Depending on where you live in the world, people have very different opinions about same sex couples. It’s a heated topic which splits people into two groups which find it very hard to communicate with each other. When it comes to same-sex couple adoptions, things get even dicier. If you live in an area that’s not particularly tolerant, you’ve likely heard the argument (I use the word lightly): children adopted by gays will also end up gay. Well, science has come to the rescue.

Many same sex couples experience great difficulty when it comes to adopting children, largely due to prejudice.

It’s in the toys, not the parents

A study conducted by Rachel Farr of the University of Kentucky in the US found that the sexual orientation of the parents has no influence on the child’s gender identity. Instead, the toys that kids prefer might be a better telltale sign.

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“Parental sexual orientation and family type did not affect children’s gender conformity or nonconformity in any significant way,” emphasizes Farr. “Our results suggest that the gender development of children adopted by both lesbian and gay parents proceeds in typical ways, and is similar to that of children adopted by heterosexual couples. It therefore appears that having both a male and female role model in the home is not necessary for facilitating typical gender development among adopted children, nor does it discourage gender nonconformity.”

Farr studied 106 families headed by lesbian, gay or heterosexual parents. She studied how the structure of these families develops over time, and whether gender-typical behaviors remain constant as the child ages. She also observed the children, the parents, and the environment in which the child plays and grows up. Parents were also asked to fill relevant questionnaires. After five years, she returned to see the results.

She found no indication that lesbian or gay couples influence the gender of children. In fact, the one thing that seemed to be a predictor of such behavior was the type and number of toys that children preferred, but even this was a thin correlation. A few preschool children who played more with toys not typically assigned to their sex were more likely to aspire to jobs and to prefer activities that are not typically ascribed to their gender.

Farr hopes that this could help judges, social workers, adoption centers, and policy makers make better decisions when it comes to same sex couple adoption. Many countries and states place difficult hurdles or make it downright impossible for same-sex couples to adopt children. Basing such an important decision on nothing more than a prejudice can benefit no one — especially the children who would find a loving home.

Journal Reference: Farr, R.H. et al (2017). Children’s Gender-Typed Behavior from Early to Middle Childhood in Adoptive Families with Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents, Sex Roles DOI 10.1007/s11199-017-0812-5