As times have changed, there is a noticeable decrease in the traditional family structure of mom, dad, two point five kids and the family dog. This forces society to the realization that the modern family develops over the years into varying forms and that the “nuclear family” is degenerately less of the norm. Diversity of this structure is often the result of divorce, chosen single motherhood and other factors. However, in the more recent years, yet another family pattern is emerging: gay and lesbian couples with children.
Gay and lesbian families are often viewed as deviant, immoral, and even dangerous to the development of children by some people. Such beliefs in society will create more than just moral controversy; it will surface issues of legality, decisions of custody, and basic human rights. The Nature Nurture Debate: Biological vs. Cultural-based Sexuality Before one examines the issues of same-sex families, the reader should understand the two arguments behind the origin of sexuality.
It is debated if sexuality is an innate biological process that takes place as a result of one’s genetic make-up or if it is a result of one’s cultural background and the environment in which one is raised. These two differing theories are known as the nature/nurture debate, nature representing the biological theory for one’s sexuality and nurture representing environmental influences for one’s behavior. The Biological Argument From the point of conception, human beings are made up of 46 chromosomes, 23 male and 23 female. After insemination, paternal and maternal chromosomes fuse, this fusion determines the sex of the child.
The amalgamation of two X chromosomes creates a female child, while the combination of X and Y chromosomes, leads to the development of a male offspring. Each chromosome contains thousands genes and each gene contains specific information about how part of the body will be formed. Genes are responsible for almost every aspect of the human body, from hair color to the development of our organs, organs like the brain and it is within the brain were the biggest changes take place when our bodies under go their sexual metamorphous, during sexual maturation.
When we reach sexual maturity, we have our first insight into our sexuality, an insight which is genetically programmed into our consciousness through our DNA, Whilst in the womb, it seems that our sexuality is being preprogrammed by our genes but there are other biological developments taking place, namely the formation of our hormones, hormones which will lie dormant until the onset of puberty. (Radford, T. 1993) Cultural Relevance
The nurture theory, put simply, means that our sexuality is not the result of our biology (nature) but rather that our sexuality and characteristics are socially learned through experience. A study by Albert Bandura et al ( 197-) has shown how “children learn their roles from those influential models they observe around them, particularly their parents. If the two sexes are treated differently and have different expectations of their behavior then they will learn to behave differently.
These differences include their gender and this might be papering them for the kind of social roles that they find them selves in later” In this statement, Bandura is trying to tell us that the essence of who we are and who we perceive our selves to be, is acquired at an early age, through observational learning and it is through observational learning that we develop our concept of social norms. Social norms are expected patterns of behavior that develop in any social group over time, they become a major part of our culture and one part of that culture is the perception of our sexuality.
Emergence of the “NeoNuclear” Family Traditionally, families have always included a mother and a father. Today, however, more and more families are being headed by gay parents; some having children from previous marriages. Many must use artificial insemination or surrogate mothers because it is extremely difficult for gay couples to adopt children. There is no valid reason for refusing to call lesbian and gay headed household families. They fall under every conceivable criterion for identifying families and the concept of a family.
They are groups of coresident kin providing jointly through income-pooling for each others need of food and shelter. They socialize children, engage in emotional, physical support, and make up part of a larger kin network. Homosexual households are also typically characterized by flexible sex role behavior and a more equal division of household labor than heterosexual families, which is viewed as an advantage . These new definitions of family create concerns for mental health professionals.
Homosexual families are faced with legal and social obstacles which may be unfamiliar to counselors. In addition, professionals are encouraged to make themselves aware of their own value systems and how those principles may influence the course of counseling. Counselors should also be aware of the role of scientific research in the lives of gay and lesbian families, including how it may affect legal decisions and social conditions, and how research in this area can become less biased by researcher influence(Cox, B. 1994)
Forming the Gay & Lesbian Family Same-sex Marriage: Reasoning Behind The Push To Legalize Currently there is much debate on homosexual couples right to legalize marriage. The institution of marriage is held in a highly respectable position as well as in a sentimental one. If one examines the Declaration of Independence for inspiration, then it is stated that “all men are created equal”. Logically, one would assume this to include homosexuals. So then, assuming they would be granted the same freedom as heterosexuals as far as marriage is concerned.
By the simple public act of marrying, men and women achieve a substantial package of rights and duties which, collectively provide support and predictability to their marital relationship: 1) legal recognition of their sexual union, 2) legal enforcement of their mutual obligation to financially support each other, 3) automatic guardianship and custody of the children of that union, 4) improved ability to adopt the children of others, 5) legal enforcement of their mutual obligation to support their children, 6) legal recognition of their constitutionality and the constitutional sanctity and importance of their marriage, 7) insurable interests in each others lives, 8) next-of-kin status in medical emergencies, and, 9) in the event of death, the right to one-half of each other’s estate. ” (Love And… 1997) Therefore, through that reasoning, it would appear banning same-sex marriages would be discrimination.
Because America was founded on the Constitution, in which all men are created equal; one shouldn’t have the power to deny the basic legal right of marriage to a class of individuals due to his or her sexual preference. Children of Same-sex Couples Although some gay couples do decide to raise a child in a “nuclear” family, others families headed by lesbians or gay men tend to be blended. Occasionally, a parent in a heterosexual marriage will realize that she/he is gay then retreating to a homosexual relationship. The gay counterpart then may act like a stepparent to the children without a full exposure of legal rights or responsibilities that the former spouse’s new partner will attain. In other instances, a gay couple may cooperate in baby-making and child-rearing with another individual or couple.
Also, gay and lesbian adoption has been available to families seeking children unable to have their own. Helping The Child Of Non-Traditional Families Prosper There are basic requirements for all families with children, although alternative groups will have a select number more prerequisites. Firstly, the needs of the child in gay and lesbian families will need to be met, allowing him or her to develop his/her own identity and healthy levels of self-esteem. Balancing a healthy social life for the child with both gay, lesbian, and traditional families and supporting the child’s identity formation when associated in cross-gender play activities.
And lastly, participating in activities and providing resources that provide continuous cultural sensitization. Barriers to the family growth Unlike heterosexual parents and their children, however, lesbian and gay parents and their children are often subject to prejudice because of sexual orientation that turns judges, legislators, professionals, and the public against them, frequently resulting in negative outcomes such as loss of physical custody, restrictions on visitation, and prohibitions against adoption. The current legal standing of homosexual parents seeking custody of their children remains precarious. Courts determine custody and visitation on the basis of the ‘best interests of the child.
Current judicial rulings reflect a bias against awarding custody or granting visitation rights to homosexual parents, favoring the heterosexual parent or heterosexual relative of the child(ren). (Allen, M. & Burrell, N. 1994) This issue however, must be examined morally and not politically. The child should be the most important factor in the adoption process. So this cannot be an issue of gay rights, it must instead be looked at as who will provide a better home for the child. Placing a child in a position where he or she will be removed from a loving home can be traumatizing. Parenting Skills among hetero and homosexual families The gay rights movement of the 1970s has led to more gay parents who are “out” or public about their sexual orientation.
More gay and lesbian parents want to be honest and open about their orientation so that their children can form positive self-concepts and value difference in others. (Koerner, M. & Hulsebosch, P. 1996). “Parenting skills of homosexual and heterosexual parents tend to be similar on most measures, including general attitudes about parenting (Mucklow & Phelan, 1979),and a variety of back ground variables . Parents also scored alike on measures of self-concept and responses to child behavior. Lesbian and heterosexual mothers scored alike on measures of maternal attitudes and parent effectiveness . Both groups also equally emphasized the value of social support from friends and family .
Children from these families were also quite similar to children from heterosexual homes. These children scored alike on measures of moral maturity, intelligence, locus of control, family and peer relationships, adjustment to single parent family life and self-concept . These categories are commonly used by researchers to assess overall adjustment. Contrary to some of the societal beliefs reviewed earlier, these children also scored alike on measures of sexual identity and gender role preferences. Counselors should be aware of these similarities. They indicate that having a homosexual parent does not completely redefine the meaning of family.