Do you have a Rainbow Family? Are you thinking about having children? Want to be a gay parent? The numbers of same sex parents and children of gay parents are increasing and so is the body of scientific research in Australia about parenting by LGBTIQ people. This has arisen from largely unsubstantiated concerns about the effect of parental sexual orientation on children's development or welfare.

Are gay parents good parents?

Like the rest of the population, LGBT parented families or Rainbow Families are diverse, and family members come from a variety of ethnic, racial, cultural, and class groups. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics census counted 6,300 children living in same-sex couple families, up from 3,400 in 2001. This is likely to significantly underreport the number of LGBT parented families because it does not capture children living with same-sex attracted single parents, or parents who are reluctant to self-identify as same-sex attracted due to fear of stigma and discrimination.

The Australian research, like research conducted overseas, consistently shows gay dads and lesbian mothers are as capable as heterosexual parents, and children of gay parents are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as those reared by heterosexual parents. The main difference between LGBT parented and heterosexual parented families is that the LGBT led families live day to day with discrimination and prejudice on the basis of the parents’ gender or sexuality.

Recent research on Rainbow Families in Australia

A paper called Same-Sex Parented Families in Australia brings together Australian and international research on same-sex parented families. It was published by the government’s Australian Institute for Family Studies in 2013. It found that:

  • About 11% of Australian gay men and 33% of lesbians have children.

  • Being raised in a lesbian or gay parented family has no detrimental influence on children's psychological adjustment.

  • Children raised in same-sex parented families generally report good social networks and friendships, and peer relationships that follow typical patterns.

  • Academically, lesbian- and gay-parented children perform as well as or better than their peers raised in heterosexual couple families.

  • Children raised in lesbian- and gay-parented families worry about being teased, harassed or bullied, particularly by peers in the school environment. This may lead to very selective disclosure about their parents' sexuality or family configuration.

In 2012, University of Melbourne researchers set up a major study (possibly the largest of its kind in the world) surveying over 300 same-sex parents and 500 children about their physical health and social well-being. Reporting in 2014, this research found that children raised by same-sex partners scored an average of 6 per cent higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion.

Other publications include the Australian Psychological Society report Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Parented Families, written in 2007.

Research in this area is ongoing and Rainbow Families works with many organisations to ensure that Rainbow Families are included in these important research projects.