Published: April 6, 2021

Children with same-sex parents outperform other children on multiple indicators of academic achievement, a new study by Life Course Centre researchers shows.

Dr Jan Kabátek from the University of Melbourne and Associate Professor Francisco Perales from the University of Queensland found children in same-sex-parented families scored higher on national standardised tests than those in different-sex-parented families. They showed that this advantage amounted to 13 per cent of a standard deviation, comparable to the advantage of both parents being employed as opposed to being out of work. They also found that children in same-sex-parented families were slightly more likely (1.5 per cent) to graduate from high school, and much more likely (11.2 per cent) to enrol in university than children in different-sex-parented families.

The results of this study, based on linked administrative data from the Netherlands and published in Demography, counters claims that children with same-sex parents are inherently disadvantaged. Dr Kabátek said previous studies in this field are often criticized for the limitations of their research methods. “The most common criticism is that the studies tend to rely on small and selective samples of same-sex-parented families,” he said. “Our study moves beyond the vast majority of research conducted in this space. It analyses data covering the full population of children living in the Netherlands, allowing us to compare large and representative samples of children living with same-sex and different-sex couples.”

“Thanks to these data, we were able to statistically account for various pre-existing characteristics that may differ between same-sex- and different-sex-parented families—for example, the higher average education attainment of same-sex parents, or their lower average incomes. This means that our analyses compared children in same-sex- and different-sex-parented families that were similar in all observable characteristics except for their parents’ sex.”

“Altogether, the message stemming from our findings is clear: being raised by same-sex parents bears no independent detrimental effect on children’s outcomes. In socio-political environments characterised by high levels of legislative and public support, children in same-sex-parented families thrive.”

Read more on this study in The Conversation and in Demography.