New study: Absence of male role models produces no negative effects for teens with lesbian moms

LOS ANGELES – The absence of male role models did not adversely affect the psychological adjustment of 17-year-old teens raised in lesbian-headed households, according to a new study, “Adolescents of the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Male role models, gender role traits, and psychological adjustment” published in Gender & Society.

“This study is part of a growing body of research that evinces the positive psychological well-being of children reared in planned lesbian families,” said the study’s co-author Nanette Gartrell, MD, Visiting Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute.

Findings were based on teens who participated in the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS). About half of the teens had male role models. The NLLFS teens with and without male role models did not differ from each other in psychological well-being, and also did not differ on stereotypical feminine (e.g., understanding) and masculine (e.g., competitive) traits.

“No differences were found in the well-being of those with and without male role models, or between girls and boys. There was no empirical evidence suggesting that boys require a same-sex parent, or male role model, to develop a healthy psychological well-being,” said lead author Henny Bos, Ph.D, University of Amsterdam.

Teens and their mothers independently completed separate standardized instruments. The instrument completed by the teens assessed their well-being and behavioral traits. The mothers completed an instrument, where they answered questions about their adolescents’ behavior. Teens with male role models were asked to specify who these models were, and the most frequently mentioned types of role models were friends, uncles, and biological fathers/donors.

In its 26th year, the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study is the longest-running and largest prospective investigation of lesbian mothers and their children in the United States. The study has a 93% retention rate, and participating families are predominately middle-class. Prior research based on this study has found no difference in psychological well-being between children in planned lesbian families and those in heterosexual two-parent families.

The current study was conducted by Henny Bos, PhD (University of Amsterdam; University of California Los Angeles, Williams Institute, Visiting International Scholar 2012), Naomi Goldberg, MPP (a former fellow at University of California Los Angeles, Williams Institute), Loes van Gelderen, MSc. (University of Amsterdam), and Nanette Gartrell, MD (University of Amsterdam; University of California Los Angeles, Williams Institute Visiting Distinguished Scholar).

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