To examine whether the gender development of 120 Italian children (40 born to gay fathers [GFs] through surrogacy, 40 born to lesbian mothers [LMs] through sperm donation, and 40 born to heterosexual parents [HPs] through sexual intercourse) aged 3 to 9 years differed as a function of family type and/or child gender.
Children took part in observed free-play sessions while primary caregivers and nonparent caregivers were administered standardized interviews. Hierarchical linear modeling, analysis of covariance, simple effects analysis, and bootstrapping were conducted.
Boys and girls of GFs and HPs were reported to show less gender flexibility in their activities and characteristics than boys and girls of LMs. They also received higher scores of gender conforming dress-up play and spent more time playing with gender-conforming toys. In all family types, boys and girls were reported to show low levels of gender-nonconforming dress-up play and observed to spend less time playing with gender-nonconforming toys. Overall, comparisons within genders indicated that boys and girls of GFs and HPs were considered more masculine and feminine, respectively, in their behavior and play, relative to boys and girls in LM families. Age was not a significant covariate in any analysis.
Our findings do not support the idea that children of gay or lesbian parents show greater gender nonconformity relative to children of HPs. The findings are informative to those concerned with the effects of the absence of a male or female live-in parent on child gender development.