interaction, lesbian and gay couples participated more equally than did heterosexual couples; in heterosexual couples, mothers participated more than did fathers. Lesbian couples were the most supportive and the least undermining during family interaction, while gay couples were the least supportive and heterosexual couples were the most undermining. Regardless of family type, couples reported high couple relationship adjustment and demonstrated more supportive than undermining coparenting. Regardless of family type, couples who demonstrated supportive coparenting also had children with fewer behavior problems. Thus, parental sexual orientation appeared to be associated more with qualitative differences in experiences than with differences in outcomes for children or parents.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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