Newswise — The first study ever to examine the experiences of gay male partners who became fathers via surrogacy shows that they are more likely than heterosexual fathers to scale back their careers in order to care for their children. Also, these fathers report that their self-esteem and their closeness with their extended families increases after becoming parents.
In most respects, life changes resulting from parenthood were very much like those experienced by heterosexual couples – closer relations with co-workers, a transition away from single friends toward other couples (straight and gay) with children, and less time for sleep, exercise, and hobbies.
The study involved 40 gay men who became parents through surrogacy, an assisted reproductive technique in which prospective parents contract with a woman to carry a child through pregnancy to birth. In most cases, the egg is obtained independently from a different woman (an “egg donor”) than the woman who carries the baby (the “surrogate”). The child is genetically related to one of the gay male parents. The surrogacy process is complex and very expensive, and participating couples in the study were affluent.
The study was conducted by four psychology researchers--Kim Bergman of Growing Generations in Los Angeles (a surrogacy agency), and Ritchie J. Rubio, Robert-Jay Green, and Elena Padrón of the Rockway Institute at the California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University, San Francisco. Study results were published in the latest issue of the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 6:111-141, 2010.
The study gathered information from one partner in each of 40 couples through hour-long interviews conducted in person or by telephone. The parents’ median age was 41, and their average annual household income was $270,000. The median age of participants’ children was one year and ten months.
The study gathered information on four aspects of the participants’ experience as they transitioned to parenthood: 1) work and career changes, 2) lifestyle issues, 3) couple, family and friendship experiences, and 4) self-esteem and self-care.
Work and career changes included changing work life in terms of travel, hours and career path (reported by 70 percent of participants); going through occupational changes (65 percent); having sacrifices, losses and missed opportunities in work life (53 percent); and making changes in career goals (53 percent). The fathers reported that their relationships with peers at work improved, while their relationship with superiors at work remained the same. “It is noteworthy,” the researchers wrote, “that many of these gay fathers negotiated their career prospects downward and focused on their parenting responsibilities as being primary, at least for the time being while their children were so young… This is in sharp contrast to heterosexual fathers, who often augment their work hours and career commitments after having children.”
Lifestyle issues involved a variety of experiences, from buying a larger car or expanding the house to lower frequency and cost of travel. Nearly two-thirds of the new dads bought a new car or made changes in their housing to accommodate their child. Sixty percent hired child care assistance. Nearly all (90 percent) reported changing their business and leisure travel in terms of frequency, length of time, and cost. Two-thirds (65 percent) reported changes in their financial status. Eighty-five percent reported completing or updating their estate planning.
The new fathers encountered many changes in relations with family, friends and co-workers. The couples had been together an average of 12 years, and none had dissolved their relationship after becoming parents. They acknowledged a decrease in romance and personal intimacy with their partners, though they said their relationships remained romantic. Most fathers reported that relationships with their families of origin had become closer and that having a baby increased recognition of the couple as a family. Relations with co-workers often improved because of the shared parenting experience. The new dads reported changes to their social life, with fewer late-night and weekday engagements and a gradual trend toward socializing with other couples who have children, rather than single friends.
One of the notable findings was that having a child significantly improved the gay fathers’ self esteem. Nearly all (95 percent) said having a child “makes me feel good about myself” and that their self-esteem had improved since being a parent. The new fathers reported they were taking less care of themselves by sleeping and exercising less and devoting less time to hobbies, leisure activities and involvement in personal causes. Although their reported spirituality had not changed significantly, more of the new parents (an increase from 25 to 38 percent) reported they were attending religious services since adding a child to their family.
The researchers observed that the new fathers “felt extremely positive and proud about being parents… The narratives of the gay fathers in this study underscore how being a parent contributed to greater meaning in their lives… They derived pleasure and pride in taking care of their children, while they also received increasing validation from their families and their communities.”
“Our findings reinforce the growing research evidence that the sexual orientation of the parents makes little difference in parenting. At this early stage of child development, the infant’s or toddler’s needs drive the family interactions and structure the couples’ relationships with friends and relatives. This is as it should be. Gay couples are making major accommodations in their lives just like their heterosexual counterparts who become parents,” said Robert-Jay Green, PhD., executive director of the Rockway Institute. The researchers’ next study will compare the psychological outcomes of children raised by heterosexual parents and children conceived via surrogacy and raised by gay male parents.
About Rockway Institute: The nonpartisan Rockway Institute promotes scientific and professional expertise to counter antigay prejudice and improve public policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (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 is to organize the most knowledgeable social scientists, mental health professionals, and physicians in the United States 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. Website: www.rockwayinstitute.org
To obtain a copy of the original article as published: Dr. Robert-Jay Green, Tel. 415-955-2121; Email: [email protected].
To contact the researchers for further information:
Dr. Kim Bergman, Growing Generations, LLC, Los Angeles, CATel. 323-965-7500 ext. 4715; Email: [email protected]
Dr. Robert-Jay Green, Rockway Institute at Alliant International University, San Francisco, CATel. 415-955-2121; Email: [email protected]
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Journal of LGBT Family Studies (6:111-141, 2010)