It’s not the sexual orientation (search) of the parents that matters in nurturing a well-developed teenager, it’s the quality of the relationship that the parents have with their child that counts, according to a new study.

Researchers found no difference in school performance, psychological adjustment, and sexual behavior among children reared by same-sex parents compared with those reared by opposite-sex parents.

“Regardless of whether they lived with same-sex or opposite-sex couples, adolescents whose parents reported having close and satisfying relationships with them were more likely to have made positive adjustments at school as well as at home,” write researcher Jennifer Wainright of the University of Virginia, and colleagues.

Researchers found that teens living with same-sex parents reported feeling more connected to school than did those living with opposite-sex parents.

The results of the study appear in the November issue of Child Development.

Sex of Parents Doesn't Affect Development

Although several studies have looked at the health and psychological well-being of young children of same-sex couples, researchers say few studies have involved older, adolescent children of lesbian partners.

In this study, researchers compared the romantic relationships, school adjustment, and psychological well-being of 44 teenagers of women who had a same-sex romantic partner and 44 teenage children whose mother had an opposite-sex partner.

The children ranged in age from 12-18, and the two groups had similar ranges of age, gender, ethnicity, parental education, and family income. The information came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (search).

Researchers found no differences between the two groups in nearly all factors related to school and personal adjustment.

The study showed that adolescents whose mothers had same-sex partners were neither more nor less likely than those whose mothers had opposite-sex partners to report they were involved in a romantic relationship during the past year or that they had ever engaged in sexual intercourse.

The study did not reveal whether children raised by same-sex or opposite-sex partners were more or less likely to report same-sex attraction.

Researchers say adolescents in both groups were generally well adjusted, with relatively high levels of self-esteem, relatively low levels of anxiety, few symptoms of depression, and good school achievement.

The only significant difference they found was that children of same-sex parents reported feeling more connected to their school than those living with opposite-sex parents.

Researchers say better school connectedness has been associated with fewer behavior problems and greater emotional well-being. But they found no differences between the two groups on these measures, which makes interpreting this finding difficult.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Wainright, J.Child Development, November 2004; vol 75. News release, Society for Research in Child Development.