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Gender Development in Children with Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Parents

Associations with Family Type and Child Gender

Carone, Nicola PhD*; Lingiardi, Vittorio MD; Tanzilli, Annalisa PhD; Bos, Henny M. W. PhD; Baiocco, Roberto PhD§

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: September 04, 2019 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000726
Original Article: PDF Only

Objective: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

This article has supplementary material on the web site:

*Department of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Lab on Attachment and Parenting—LAG, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy;

Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy;

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

§Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

Address for reprints: Nicola Carone, PhD, Department of Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Lab on Attachment and Parenting—LAG, University of Pavia, Piazza Botta 11, 27100 Pavia, Italy; e-mail:

Support was obtained by a Sapienza Starting Grant for Research to the first author (grant number AR11715C77EB56B2). However, the views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Sapienza University of Rome.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Received December 04, 2018

Accepted July 09, 2019

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.