Largest Study on Lesbian Parents Finds Children Healthy and Happy

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The Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation law and public policy at UCLA School of Law, announced two new reports from the “The U.S.A. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS),” published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry and Journal of Lesbian Studies.  The NLLFS—the longest-running study ever conducted on American lesbian and gay families—finds the children as healthy and well-adjusted as children raised in heterosexual families.

This 22-year study has been following planned lesbian families with children conceived by donor insemination since 1986. The results released today are based on interviews that were conducted when the children were 10 years old. The NLLFS confirms the findings of over 40 other studies on the children of lesbian and gay parents, and supports the positions of all major professional associations on the well-being of children growing up in lesbian and gay families.

The NLLFS finds that although the parents’ sexual orientation doesn’t harm children, discrimination does; the researchers report that the adverse effects of discrimination were significantly reduced when the parents, schools and communities encouraged an appreciation of diversity.

“The findings of our research conclude that children raised in lesbian parent households are healthy, happy, and high-functioning,” said Dr. Nanette Gartrell. “The parents created healthy, loving and safe environments where their children were able to grow and thrive. Even the negative effects of homophobia were largely mitigated when their parents were active participants in the lesbian community and when the children attended schools that taught an appreciation of diversity.”

The NLLFS was spearheaded by principal investigator Nanette Gartrell, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. The NLLFS examines the social, psychological, and emotional development of the children as well as the dynamics of alternative families and children of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents.  For 22 years, this study has been generating information for specialists in healthcare, family services, sociology, feminist studies, education, ethics, gay marriage, and public policy on matters pertaining to LGBT families. Dr. Gartrell’s research documents the thoughtful and innovative parenting styles of lesbian mothers; the effects of homophobia on planned lesbian families; the children’s growth and development; and the impact of childrearing on lesbian mothers’ relationships, careers, and community activism.

Dr. Gartrell’s co-investigator, Henny Bos, Ph.D., University of Amsterdam, is the principal investigator of a Dutch longitudinal study modeled after the NLLFS. The Dutch comparative study examined parenting experiences, couple relationships, social supports, childrearing goals, and child adjustment in 100 lesbian-led, two-parent families and 100 heterosexual, two-parent families. The Dutch study is also documenting homophobia in planned lesbian families.  The study aims to determine whether family structure or the quality of the parent-child relationship is most important in the development of children.

For more information about these studies, please visit the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) website at


22-year study has been following planned lesbian families with children conceived by donor insemination since 1986.

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