Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

“My Wife’s Pregnant, We’re Gonna Have a Baby!” “Oh, Tell Her Congratulations!” Same-Sex Couples’ Desires for Support in Parenting

Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

“My Wife’s Pregnant, We’re Gonna Have a Baby!” “Oh, Tell Her Congratulations!” Same-Sex Couples’ Desires for Support in Parenting

Article excerpt


The past few decades have brought significant changes to the family as an institution. Considering these changes, there also been an increase in acceptance of gay and lesbian couples who have children. Children are brought into the lives of gay and lesbian couples in many ways with most using artificial insemination (AI), other assistive reproductive technologies (ART), or adoption (Mallon, 2008b; Patterson and Riskind, 2010). In addition, many gay and lesbian parents face challenges in their efforts to raise their children. Some of these challenges are similar to what other parents would face such as trying to get their child to eat vegetables or trying to retain a positive image of themselves as a parent when they feel like they are anything but. However, there are also many challenges that gay and lesbian parents face that other families are not accustomed to or are not aware of. For instance, gay and lesbian parents face challenges regarding legal matters such as adoption or parentage rights. As parents, they also face challenges in navigating social roles such as when one lesbian partner carries a child and the other partner does not. The legalization of same-sex marriage can help alleviate or reduce the severity of some of these challenges; however, society may be slow to catch up about awareness of these challenges and or gay and lesbian parents can still face stigma from the wider society.

In this study, I sought to understand how same-sex couples engage in parenting behaviors and processes, within the context of the recent legalization of same-sex marriage. Specifically, I ask: what are some parenting challenges that same-sex couples face in raising their children? How do legal challenges affect families headed by same-sex parents? What effect does same-sex marriage have on families? Exploring the challenges that same-sex parents face and how the legalization of same-sex marriage can affect same-sex families is important because it pushes our understanding of how families react to challenges and adapt to change. I offer insight about some of the limitations of this study, including a discussion of the difficulty in achieving an ideal, diverse sample. Lastly, I speculate what could be done in future research to ensure a more representative sample.

Literature Review

Alternative Families

There are many variations of family forms. Those who do not fit the “traditional” model of the family are considered alternative families. Same-sex couples and parents are the subject of many debates about alternative families in recent years. Webb (2005) argues that with the dramatic changes in families over the past twenty years, the notion of a “one size fits all” family mentality is losing some credibility. Modern families may involve relatives or parents with different sexual orientations (Webb, 2005). However, because society is fixated on the notion of the “traditional” family, wider institutions in society continue to reinforce traditional assumptions and family relations. In turn, this makes it very difficult for gay or lesbian families to gain acceptance, and this is partially because many institutions in society have failed to adapt to the ever-changing structure of family. According to Juel (1993), “The same-sex couple is perhaps perceived as the most threatening non-traditional family arrangement” (Juel, 1993, p. 318).

Giddens (2000) argues that, according to anthropological surveys, homosexuality is tolerated in many cultures, but attitudes in the Western world tend to be more extreme than other societies. According to Burkholder and Burbank (2012), “About 1% of all households are headed by same-sex couples. Of this number, 19.4% reported having children” (Burkholder and Burbank, 2012, p.13). The number of households that are headed by same-sex couples may only represent one percent of the population, but this trend is increasing, as are liberal attitudes among U. …

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