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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Families of Sexual Minorities: Child Well-Being, Parenting Desires, and Expectations for Future Family Formation

  • Author(s): Wondra, Danielle Leanne
  • Advisor(s): Sweeney, Megan M
  • Moore, Mignon R
  • et al.

My dissertation project uses a multiple methodological approach—unfolding in three substantive chapters—to ask how gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status intersect with sexual identity to create unique experiences for sexual minorities in terms of parenting perspectives and expectations for family formation. Perspectives on family formation may differ for sexual minorities because they are socially positioned differently than heterosexual people, yet previous studies largely address women’s attitudes and not those of men and sexual minorities. Throughout this dissertation, I utilize an intersectional framework, theorizing that our social statuses interconnect to constrain and enable life opportunities, including related to family formation.

Chapter 1 draws on the 2008-2012 American Community Survey to examine the educational well-being of children with same-sex parents and different-sex parents. My analysis reveals that children with same-sex parents had greater household-based advantages than children with different-sex cohabiting parents, but had fewer advantages than children with different-sex married parents. Nevertheless, children with same-sex parents made progress through school at statistically similar or better rates than most children with different-sex parents. I show that parental sexual orientation is less important to children’s educational progress than other factors such as parental education and family transitions.

Using the 2002 and 2006-2010 National Surveys of Family Growth, Chapter 2 examines the child desires and intentions of sexual minorities. Consistent with prior research, gay men and lesbians were less likely to report parenting desires than heterosexual peers; however, I found variation in parenting desires within sexual identity groups by gender, race/ethnicity and education. Moreover, I identified variability in sexual minorities’ perceived barriers to parenthood, measured by gaps between reported parenting desires and intentions.

Finally, Chapter 3 is a qualitative study of expectations for family formation among 36 young gay and bisexual men of color in Los Angeles. Drawing on ethnographic observations and interviews, I show how Black and Latino sexual minority men negotiated multiple marginalized statuses while navigating family responses to their sexual orientation, forming romantic relationships, and developing expectations for future family formation. Furthermore, I found that young sexual minority men of color developed expectations about future family based on past family experiences and the structural barriers they faced.

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