blogs at Psychology Today:
…Now, about the children. I wish I could say that there are stacks of methodologically rigorous studies comparing the implications for children whose parents are or are not polyamorous. Instead, there are very few, so any conclusions are tentative at best.
The authors of the review article believe that the implications for the children of their parents’ relationships are most likely to be noteworthy if those relationships are not hidden from the children. So the review article focuses on those families in which some or all of the various partners are involved in the children’s lives, either as co-parents or in roles similar to those of aunts or uncles.
Elisabeth Sheff has conducted two studies of the well-being of the children of polyamorous parents. In one, she interviewed the parents, and in the other, she talked to children between 5 and 18 years old. (Based on what is reported in the review article, I don’t think she interviewed other families for comparison. Like I said, we need more research, and more rigorous research.)
The Perspective of the Polyamorous Parents
In the interviews, the parents described a number of ways their children benefited from the polyamory:
- “The children had more individualized time with adults.”
- They “could spend less time in day care because of the flexibility of having multiple parental figures involved in their lives.”
- “…the greater diversity of interests available from adult figures helped children foster a wider variety of hobbies and skills.”
The parents mentioned drawbacks as well, particularly “the discomfort of having partnerships between adults dissolve and the resulting emotional trauma for children who may have been very attached to a departing partner.”
The Perspective of the Children
The children Sheff interviewed were mostly White and middle class. Her impression was that they were “articulate, thoughtful, intelligent, and secure in their relationships with their parents.” The older children were more aware of being in an unusual family situation than the younger ones, but they were not questioned by school personnel or other students about having multiple parental figures in their lives because so many of the other students did, too (e.g., step-parents, romantic partners of single parents).
The children did not express the same concern with the real or potential loss of adult attachments as their parents did. As the authors of the review article explained:
“Many of the children reported that their parents’ former partners stayed involved in their lives even after the sexual or romantic phase of the partners’ relationships to the parents ended. The children did report experiencing some pain at losing the friendship of adults who were not involved in their lives any longer, but they felt this pain for both former romantic partners and also for platonic friends of parents whom they no longer saw for a variety of reasons.”
more (and more here, including bibliographies; and “Note that much of the information comes only from gay couples.”)