Parenting practices of lesbian mothers : an examination of the socialization of children in planned lesbian-headed families

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Gipson, Cynthia Kay, 1970-

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While research indicates that children reared in households headed by lesbian parents are no more likely to be teased or bullied than children from other households, lesbian mothers feel it is necessary to socialize their children as if they were. Twenty lesbian mothers with at least one child between the ages of eight months and 17 years old from the central Texas area were selected for this study. The mothers came from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds and diverse socioeconomic statuses. This study was qualitative in nature, using primarily grounded theory methods. The mothers were interviewed using a semi-structured format regarding their socialization strategies. Themes emerging from the interviews were that mothers went to great lengths to secure parenthood. They engaged in both direct and indirect socialization strategies. They considered their children to be members of the gay community and emphasized contact with 'families like theirs.' They felt that their families were normal yet possessed some distinct advantages and had some unique concerns. Finally, they had egalitarian relationships in terms of the division of paid labor, household tasks, and childcare, with a focus on spending the most amount of time possible with their children. Racial and ethnic socialization literature was used as a framework for this study. The similarity between participant's responses and racial and ethnic socialization theory led to the development of a model of "Alternative Family Socialization." Similar to racial or ethnic socialization, "Alternative Family Socialization" involves preparing minority children to thrive in the majority culture. Mothers stated that they prepare their children for bias by encouraging them to take pride in their family, accessing support from the gay community, encouraging the development of positive self-concepts, encouraging open communication, and teaching them how to access support. Future directions for research include further development of the model of "Alternative Family Socialization" such as how this model might explain gay men rearing children. Also future research focusing on how children of lesbian parents perceive themselves within the gay community is suggested.