Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey

Simon R Crouch1*, Elizabeth Waters1, Ruth McNair2, Jennifer Power3 and Elise Davis1

Author Affiliations

1 The Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, The Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

2 The Department of General Practice, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

3 The Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:635  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-635

Published: 21 June 2014

Abstract

Background

It has been suggested that children with same-sex attracted parents score well in psychosocial aspects of their health, however questions remain about the impact of stigma on these children. Research to date has focused on lesbian parents and has been limited by small sample sizes. This study aims to describe the physical, mental and social wellbeing of Australian children with same-sex attracted parents, and the impact that stigma has on them.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey, the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, was distributed in 2012 to a convenience sample of 390 parents from Australia who self-identified as same-sex attracted and had children aged 0-17 years. Parent-reported, multidimensional measures of child health and wellbeing and the relationship to perceived stigma were measured.

Results

315 parents completed the survey (completion rate = 81%) representing 500 children. 80% of children had a female index parent while 18% had a male index parent. Children in same-sex parent families had higher scores on measures of general behavior, general health and family cohesion compared to population normative data (β = 2.93, 95% CI = 0.35 to 5.52, P = .03; β = 5.60, 95% CI = 2.69 to 8.52, P = <.001; and β = 6.01, 95% CI = 2.84 to 9.17, P = <.001 respectively). There were no significant differences between the two groups for all other scale scores. Physical activity, mental health, and family cohesion were all negatively associated with increased stigma (β = -3.03, 95% CI = -5.86 to -0.21, P = .04; β = -10.45, 95% CI = -18.48 to -2.42, P = .01; and β = -9.82, 95% CI = -17.86 to -1.78, P = .02 respectively) and the presence of emotional symptoms was positively associated with increased stigma (β =0.94, 95% CI = 0.08 to 1.81, P = .03).

Conclusions

Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health. Perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health. Through improved awareness of stigma these findings play an important role in health policy, improving child health outcomes.

Keywords:
Child health; Stigma; Sexuality; Parenting