Children of same-sex parents outperform others at school

Children with same-sex parents outperform other children on multiple indicators of academic achievement, new research shows.

Using data from Dutch population registers, the University of Melbourne and University of Queensland study found children in same-sex-parented families scored higher on national standardised tests than those in different-sex-parented families.

Published in Demography, the study found that the advantage amounted to 13 per cent of a standard deviation, which is comparable to the advantage associated with both parents being employed as opposed to being out of work.

It also found that children in same-sex-parented families were slightly more likely (1.5 per cent) to graduate from high school, and much more likely (11.2 per cent) to enrol in university than children in different-sex-parented families.

Lead author and University of Melbourne research fellow Dr Jan Kabátek said the results are robust and counter claims that children with same-sex parents are inherently disadvantaged.

Dr Kabátek said that previous studies in this domain have been often criticised for the limitations of their research methods. “The most common criticism is that the studies tend to rely on small and selective samples of same-sex-parented families,” Dr Kabátek said. “Our study moves beyond the vast majority of research conducted in this space. It analyses data covering the full population of children living in the Netherlands, allowing us to compare large and representative samples of children living with same-sex and different-sex couples”

“Thanks to these data, we were able to statistically account for various pre-existing characteristics that may differ between same-sex- and different-sex-parented families—for example, the higher average education attainment of same-sex parents, or their lower average incomes. This means that our analyses compared children in same-sex- and different-sex-parented families that were similar in all observable characteristics except for their parents’ sex”

Co-authored by Associate Professor Francisco Perales, from the University of Queensland’s School of Social Science, the results come as a sizeable share of populations across multiple countries still believe same-sex parents cannot parent as well as different-sex parents. In Australia, the latest World Values Survey found 45 per cent of people believed same-sex parents were not as good parents as others.

Dr Kabátek said these beliefs are often justified by ‘common wisdom’ arguments which are rarely backed up by empirical evidence. “These include perceptions that children necessitate both male and female parental role models to thrive, that non-biological parents invest less effort in parenting their children, or that children in same-sex-parented families would be ostracised by the community,” he said.

“Altogether, the message stemming from our findings is clear: being raised by same-sex parents bears no independent detrimental effect on children’s outcomes,” Dr Kabátek said. “In socio-political environments characterised by high levels of legislative and public support, children in same-sex-parented families thrive.”