A major study has found that gay and lesbian parents tend to spend much more time interacting with their children than heterosexual parents.
According to study author Kate C. Prickett, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Population Research Centre at the University of Texas, female same-sex parents in particular “spend 40 percent more time engaged in child-focused activities than do different-sex parents.”
“This finding challenges biases against same-sex parents and demonstrates high levels of investment in children by same-sex couples,” said Prickett in the Child and Family Blog.
The study revealed that women in both heterosexual and lesbian relationships spend more time (around 100 minutes per day) with their kids compared to straight dads (50 minutes per day). In lesbian relationships that time is doubled because there are two women involved in the parenting.
Gay dads also fared well, spending about the same amount of time as mothers. “That’s double the amount provided by heterosexual dads,” Prickett commented. (She noted, however, that the study only included 17 fathers with same-sex partners which is not an ideal sample group.)
Child-focused activities were defined as time spent interacting with children such as reading to them, playing with them, helping with homework, bathing them, taking them to the doctor and to extracurricular activities, and time parents spent in teacher-parent meetings.
It did not include activities such as watching television with children or doing housework while a child was around.
“Time spent in child-focused activities, as well as the frequency of certain family events or activities, such as eating meals together or reading books, is associated with better child outcomes, as opposed to time when the parents are around but their energy is focused on other things,” said Prickett.
“This is one reason we measured child-focused, engaged parenting time, instead of just any time spent with children,” she added.
The study results were derived from a nationally representative time-diary survey conducted by the US Census Bureau over 11 years with a sample of over 40,000 parents, including 55 parents in same-sex relationships.
While the study did not explain the reasons behind the differences between straight and same-sex parents, Prickett has some thoughts.
She suggests that same-sex parents don’t take parenting for granted. They often have to work much harder to have children through long, expensive and complicated processes such as adoption, insemination or surrogacy, indicating that they have “a strong desire to be a parent.”
The findings were published in the journal Demography.