The Influence of Parents on Their Children's Sexual Orientation
Bailey, J. Michael. Sexual Orientation of Adult Sons of Gay Fathers. Developmental Psychology. 1995, Vol. 31, No. 1, 124-129
Golombok, Susan. Do Parents Influence the Sexual Orientation of Their Children? Findings From a Longitudinal Study of Lesbian Families. Developmental Psychology. 1996, Vol. 32, No. 1, 3-11
Meyer-Bahlburg, Heino F.L. Parental Influences on the Development of Homosexual Orientation. Developmental Psychology. 1995, Vol. 31, No. 1, 12-21
Patterson, Charlotte. Sexual Orientation and Human Development. Developmental Psychology. 1995, Vol. 31, No. 1, 3-11
Do parents influence their children's sexuality? The answer may surprise you: no they do not. It has been found that about 90% of sons of gay fathers are heterosexual (Bailey 124). It was also found that 90% of daughters of lesbian women are also heterosexual (Golombok 4). According to a poll taken by Northwestern University almost 95% of people expect children of homosexual parents to be homosexual themselves (Bailey 125). This popular belief has affected many child custody decisions because of the possibility of the parents molesting the children, or the possibility of the children becoming homosexual themselves. Even if the children becoming homosexual is a possibility, why deny custody to a parent based on his or her sexuality?
The question has been raised on what can and what can't make a child homosexual. Some believe that children learn by imitating their parents. This theory cannot be totally rejected, but due to recent research it is believed to be more unlikely. Others have said that children identify with an opposite-sex parent and copying their behavior, this coupled with a distant same-sex parent makes the argument even more believable. It is also possible that homosexual parents reinforce certain types of behavior, either homo- or heterosexual (Bailey 125-126).
Some say that hormones affect the sexuality of children, which may be inherited from the parents. For example, an anatomical difference in the hypothalamus of homosexual men has recently been identified, but the reason for this difference is still unknown (Golombok 4). Sex hormones are seen by some as the likely factor in the development of sexual orientation because sex hormone action underlines sexual differentiation and the development of secondary sex characteristics. Studies of the association of sex hormone levels during adolescence and adulthood have yielded negative results, but there have been some positive results in some prenatal studies (Meyer-Bahlburg 12).
It has been found that gay and lesbian families both reinforce and punish homosexual attitudes in their children in about equal numbers (Patterson 3). So then, why do only 10% of the children in these families become homosexual? This question brings up much debate, but the only real answer is still unknown. There are many good theories, but none are yet to be proven. In an estimate of homosexual persons in the United States, it was found that there are more than 20 million, or 10% of the population, homosexuals in America. Is it a coincidence that 10% of America's population is homosexual, and 10% of the children of homosexual parents become homosexual (Bailey 126)?
This point was brought up by Bailey, and it is a very good point, could the results be just a reflection of the entire country? In order to find out, a poll must be taken to find out what percentage of children of heterosexual parents were homosexual. He found out that 9% of the children of heterosexual parents polled were homosexual. This further supported his theory that parent influence does not contain that much weight in whether or not a child becomes homosexual.
In the article written by Charlotte Patterson, she states that there is no evidence of difficulties encountered by children of gay or lesbian families. She also found, as others have, that many children of gay and lesbian families, many of the children identify themselves as heterosexual. She also found that that sexual orientation was unrelated to the amount of time the children spent living with their homosexual parents, a result that would seem to be at odds with many versions of environmental theories about the transmission of sexual orientation (Patterson 5-6).
Due to incomplete research an answer is still unknown to why children become homosexual. It is known that the influence of parents is unlikely, but still very possible. Whether it be hormones or genes inherited from the parents, or the environment a child is brought up in, researchers still need to complete their studies on the issue to find out the truth behind the matter.