Are children born to and raised by lesbians more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activity? Law professor Eugene Volokh reports on an interesting study that address that question:
There’s long been something of a debate about this question, and I thought I’d note an interesting and apparently quite credible article touching on it, Nanette K. Gartrell, Henny M. W. Bos & Naomi G. Goldberg, Adolescents of the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Sexual Orientation, Sexual Behavior, and Sexual Risk Exposure, Archives of Sexual Behavior (2010). (I learned of it because one of the coauthors is affiliated with the Williams Institute for sexual orientation and the law here at UCLA School of Law.)
The study was part of an ongoing study that, at this stage, involved 77 families, “31 continuously-coupled, 40 separated-mother, and six single-mother families,” and 78 17-year-old children (one family had twins). Of the girls, nearly 50% described themselves as at least partly homosexual in orientation, though 30% out of that 50% were “predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual.” (None of the girls, though, identified themselves as predominantly or exclusively lesbian.) Of the boys, a bit over 20% described themselves as at least partly homosexual in orientation, though 13% out of that 20% described themselves as “predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual.” (Two of the boys identified themselves as predominantly or exclusively gay.) “The … Kinsey self-identifications [of the girls in the study] and lifetime sexual experiences were consistent with Stacey and Biblarz’s (2001) and Biblarz and Stacey’s (2010) theory that the offspring of lesbian and gay parents might be more open to homoerotic exploration and same-sex orientation.”
Nothing too surprising, but interesting to see it confirmed by an empirical study. Here’s a related data point from the study that is worth citing:
Of the 73 couples who were co-parenting when the index offspring were born, 56% had separated, and the average age of the index offspring at the time of their mothers’ separation was 6.97 years (SD=4.42 years). There was a significant difference between the parental divorce rate (36.3%) of the 17-year old adolescents in the 6th Cycle of the U.S. National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) and the maternal relationship dissolution rate in the NLLFS (v2=12.32; p=.001).
In other words, all things being equal, a child born to a lesbian couple is 20% more likely to live in a broken home than a child born to heterosexual parents. Again, not a surprising finding. I’m not sure where the myth that lesbians “mate for life” originated, but it’s just that—a myth. As one study found, lesbian relationships are “not as likely to endure as relationships between heterosexuals, either married or cohabiting, or between gay men.”