NEW YORK, N.Y. — In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, social scientists have found that many lesbian and gay youth have expectations of spending their adult life in a long-term relationship raising children.
More than 90 percent of females and more than 80 percent of males said they expect to be partnered in a monogamous relationship after age 30. Two-thirds of females and more than half of males expressed likelihood that they would raise children in the future.
“These findings, which appear to be representative of urban lesbian or gay youth’s aspirations, are a glimpse into the future of the LGBT community,” said Robert-Jay Green, PhD, executive director of the Rockway Institute, a national research and public policy center located at Alliant International University.
“If these young people realize their expectations, the LGBT community will be a vastly different place in 20 years, with many more families and children. The implications are staggering for how the lesbian/gay community will be different in the 21st century than in generations past, when it was mainly a secret society of singles.”
The study was conducted by Anthony R. D’Augelli, H. Jonathon Rendina and Katerina O. Sinclair of Pennsylvania State University and Arnold Grossman of New York University and published in the Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling.
The researchers interviewed 133 young people (age 16 to 22) from the New York City area who identified themselves as “almost totally” or “totally” lesbian or gay. The participants were asked about their future relationship and parenting plans.
One-third of males and one-half of females in the study reported being in a relationship. Males reported fewer and briefer relationships than females. In both genders, approximately 70 percent of participants expressed satisfaction with their relationship.
When asked about expectations of future relationships, 66 percent of males and 80 percent of females rated future long-term relationships as “extremely important” or “very important.” Eighty-two percent of females and 61 percent of males hoped to be partnered during the next five years.
Ninety-two percent of females and 82 percent of males expected to be monogamously partnered after age 30, and 79 percent of females and 73 percent of males expected to live with their partner. Sixty-four percent of females and 37 percent of males said it was “extremely likely” they would marry if allowed by law.
When asked about expectations of child-raising, 36 percent of females and 20 percent of males said it was “extremely likely” they will raise children. Overall, 67 percent of males and 55 percent of females expressed some degree of likelihood that they would raise children.
Of those who expressed some likelihood, 58 percent of males and 54 percent of females expect to be raising their own biological children. Forty-two percent of males and 32 percent of females expect to adopt. Sixteen percent of males and 14 percent of females expect to be foster parents.
Thirty-six percent of females and 17 percent of males expect to help their partner raise her or his biological children.
D’Augelli and colleagues cautioned that the participants in this study may not be representative of all lesbian and gay youth in the U.S. Because these participants lived in or near a major urban center, they likely were more aware of lesbian and gay community resources and more likely to be connected to support programs and services.
The researchers explained that youth in rural areas — because they might not be exposed to same-sex relationships or to social services directed to lesbian and gay youth — might have different responses, although no data were collected to test for such urban/rural differences.
Dr. Green of the Rockway Institute commented, “We seem to be witnessing the mainstreaming of lesbian/gay youth, with many of them wanting exactly what heterosexual youth have always wanted — the whole American dream complete with kids and the minivan. This should not be surprising when one considers that most lesbian/gay youth also have been raised in very mainstream heterosexual families with similar values and parental models.”
He continued, “Although some lesbian/gay adults may prefer less conventional lives, most agree that the primary issue is whether these youth will be given the equal legal rights to realize their couple and family aspirations just like their heterosexual peers.”
The nonpartisan Rockway Institute promotes scientific and professional expertise to counter anti-gay prejudice and improve public policies affecting LGBT people. The Institute’s view is that public opinion, policies and programs should be shaped by the facts about LGBT lives, not by political ideology.
A primary goal of the Institute is to organize the most knowledgeable social scientists, mental health professionals and physicians in the U.S. to provide accurate information about LGBT issues to the media, legislatures and the courts. The Institute also conducts targeted research projects to address the nation’s most pressing LGBT public policy concerns.