No Child Abuse in Lesbian Households, according to Study

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December 2, 2010
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
Children being raised by lesbian parents are less likely to be abused than children being raised by heterosexual parents, according to the results of a new study.

The Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation law and public policy at UCLA School of Law, revealed the findings from the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running study ever conducted on American lesbian families (now in its 24th year). In an article published recently in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were surveyed about sexual abuse, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior.

The paper finds that none of the 78 NLLFS adolescents report having ever been physically or sexually abused by a parent or other caregiver. This contrasts with 26% of American adolescents who report parent or caregiver physical abuse and 8.3% who report sexual abuse.

The study was conducted by Nanette Gartrell, MD, Henny Bos, PhD (University of Amsterdam), and Naomi Goldberg, MPP (Williams Institute).

Gartrell is a 2010 Williams Distinguished Scholar, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF, and affiliated with the University of Amsterdam.

According to the authors, “the absence of child abuse in lesbian mother families is particularly noteworthy, because victimization of children is pervasive and its consequences can be devastating. To the extent that our findings are replicated by other researchers, these reports from adolescents with lesbian mothers have implications for healthcare professionals, policymakers, social service agencies, and child protection experts who seek family models in which violence does not occur.”

On sexual orientation, 2.8% of the NLLFS adolescents identified as predominantly to exclusively homosexual.

The NLLFS report noted that: “The first report on the sexual orientation of adults who had been reared by lesbian mothers was based on data collected in 1991-1992 in the United Kingdom by Golombok and Tasker (1996; see also Tasker & Golombok, 1995). Twenty-five adult offspring (17 women and eight men) of lesbian mothers and 21 adult offspring (nine women and 12 men) of heterosexual mothers were interviewed. This study was a follow-up to a survey of their mothers conducted in 1976-1977. In the lesbian families, the offspring had been conceived in heterosexual relationships before their mothers divorced and identified as lesbian.”

The authors have presented their findings to the American Psychological Association, Annual Meeting Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association.

The NLLFS was created in 1986 to provide prospective data on a survey of lesbian families from the time the children were conceived until they reach adulthood. The NLLFS has been supported in part by grants from The Gill Foundation, the Lesbian Health Fund of the Gay Lesbian Medical Association, Horizons Foundation, and The Roy Scrivner Fund of the American Psychological Foundation.

A similar study has been conducted for gay men with similar findings, according to Gartrell. The results of that study were published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies.

For more information on the NLLFS study, go to

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