Sexual Orientation and the Desires and Intentions to Become Parents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This is the first study in Italy to evaluate parenting desires and intentions, the value of parenthood and individual perception of competence as a parent in an Italian sample of lesbian women (N = 201), gay men (N = 199) and heterosexual participants (female = 314 and male = 216) 18-35 years of age. Childless lesbian and gay individuals were less likely than their heterosexual peers to report parenting desires and intentions. Data suggested that lesbians and gay male participants reported a lower level of enrichment and less confidence in receiving social support as parents than their heterosexual counterparts. Regression analysis indicated that sexual orientation is the best predictor of desires and intentions for women and men participants. Our findings suggest that, while some Italian lesbian and gay people want to become parents, their intentions probably founder due to the difficulty to access to adoption, donor insemination or surrogate maternity.

KEYWORDS: childless adults, lesbian, gay, parenting intentions, parenting desires

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The existence of same-sex families in Italy is not only adequately documented, but there is a corresponding lack of information available about them. In Italy, it is impossible for same-sex couples or single lesbians and gay men to adopt a child, get married or have civil partnerships. According to the Italian National Health Service (2005) there are more than 100,000 same-sex parents in Italy and 15-20% of lesbians and 10% of gay men are parents. Italian lesbians or gay men usually become parents in the context of a previous heterosexual relationship or by traveling to other countries (in particular the United States, Canada, Spain and Holland) to legally access donor insemination or surrogacy (Lingiardi, 2012). Famiglie Arcobaleno or Rainbow Families is an Italian association representing more than 400 families and more than 200 children who for the majority were born in the context of a same-sex relationship. The fact that gay and lesbian people in Italy do have not similar rights to those held by heterosexual married couples is an explicit message from the State that same-sex unions are not morally acceptable and contributes to homophobia and further marginalization of lesbian and gay people (Baiocco, Argalia, & Laghi, 2012).

The fact that gay and lesbian people do not have similar rights to those held by heterosexual married couples is an explicit message that same-sex unions are not accepted in Italian culture and it perpetuates homophobia and marginalization (Baiocco, Argalia, et al., 2012). Recent studies have shown both high levels of homonegativity in samples of Italian heterosexual persons (Lingiardi, Falanga, & D'Augelli, 2005), as well as elevated internalized sexual stigma among gay and lesbian adults (Baiocco, D'Alessio, & Laghi, 2010; Lingiardi, Baiocco, & Nardelli, 2012).

Meyer (2003) proposed the minority stress model as a theoretical framework for understanding the impact of stigma on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) persons. According to the minority stress model, such prejudices and discrimination constitute unique, chronic psychosocial stressors that can interfere with coping processes and the psychological and relational well-being of the person. According to Meyer (2003), minority stress processes are caused by external objective events such as: discrimination and violence; expectations of such events; and a more subjective status that can be conceptualized as internalised sexual stigma (ISS).

Herek, Gillis, and Cogan (2009) used the term heterosexism to describe an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community. When heterosexuals internalize sexual stigma about sexual minorities, the result is sexual prejudice. When homosexual people internalize society's negative ideology about sexual minorities, the result is internalized homonegativity. …