Authors Timothy J. Biblarz and Judith Stacey impugn the widely accepted belief that it is crucial for children to have both a mother and father in their article “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter”. I will be reviewing this article and adding my own critiques. The article was published by the National Council on Family Relations and many sources have been analyzed by the authors to arrive at their conclusions. Biblarz and Stacey reviewed relevant research in what is known as a secondary analysis.
Their goal was to expand on the question how does the gender of parents matter. The standard research of gender differences in parenting focused on married mothers and fathers. Biblarz and Stacey call your attention to this early on in the article because this is misleading.According to the analysis of married mothers and fathers ( Satinover, 2004), mothers spend the most time interacting with children providing a nurturing figure while fathers participate in more masculine tasks like working and entertaining the children. It is further suggested that fathers spend more time with their sons than their daughters. The authors ( Timothy J. Biblarz and Judith Stacey, 2010) state, that these are stereotypes that make up the heteronormative presumption (Jacqueline Hudak and Shawn V.
Giammattei, “Doing Family: Decentering Heteronormativity in ‘Marriage’ and ‘Family’ Therapy”) and that these patterns of parenting are constantly changing. They found that it is not the gender, but the parenting style that makes the most difference within families and focusing on married heterosexual couples only reinforces existing data. In saying this, the existing research does not focus on homosexual couples and thus does not fully grasp the effects of parental gender. In fact, they inflate other variables that interact. Variables like the number of parents, gender, sexual identity, and marital status.Timothy J. Biblarz and Judith Stacey found that almost all of the studies only compared single-mother families to married-parent families.
None of the research compared two same-sex parents or adoptees, so the existing research analyzed marital status rather than gender. However, because same-sex marriage is rare, research that compares the children of these couples to different-sex couples are not plentiful, but there is still the general agreement that unmarried lesbian parents raise children who develop at least just as well as the children of married homosexual parents. Acknowledging this lead the two authors to wonder, what research specifically focused on sex differences in parenting without conflicting other variables. They found yet again that no study even attempted to isolate the variable of parental gender.
Due to this, they argued that in order to answer the question how does the gender of parents matter, you must take an indirect, inductive approach and generate new theories based on the data from incorporate same-sex parents.Biblarz and Stacey acknowledged the limitations in analyzing the gender of parents, but still attempted a cautious investigation on how raising children with a mother and a father does and does not matter. They reviewed all relating literature published from 1990 and on through the database searches of PsychINFO, Sociological Abstracts, JSTOR, and ProQuest. In order to be included, the studies had to have conclusions on parenting /child outcomes, statistically assess the significance of differences between groups, and compare families with the same number of residential parents but various arrangements of male and female parents. In order to find these features in the studies they wanted to analyze they used an appendix which listed the key details of each study. They found 33 studies of two-parent families and 48 studies of single-parent families.
30 of the two-parent families compared lesbian parents to heterosexual parents while only one compared gay parents to heterosexual parents and two compared lesbian to gay parents. They found that the studies of heterosexual single-parent families used national samples and self-administered questionnaires while the studies of lesbian and heterosexual two-parent families used non-probability sampling techniques that often included in-depth interviews, observations, and psychometric instruments. The researchers found that the parental sexual orientation of lesbian or gay parents had little impact differences on the children in comparison to heterosexual parents yet, the general public continues to believe that in order for a child to develop they must have a mother and a father, preferably married. To make a careful and critical examination of the evidence that continues to fuel the heteronormative presumption, Biblarz and Stacey focused on the small differences between homosexual parents and heterosexual parents. They found that for every finding of a notable distinction in studies of same and different-sex parents, there were four or more findings of no remarkable differences. In regards to two gay male parents, studies show that they are more likely to parent equally and are less likely to promote gender conformity or spank their children. Gay couples appear to parent more femininely than typical heterosexual parents but this does not point to a decline in the masculinity of their sons, only a more flexible approach to gender. In regards to lesbian parents, there are more similarities than differences among their children in comparison to the children of heterosexual parents.
In fact, some of the negative findings for children with lesbian parents is that the children are teased more but this just shows society’s influences. It could not even be determined whether it was the lack of a father or just a second parent that contributed to the development of the child. Even when analyzing boys with lesbian parents, their masculinity is not decreased, in fact, if anything they are more encouraged to accept gender flexibility and not be as aggressive. Girls in mother-only families also did not become more masculine or more feminine.
According to the research, fatherlessness implies less pressure towards gender conformity and as studies support, adults with more androgynous traits are more likely to find social psychological advantages. Thus saying this, little is known about the influence a parent’s sexuality has on their children, but it has been proven that lesbian parents do not damper the heterosexual desires of their sons. Biblarz and Stacey found that there were no gender-exclusive parenting skills and that the ideal parenting could come from different genders. The only thing proven is that single-sex parenting leads to more androgynous children and that two-parent families are at an advantage over one parent families regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.Their research leaves many unanswered questions but still builds on existing data. Timothy J.
Biblarz and Judith Stacey clearly represented their data and made it a known fact that due to the low amount of research on same-sex parents their finding were subject to error. The authors do not appear to be bias towards one parenting style and make sure to point out the details of each type of family. They tackle complex questions using a structured process that can easily be built upon and thus contributes to the field. The use of tables in their article also provides an excellent illustration of their results. Audiences who feel that heterosexual parents are necessary for a child’s development might even find points of agreement in the article so various audiences benefit from reading this article.
Biblarz and Stacey conclude that no research supports the heteronormative presumption and leaves this to be further explored by other researchers. Their work has provided the impetus for an ongoing discussion on how and if the gender of parents matters.