Lesbian Moms are Key to Teens’ Well-Being

26-year study shows teens have close friendships and consider their mothers good role models

Teens with lesbian moms are academically successful and happy with their lives, according to a new report from the U. S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, announced today by the Williams Institute.

The 17-year-olds participating in the longest-running study of lesbian families had high school GPAs in the A- to B+ range, and nearly all planned to attend four-year colleges.

These adolescents had strong family bonds, and they were nearly unanimous in describing their mothers as good role models. They also reported having numerous close friends—generally with same-age peers who were predominantly heterosexual. Most of the teens felt comfortable bringing friends home, informing friends that their moms were lesbians and confiding in their mothers.   

“We have been following these families for 26 years,” said Principal Investigator Nanette Gartrell, MD, distinguished visiting scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law (and one of this year’s 100 Women We Love). “These kids were planned and their lesbian mothers were very engaged in parenting. At the end of high school, the teens tell us that they have excellent grades, feel connected to their families and friends, and admire their parents. As a psychiatrist, I can say that these are the types of childrearing outcomes that every parent hopes for.”  

In the study, “Adolescents with Lesbian Mothers Describe Their Own Lives,” the teenagers were asked a series of questions about their everyday life experiences including academics, extracurricular activities, aspirations, friendships, family interactions, role models, health problems and wellbeing.   

Notably, almost all of the 78 adolescents described their mothers as good role models.  “They teach me to be accepting of all people on this earth, no matter what differences they may have,” wrote one of 38 adolescent boys. One of 38 teenage girls described her mothers as “very successful, powerful, beautiful women who are happy with their lives and I would love to end up like them.” 

Prior studies on the same group of teenagers found that they demonstrated more competencies and fewer behavioral problems than an age-matched normative sample of American youth; although some adolescents with lesbian mothers had experienced homophobic stigmatization, family closeness helped counteract its negative effects.   

The 78 adolescents in the current report were drawn from families that are participating in the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running and largest prospective investigation of lesbian mothers and their children in the United States. Initiated by Dr. Gartrell in 1986, the NLLFS examines the social, psychological and emotional development of the children as well as the dynamics of planned lesbian families. 

The current study was conducted by Nanette Gartrell, MD (Williams Institute Visiting Distinguished Scholar, UCLA School of Law; University of Amsterdam;), Henny M.W. Bos, PhD (University of Amsterdam; Williams Institute Visiting International Scholar, 2012), Heidi Peyser, MA., Amalia Deck, MSN, and Carla Rodas, MPH and appears in the current issue of the Journal of Homosexuality.

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