The Attachment of Adopted Children in Gay Father, Lesbian Mother, and Heterosexual Parent Families
Approximately 20,000 children reside in same-sex parent families in the UK. Notwithstanding the growing numbers of children raised in new family forms, there is a dearth of research on the attachment security of children raised by gay fathers and lesbian mothers. However, it is well documented that children of lesbian mothers are just as likely to have high quality relationships with their parents and to be as well-adjusted, as children with heterosexual parents. As such, there is little reason to expect that the attachment security of children in lesbian mother families would be any different to that of children raised in heterosexual families. However, the research on lesbian mother families cannot necessarily be extrapolated to gay father families as the circumstances of gay fathers are somewhat different. The historical emphasis on mothers as primary attachment figures elicits questions about the attachment of children raised by primary caregiving fathers. Thus, the current study sought to address the question of whether adopted children are as likely to form secure attachments to their gay fathers as to their lesbian mothers, or heterosexual parents.
Participants: The sample comprises gay, lesbian and heterosexual two-parent families with an adopted child aged 10-14 years. Ninety-two children have been interviewed and it is expected that the total sample will be over 100 children.
Measures and procedure: Child attachment. Children were interviewed individually using the Friends and Family Interview; a semi-structured interviewed designed to assess attachment security in middle childhood and adolescence. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim before being coded using the FFI Rating and Classification system.
Analysis plan: ANCOVAs will be conducted to compare attachment patterns (secure-autonomous, insecure-dismissive, insecure-preoccupied and insecure-disorganised) across the three groups (gay father, lesbian mother and heterosexual parents). Age at adoption and gender of the child will be entered as covariates. If significant differences are found, post-hoc analyses will be conducted to identify where these lie.
Results: Data collection is ongoing. Data from the full sample will be analysed and presented for the first time in this proposed symposium.
Implications: The findings of the current study have important implications for policy and legislation regarding the formation of gay father families through adoption. Given the number of children waiting to be adopted and the scarcity of suitable adoptive parents, the value of gaining further insight into this new family form cannot be understated.