In 1989, Charlotte J. Patterson was teaching a course on child development at the University of Virginia when she noticed that none of the textbooks mentioned lesbian or gay parents. Twenty-five years later, after publishing multiple review articles on LGBT parenting, Patterson came to Case Western Reserve University to give a talk on her most recent research in the subject.
On Sept. 23, Patterson gave a talk in the Wolstein Research Building Auditorium titled “Sexual Orientation and Parenting: Research and Policy Issues.”
Patterson’s research involved a survey of gay, lesbian and straight couples who jointly adopted newborns. Adoption for gay and lesbian couples is only legal in some states, not including Ohio, where homosexual couples cannot both be legal guardians of their children.
The survey measured efficacy of parenting strategies, stress associated with parenting, children’s expressed gender roles and division of labor in parenting.
While the study showed that lesbian, gay and straight parenting had almost identical results in nearly all categories, there was a difference in division of labor. In heterosexual couples, the mother tended to do significantly more of the work, such as feeding and playing with the child. In gay and lesbian couples, the labor was divided more equally.
“What I hope you’re developing here is a picture of great similarity among these families,” said Patterson.
“We’re living in a time of very tremendous change,” she added. “Some day, presumably, all families in the United States will be able to expect equal protection under the laws.”
The talk also featured two respondents, Phyllis Harris, the executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland and a CWRU alumna, and Amy Przeworski, an assistant professor of psychology at CWRU who has done research about gender-variant children and their families.
The talk was the first in the Schubert Center for Child Studies’ 2014-2015 Conversation Series.