The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) examined how the lack of a male role model affects the children of lesbian couples.
Using the testimonies of 78 teenagers, researchers in Amsterdam and California came to the decision that neither the presence nor lack of a father figure affected their gender development or their psychological well-being.
The finding shed light on a highly debated subject and follows the University of Texas’ widely criticised study published last week.
Led by Henny Bos of the University of Amsterdam and Nanette Gartrell of UCLA’s Williams Institute, the NLLFS is the first and only study to have recorded the progress of children from same sex couples since their conception.
“Our [study] is an in-depth, longitudinal, prospective (meaning it is happening in real time, not asking questions about events that occurred 30 years ago) study of planned lesbian families (meaning that the mothers were out, identified as lesbian before the children we have been studying were born) that began 26 years ago,” a major newspaper quoted Dr Gartrell as saying.
The research was kick-started way back in 1986 and has spawned many sub-papers, the most recent of which looked at the 39 girls and 39 boys as they turned 17.
The teenagers were asked if they had grown up with male role models and if so whether that person was a biological father, a grandfather, a cousin, teacher or even friend.
Of the 78 participants, 38 indicated that they had indeed enjoyed the influence of an important male role model in their lives and of these, roughly half were boys and half were girls.
Given ten adjectives that described typically feminine traits and ten that reflected those generally considered as masculine, the teens were asked to rate each word as it pertained to their own personality and character.
The results showed that the presence of a male role model did affect the way a child developed its own gender traits.
Another exercise urged the participants to rate buzzwords that described feelings such as anxiety, depressed, angry or curious and found again, that whether or not they had a male role model did affect their mental health.
Dr Mark Regerus of the University of Texas, however, was sceptical about the Dr Bos and Dr Gartrell’s findings and based his criticism on their study candidates’ backgrounds, 87percent of which are white and about 57percent middle-class.
He told Buzzfeed that he doubted whether such a small sampling of ‘of largely well-educated, mostly-white women’ could truthfully represent lesbian families nationwide.
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