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Same-Sex and Different-Sex Parent Households and Child Health Outcomes

Findings from the National Survey of Children's Health

Bos, Henny M. W. PhD; Knox, Justin R. MPH; van Rijn-van Gelderen, Loes PhD; Gartrell, Nanette K. MD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: April 2016 - Volume 37 - Issue 3 - p 179–187
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000288
Original Articles
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Objective: Using the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children's Health data set, we compared spouse/partner relationships and parent-child relationships (family relationships), parenting stress, and children's general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior, and learning behavior (child outcomes) in households of same-sex (female) versus different-sex continuously coupled parents with biological offspring. We assessed whether associations among family relationships, parenting stress, and child outcomes were different in the 2 household types.

Methods: Parental and child characteristics were matched for 95 female same-sex parent and 95 different-sex parent households with children 6 to 17 years old. One parent per household was interviewed by telephone. Multivariate analyses of variance and multiple linear regressions were conducted.

Results: No differences were observed between household types on family relationships or any child outcomes. Same-sex parent households scored higher on parenting stress (95% confidence interval = 2.03–2.30) than different-sex parent households (95% confidence interval = 1.76–2.03), p = .006. No significant interactions between household type and family relationships or household type and parenting stress were found for any child outcomes.

Conclusion: Children with female same-sex parents and different-sex parents demonstrated no differences in outcomes, despite female same-sex parents reporting more parenting stress. Future studies may reveal the sources of this parenting stress.

*Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;

Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, NY;

Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles, CA.

Address for reprints: Henny M. W. Bos, PhD, Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, 1018 WS, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; e-mail:

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

See the related Commentary “Moving Beyond Anti-LGBT Politics” by Nathaniel Frank on page 245. See the video abstract from the authors at

Received November , 2015

Accepted January , 2016

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