Published online June 7, 2010
US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents
Nanette Gartrell, MDa,b,c, Henny Bos, PhDc
aCenter of Excellence in Women's Health, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California;
bWilliams Institute, UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles, California;
cGraduate School of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Objectives The objective of this study was to document the psychological adjustment of adolescents who were conceived through donor insemination by lesbian mothers who enrolled before these offspring were born in the largest, longest running, prospective, longitudinal study of same-sex–parented families.
Methods Between 1986 and 1992, 154 prospective lesbian mothers volunteered for a study that was designed to follow planned lesbian families from the index children's conception until they reached adulthood. Data for the current report were gathered through interviews and questionnaires that were completed by 78 index offspring when they were 10 and 17 years old and through interviews and Child Behavior Checklists that were completed by their mothers at corresponding times. The study is ongoing, with a 93% retention rate to date.
Results According to their mothers' reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach's normative sample of American youth. Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated.
Conclusions Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment. These findings have implications for the clinical care of adolescents and for pediatricians who are consulted on matters that pertain to same-sex parenting.
Key Words: lesbian families • lesbian mothers • adolescents • psychosocial adjustment • same-sex parents
Abbreviations: DI = donor insemination • NLLFS = National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study • Add Health = National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health • CBCL = Child Behavior Checklist • MANOVA = multivariate analysis of variance