February 1, 2024

The Psychological Well-Being of Gay Fathers When Compared to Heterosexual Fathers

A substantial body of research has been conducted on children raised in same-sex parent families. While some studies have found differences in child outcomes between same-sex and heterosexual parents, most of the results are mixed and many suggest that family composition is more important than parental sexual orientation.

Among those studies that have focused on gay fathers, most have sampled participants from a range of parenting and kinship arrangements. Older studies have mainly focused on fathers who conceived their children within the context of previous heterosexual relationships, while more recent work has sampled a wider variety of pathways to parenthood (including surrogacy and adoption).

In general, most studies report that homosexual fathers are as satisfied with their lives as heterosexual fathers. This is particularly true of those who achieve their parenthood through surrogacy. In terms of their parenting behaviour, some studies have reported that gay fathers tend to share the care of their children equally with their partners. This equality of caring responsibilities may be related to the satisfaction that these men indicate with their relationship quality.

Other studies have compared the psychological well-being of homosexual and heterosexual fathers using various measures of life satisfaction, life functioning, depressive symptoms and Big Five personality dimensions. The vast majority of the findings show that gay fathers are not significantly different from heterosexual fathers in their level of psychological well-being. In regard to parenting, some studies have also compared the responses of homosexual and heterosexual fathers on the Iowa Parent Behavior Inventory, which is an empirical measure of dimensions of parenting behaviour.

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