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Gay Dads Are More Involved in Their Kids’ Lives, Study Suggests

Research suggests gay dads are disproportionately involved in their kids' lives.

Children of gay parents appear to be just as happy and healthy as their peers, and a new study suggests this may be because homosexual fathers are more involved in their children’s lives than other parents. Despite prior researcher that suggested school-based programs often marginalize minority families, researchers have found that gay dads disproportionately lead storytime and sing-a-longs, volunteer as assistant teachers, and join school boards.

Gay fathers may feel increased pressure to participate in classroom activities to counter biases, demonstrating to “folks at school that families can consist of configurations other than just mom and dad,” study author Andrew Leland of Rutgers University told Fatherly. Leland, a graduate student who is gay and plans to have children some day, added that large-scale studies—including one survey of 588 LGBT parents conducted in 2008—reflect his findings and suggest that gay fathers may be even more likely than their peers to join the PTA.

Yet, there are many challenges that researchers like Leland face when studying non-traditional families. The U.S. Census Bureau still does not count the number of two-father households—they guess. And when researchers do focus on gay parents, their studies tend to sample heavily from middle and upper-class white participants. “My suspicion is that the dads who have been studied live in progressive and safe areas,” Leland says. This may skew the data toward wealthy, less-marginalized participants, he adds, which may explain why studies continue to suggest that gay parents are disproportionately involved in their kids’ lives. “They are going to have more freedom to do so.”

Samantha Tornello of Pennsylvania State University-Altoona (who was not involved in the study) agrees that the existing research on gay fathers remains inconclusive. “I have done some work on the division of labor of gay fathers,” she told Fatherly. “And I am not 100 percent sure [this study] summarizes all we know about the division of labor of same-sex male couples.” Given that most prior studies were conducted a decade ago, Leland adds that the next step must be updating the literature with more modern, robust studies. “We have no idea how experiences of gay fatherhood differ based on [economics and race],” he says “This is where should future research go.”

Leland plans to spearhead these efforts with follow-up studies, and hopes his work will give all parents plenty to think about. “I never thought about the value of being more consciously aware of my visibility as a future gay father, especially to preemptively address issues that could potentially arise raising kids as a gay parent,” he says.