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by Suzanne M. Johnson and Elizabeth O'Connor
New York University Press, 2002
Review by Sundeep Nayak, M.D. on Jan 2nd 2004

The Gay Baby Boom

Any analytical work is fraught with the curse of too many tables, too complex charts and more data than we need for extraction. The authors commendably use numbers sparingly, only when necessary and with striking clarity, choosing instead to pepper the text with responses to free-form questions. What is painfully obvious is the volume of effort each gay or lesbian parent has sliced through to achieve his or her enlightened goals. Substantially more energy is invested in maintaining an egalitarian, tolerant, and equitable growing environment when compared to conventional two-parent heterosexual childrearing. This comprehensive work addresses such diverse facets as choosing your child's pediatrician, opening up to you kid's school teacher, interpartner relationships, commitment to the child, disciplinary techniques, aspirations of gay and lesbian parents, the advantages (sic) of growing up with gay or lesbian parents, and valid concerns about other persons in your child's life. These were uncharted waters but a decade ago.

The Gay Baby Boom: The Psychology of Gay Parenthood is two books in one. In the first "book", Johnson and O'Connor review different studies that have analyzed various issues pertaining to children within gay and lesbian family units, including but not limited to addressing intelligence quotients, coping behaviors, moral structure and gender-role development woven seamlessly into this lattice. Some of the research dates back into the seventies but current thinking is also included. For the second "book", the authors exhaustively and extensively discuss their own gargantuan research project, The National Study of Gay and Lesbian Parents. This study involved the largest known sample of data collection from 415 parents representing 256 families from across the nation, each parenting at least one child under the age of eighteen years at the time of their participation. Besides the inherent challenges (such as the obvious difficulty in locating gay and lesbian parents, more available studies focusing on lesbian mothers, and confounding methodologies), local, regional and nationwide differences in perspective, qualitative and quantitative analyses, and extrapolation to the general model all contributed in making the result Herculean rather than Sisyphean.

A minor statistical error over-inflates the true estimate of children living in gay and lesbian households in the United States. The authors' contention that there is no evidence that such children are more likely to be gay or lesbian than are children of heterosexual parents is founded upon literature published more than twenty years ago and has since been effervescently challenged. A keen editor would have deleted such obsolescence. Minimal criticisms notwithstanding, the work serves as an effortless how-to book that would be recommended hand-me-down reading for prospective same-sex parents from those who've fingered the pages within. When all is read and done, we should pause to recognize that no book will truly help us become better parents; the literature only helps validate that which is intuitive and innately appropriate to the challenging art of child craft.

 

Read more in:

        Barret RL, Robinson BE: Gay Fathers: Encouraging the Hearts of Gay Dads and Their Families. 224 pp; Jossey-Bass. ISBN 078790750 July 2000

        Brill SA: The Queer Parent's Primer: A Lesbian and Gay Families' Guide to navigating Through a Straight World. 240 pp. New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 1572242264. March 2001

        Galluccio M, Galluccio J, Groff D: An American Family.288 pp. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312288875. March 2002

        McGarry K: Fatherhood for Gay Men: An Emotional and Practical Guide to Becoming a Gay Dad. 108 pp. Haworth Press. ISBN 1560233877. September 2003

        Morgen KB: Getting Simon: Two Gay Doctors' Journey to Fatherhood. Bramble Co. ISBN 1883647045. September 1995

        Strah D, Margolis S, Timken K, Cozza KL: Gay Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood. 270 pp. J. P Tarcher. ISBN 1585422312. May 2003.

 

© 2004 Sundeep Nayak

 

Dr. Nayak is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Radiology in the University Of California School Of San Francisco and his interests include mental health, medical ethics, and gender studies. A voracious reader and intrepid epicure, he enjoys his keyboards too much. He actually believes that the children are our future.