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Parent Practices and Home-School Partnerships: A Differential Effect for Children with Same-Sex Coupled Parents?

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Parents can profoundly influence the long-term academic success of their children. Parental involvement with their children's schools has consistently been associated with much better long-term academic and social outcomes. Unfortunately, same-sex parents often feel disconnected and unwelcome in schools. In order to extend the research supporting parent practices and strong family-school collaboration, the present study used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) data set to examine the following: (1) How same-sex families compare to heterosexual families with respect to the parental practices of helping and communicating; (2) How home-school partnerships compare across same-sex and heterosexual families; and (3) Whether a strong home-school partnership is more important for the academic achievement and social adjustment of children with same-sex parents given the societal context in which these children are embedded. Results indicated that same-sex and heterosexual parents did not differ with respect to their parent practices or home-school partnerships. Further, home-school partnerships were not differentially important for children with same-sex parents.
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Journal of GLBT Family Studies
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Parent Practices and Home-School Partnerships: A Differential Effect for
Children with Same-Sex Coupled Parents?
Alicia L. Fedewa a; Teresa P. Clark b
a University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, United States b Michigan State University, East Lansing,
Michigan, United States
Online Publication Date: 01 October 2009
To cite this Article Fedewa, Alicia L. and Clark, Teresa P.(2009)'Parent Practices and Home-School Partnerships: A Differential Effect
for Children with Same-Sex Coupled Parents?',Journal of GLBT Family Studies,5:4,312 — 339
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Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 5:312–339, 2009
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ISSN: 1550-428X print / 1550-4298 online
DOI: 10.1080/15504280903263736
Parent Practices and Home-School
Partnerships: A Differential Effect for Children
with Same-Sex Coupled Parents?
ALICIA L. FEDEWA
University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, United States
TERESA P. CLARK
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, United States
Parents can profoundly influence the long-term academic success
of their children. Parental involvement with their children’s schools
has consistently been associated with much better long-term aca-
demic and social outcomes. Unfortunately, same-sex parents often
feel disconnected and unwelcome in schools. In order to extend the
research supporting parent practices and strong family-school col-
laboration, the present study used the Early Childhood Longitudinal
Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) data set to examine the fol-
lowing: (1) How same-sex families compare to heterosexual families
with respect to the parental practices of helping and communicat-
ing; (2) How home-school partnerships compare across same-sex
and heterosexual families; and (3) Whether a strong home-school
partnership is more important for the academic achievement and
social adjustment of children with same-sex parents given the so-
cietal context in which these children are embedded. Results indi-
cated that same-sex and heterosexual parents did not differ with
respect to their parent practices or home-school partnerships. Fur-
ther, home-school partnerships were not differentially important for
children with same-sex parents.
KEYWORDS Parent practices, home-school partnerships, lesbian
and gay parents, children, academic outcomes, social outcomes
Address correspondence to Alicia L. Fedewa, Department of Educational, School and
Counseling Psychology, 237 Dickey Hall, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506. E-
mail: alicia.fedewa@uky.edu
312
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Practices and Partnerships 313
INTRODUCTION
The political and social debate regarding same-sex parenting is ongoing
(Herek, 2006). Given that schools reflect the culture of our society, this
debate inevitably permeates classrooms affecting those children who are
raised by gay and lesbian individuals (Epstein, 1999). It is difficult to obtain
accurate estimates of children raised by gay and lesbian parents (also referred
herein as lesbigay or same-sex parents) due to the social stigmatization of
being a sexual minority, but studies indicate that currently 1.5 million to 14
million children have at least one gay or lesbian parent (Falk, 1989; Gibbs,
1988; Patterson, 1992; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001; Turner, Scadden, & Harris,
1990). Same-sex parents are becoming increasingly visible in society with
more gay and lesbian couples choosing to have children through means
of donor insemination, adoption, and surrogacy (Herek, 2006; Martin, 1993;
Weston, 1991). An increase in the number of gay and lesbian parents creates
a need to understand the lives of children who are raised in a society at odds
with the appropriateness of same-sex parenting.
Home-School Collaboration
The benefits of strong home-school partnerships (referred here also as home-
school collaboration or home-school connection) on children’s developmen-
tal outcomes have been documented extensively in the research. When ties
between children’s families and schools are firmly established, children’s
academic and social competencies flourish (Beveridge, 2005; Christenson,
1995; Esler, Godber, & Christenson, 2002; Hara, 1998; Jeynes, 2007). Chil-
dren’s academic achievement thrives when schools and families act as a team
and communicate as well as exchange information. Research examining the
effects of strong home-school collaboration consistently documents positive
child outcomes (Christenson, 1995; Christenson & Sheridan, 2001; Cooper &
Lindsay, 2000; Fan & Chen, 2001; Jeynes, 2005, 2007; Sheridan, Cowan, &
Eagle, 2000; Swap, 1993). In two meta-analyses investigating the relationship
between parental involvement and academic achievement among urban el-
ementary school students (Jeynes, 2005) as well as urban secondary school
students (Jeynes, 2007), parental involvement was positively associated with
all academic variables for both studies, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gen-
der. Both studies did show, furthermore, that the effect of parent involve-
ment (defined as parental participation in the educational processes and
experiences of their children) was stronger for elementary students—most
likely due to parents being more involved in their children’s schooling while
they are younger (Jeynes, 2007). Additional research has confirmed that ac-
tive parental involvement at the early childhood level is associated with
higher literacy skills including vocabulary, writing, and reading comprehen-
sion (Marcon, 1999; Snow, Barnes, Chandler, Goodman, & Hemphill, 1991).
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314 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
The importance of building and maintaining this home-school connec-
tion stems from the theoretical understanding that both contexts exert sig-
nificant socializing influence on the child and, thus, the greater the overlap
among these contexts, the higher probability for children’s success in school
(Brofenbrenner, 1979; Esler et al., 2002; Gregory & Weinstein, 2004; Scott-
Jones, 1995). Many families, however, have a great disconnect between the
home and school contexts. Whether this home-school disconnect hinges on
differences in beliefs about family involvement in school or misunderstand-
ings regarding the role families play in their child’s schooling (Christenson
& Sheridan, 2001; Swap, 1993), a divide between contexts serves as one
of many barriers identified to forming effective family-school partnerships
(Christenson, 2003). Additional barriers outlined in more detail by Chris-
tenson (2003) include linguistic and cultural differences resulting in con-
fusion about the educational process; families’ suspicion about treatment
from educators; parental feelings of inadequacy or perceived lack of school
responsiveness to parental needs; schools’ stereotypical views about fami-
lies that attribute blame to parents; schools’ doubting parental abilities to
address academic concerns; and failure for schools to view family differ-
ences as strengths. In addition to these barriers, research has documented
factors such as a lack of time and knowledge about what children are learn-
ing in school as well as negative school environments (e.g., unwelcoming
school climate, deficit view of families) that create almost impenetrable walls
that form between home and school contexts (McCarthey, 2000; Patrikakou,
Weissberg, & Rubenstein, 1999).
Despite the multitude of barriers to forming effective home-school part-
nerships, a number of factors serve to bridge families and schools. Thus, in
addition to those factors that impede family-school collaboration, researchers
have also identified characteristics and strategies of families and schools
that facilitate the development of effective relationships. Understanding the
cultural background and values of families (McCarthey, 2000) as well as
inviting parents to school functions and sharing important events and in-
formation about their child (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997) are ways
in which schools can create ties with families. Similarly, parents who value
their child’s education and perceive themselves to be efficacious in helping
with their child’s schooling will be more involved and connected to schools
(Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). Thus, this bidirectional relationship is
critical in establishing and maintaining an effective home-school partnership.
School Climate and Same-Sex Families
Although both families and schools are accountable in creating a mutual
partnership, schools shoulder the primary responsibility of making families
and children feel welcome. A critical component of forging positive school
relationships is school climate. When researchers speak of school climate,
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Practices and Partnerships 315
they are typically referring to a number of different factors that color an
individual’s perception of the school environment. School climate has been
defined as the values, cultures, safety policies, and organizational struc-
tures that determine how a school will operate (McBrien & Brandt, 1997).
Thus, school climate is a multidimensional construct that has been shown
to be influenced by a number of different factors including the frequency
and quality of student-teacher interactions (Kuperminc, Leadbeater, & Blatt,
2001), both students’ and teachers’ perceptions of their school environment
(Johnson, Johnson, & Zimmerman, 1996), physical features of the school
(e.g., building quality and structure, school size, classroom size and arrange-
ment, instructional materials and amount of resources), students’ academic
performance (Johnson & Johnson, 1993), students’ and teachers’ feelings
of safeness (Freiberg, 1998), and the degree of trust and respect between
students and teachers (Manning & Saddlemire, 1996).
Research consistently shows beneficial outcomes for both students and
teachers who are members of a positive school climate. Students who have
positive interpersonal relationships with their peers and teachers, regard-
less of their demographic background, have increased achievement levels
and reduced incidents of maladaptive behaviors (McEvoy & Welker, 2000).
Moreover, positive perceptions of school climate have been found to serve
as protective factors in boys (Kuperminc, Leadbeater, Emmons, & Blatt, 1997)
as well as urban students (Haynes & Comer, 1993) who may be at-risk for
behavioral problems, resulting in the prevention of antisocial behaviors.
Thus, it is the responsibility of schools to create positive learning envi-
ronments for their students, making them feel welcome, safe, and, respected.
Unfortunately, for a number of gay or lesbian youth or students with les-
bigay parents, this is not always the case, for “safe and inclusive learning
spaces in classrooms become sites where gay families become invisible and
disappear in a heterosexist curriculum” (Kozik-Rosabal, 2000, p. 369). The
issue of school climate thus becomes particularly salient for those children
whose fears of being ostracized or bullied because of their or their parents’
sexual orientation are often kept undisclosed.
For many same-sex couples, schools are merely institutions that rein-
force the traditional family structure of a mother, father, and 2.5 children
(Coontz, 1992, as cited in Kozik-Rosabal, 2000). Further, for a number of
children growing up with lesbigay parents, schools may be their first expe-
rience with persistent messages about traditional families that run counter to
that which they have been accustomed. Children read books and hear stories
about parents that are not similar to their mommies or daddies and may feel
left out and atypical compared to peers (Casper & Schultz, 1999). In their
qualitative work with gay and lesbian parents in the schools, Casper and
her colleagues (Casper, Schultz, & Wickens, 1992) expanded on the ways
in which lesbigay parents feel ostracized from schools. According to Casper,
the “misrepresentation and underrepresentation in early childhood curricula
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316 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
of children who fall outside the cultural and the socially created gender norm
has the effect of delegitimizing their present lives and limiting their possibil-
ities for the future” (1992, p. 115). While this study did not specifically look
into the effects of school climate and open parent-teacher communication
on the child, both parents and teachers were interviewed regarding the dia-
logues (or lack thereof) between them in order to get a clearer picture of how
same-sex parents experience schools. Results indicated that the 30 gay and
lesbian parents interviewed in Casper’s (1992) study felt more comfortable
in disclosing their sexual orientation if the school had an apparent climate of
diversity and respect. However, not all parents have the luxury of choosing a
school that is accepting of sexual minority families, and, thus, many parents
keep their sexual orientation undisclosed. Many gay and lesbian parents as
well as their children live in fear of being outed (Kosik-Rosabal, 2000). The
effects of having to hide one’s sexual orientation are apparent, for it not only
creates stress and anxiety among families but also sends a negative message
to children regarding the acceptability of same-sex parents (Casper, 1992).
Casper and colleagues’ (1992) study also reported the stress that parents
have from not only hiding one’s sexual orientation but also disclosing it to
the school. Many parents feared negative consequences for both them and
their child, and were unsure as to how the teacher would react. However, the
stress and anxiety associated with revealing one’s sexual orientation is not
only experienced by parents but also by the children. The literature reveals
that the primary stressor for children with gay and lesbian parents centers
on their feelings of isolation due to keeping their parents’ sexual orientation
a secret (Fitzgerald, 1999; Vanfraussen, Ponjaert-Kristoffersen, & Brewaeys,
2002). Similarly, gay and lesbian youth often struggle with feelings of iso-
lation regarding their own sexual identity and decision to disclose, often
facing verbal and physical harassment for being a sexual minority (Russell,
Franz, & Driscoll, 2001). Results from the 2005 National School Climate Sur-
vey indicated that approximately 75% of students heard derogatory labels
such as faggot or dyke frequently or often at school and nearly nine in ten
(89.2%) reported hearing frequently or often comments such as, “That’s so
gay,” or “You’re so gay”—used synonymously for someone who is stupid or
worthless. Further, almost 64% of gay and lesbian students reported being
verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and gender expression
while nearly 18% of students had been physically assaulted because of their
sexual orientation (GLSEN, 2005).
The statistics related to the derogatory comments and assaults on gay
and lesbian youth are shocking and illustrate the frequency with which
these youth as well as their same-sex parents experience a negative social
environment at school. Not only are students hearing degrading homopho-
bic comments but they also report that teachers are frequently not doing
anything about these comments and that they often feel unsafe at school
(GLSEN, 2005). The quality of student-teacher relationships, the degree to
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Practices and Partnerships 317
which students feel they can trust their teachers and other school personnel,
and families’ feelings of safety are all integral components of school climate.
Clearly many gay and lesbian youth and families are embedded in a
school context that is anything but positive, and the impact of these stressors
is inevitably felt by sexual minority youth and families. Same-sex parents
are less likely to come out to schools if the climate is one of intolerance
and hostility, particularly because these parents do not want their children
to be discriminated against (Lamme & Lamme, 2002). Although no studies
to date have documented the relationship between same-sex parents’ home-
school partnerships and children’s outcomes, it is generally accepted that
these children are often embedded in a context that is hostile toward sexual
minority youth and families and that this relationship will invariably influence
children’s outcomes.
The present study examined the outcomes of children with same-sex
parents and sought to understand if these children were differentially affected
by a strong home-school partnership, particularly given the social context
with which these children are embedded.
Parent Practices and Child Outcomes
The empirical research surrounding children of gay and lesbian parents has
focused mainly on the developmental differences between children of het-
erosexual parents and children of gay and lesbian parents. Although parental
sexual orientation is the key variable that creates concerns regarding the well-
being of children raised by same-sex parents, researchers have consistently
demonstrated the importance of parental style when predicting children’s
psychological, social, and academic outcomes (Baumrind, 1991; Khaleque &
Rohner, 2002; Steinberg & Silk, 2002). In fact, the past two decades of re-
search has built a considerable body of literature establishing the importance
of parent process variables (e.g., warmth, control, discipline practices) over
those of parental status variables (e.g., socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity,
parent sexual orientation [Scott-Jones, 1995]). One well-known contributor
to the importance of parental style is Baumrind’s (1991) typology where
high levels of two parental characteristics (demandingness and responsive-
ness) result in children who are high in self-esteem, are well-mannered,
and are optimally competent. Moreover, these parental dimensions—also
termed support, monitoring, and discipline—have been associated in subse-
quent studies with positive child outcomes across diverse family backgrounds
(Amato & Fowler, 2002). Thus, these parental processes appear to exert their
influence despite categories of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
Although a number of studies have confirmed Baumrind’s parental ty-
pology (Chen, Liu, & Li, 2000; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Weiss & Schwarz,
1996), researchers have begun to use a number of additional dimensions to
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318 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
study parental style. In addition to warmth, characteristics such as cohesion,
conflict, and expressiveness have also been shown to be reliable indicators of
further parental styles and their relationship with child outcomes (Mandara,
2003). More specific to educational outcomes, parent practices termed valu-
ing,monitoring,helping,anddoing have been conceptualized in a model
to organize the existing research regarding the effect of parent practices on
children’s academic achievement (Scott-Jones, 1995).
Valuing is a broad term encompassing high parental expectations for
children’s educational attainment—the importance parents place on effort as
opposed to ability and the provision of educational materials (e.g., books,
computers). Parents who have high educational values tend to have children
who have high academic achievement and educational aspirations. The sec-
ond parental practice, monitoring, also encompasses a number of measures.
Whereas valuing refers to parents’ beliefs about the importance of education,
monitoring is defined more in terms of the interactions between parents and
children. It refers to the rules parents set with respect to amount of time
devoted to homework, restriction of television or computer time, or the
style parents use to develop their children’s self-management strategies (i.e.,
authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, or neglectful). When parents restrict
television or computer time, research shows that children have higher test
scores and grades. Further, as indicated earlier in Baumrind’s (1991) research,
parents who have an authoritative parenting style tend to have children who
perform better in school and have higher levels of self-competence. The
third parental practice, known as helping, is characterized by the support
parents give to children in promoting their academic skills. Helping com-
prises actions such as reading to children, acting as tutors in helping with
children’s homework, learning new skills or subject areas together, or in-
voking the help of someone else if parents are unable to help with their
child’s academics (i.e., tutoring). The final parental practice, termed doing,
refers to parents’ over-involvement in their children’s schooling. This parental
over-control has been associated with lower levels of student achievement,
motivation, and grades. All of these practices form a well-known conceptual
model that integrates the literature regarding parent-child interactions and
children’s academic and social outcomes (for a more detailed description of
this model see Scott-Jones, 1995).
In addition to the parental process constructs outlined above, re-
searchers have documented the importance of parental communication
for children’s successful outcomes. Communication is often subsumed un-
der the construct of monitoring as parental communication entails parents
seeking knowledge of children’s activities and interests (Patrick, Snyder,
Schrepferman, & Snyder 2005). Parent communication in early childhood,
however (defined as parents’ solicitation of information regarding children’s
activities, friends, and school), has been associated with children’s willing-
ness to disclose information and maintain an open relationship with their
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Practices and Partnerships 319
parents in later childhood and early adolescence (Kerns et al., 2001). Fur-
ther, parental communication has consistently predicted the prevention of
conduct problems, aggression, early sexual activity, substance abuse, and
poor academic achievement (Patrick et al., 2005).
Given the limitations of using an existing data set for this study, only two
key components could be extracted that reflected the literature on parental
processes. Helping, as explained above, represents parents’ active promo-
tion of their child’s academic skills. Communicating, as also reflected in the
literature, represents parents’ encouragement of discussion and child expres-
siveness with respect to such topics as friends, activities, school, interests,
and troubles. Parental helping and communicating thus serve as the frame-
work for the questions addressed in the present study. Both constructs have
consistently predicted positive outcomes for children (Mandara, 2003; Patrick
et al., 2005; Scott-Jones, 1995).
Purpose of Present Study
It is clear that what parents do matters in terms of influencing their child’s
academic and social outcomes. Further, given the importance of home-school
partnerships for children’s success in school, it is imperative that all parents
feel included and connected to their child’s school, as children flourish when
strong connections are established. However, as the research literature has
shown, many same-sex parents and sexual minority youth experience an
unwelcoming and often hostile climate. Given the importance of a strong
home-school partnership for children’s outcomes as well as the literature
supporting the influence of various parental practices, the present study
addressed three questions:
1. How do same-sex families compare to heterosexual families with respect
to the parental practices of helping and communicating? Given the ab-
sence of significant differences between same-sex and heterosexual par-
ents as demonstrated in the literature, it was predicted that no differences
would exist between families’ parental practices.
2. How does the home-school partnership compare across same-sex and
heterosexual families? Because of the school climate literature, which in-
dicates that same-sex parents often feel unsafe and unwelcome in their
schools, it was hypothesized that same-sex parents would not have as
strong a relationship with their child’s school as would heterosexual par-
ents.
3. Is a strong home-school partnership more important for the academic
achievement and social adjustment of children with same-sex parents com-
pared to children with heterosexual parents given the societal context in
which these children are embedded? Because same-sex parents often face
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320 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
discrimination and harassment not only within but also outside of the
school, it was hypothesized that a strong home-school partnership would
likely be more beneficial to children with same-sex parents, and would
serve as a buffer for negative outcomes.
METHOD
Participants
The sample for this study was drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal
Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), a national sample of kindergarteners
attending public and private schools, as well as early childhood programs,
in fall 1998 (Tourangeau, Nord, Lˆ
e, Pollack, & Atkins-Burnett, 2006) . Approx-
imately 22,000 randomly selected children enrolled in about 1,000 kinder-
garten programs during the 1998–1999 school year comprised the sample for
the ECLS-K data set. Although the children are meant to be nationally rep-
resentative of kindergarteners from various racial-ethnic and socioeconomic
backgrounds, the design purposively oversampled Asian children, private
kindergarteners, and private school kindergarteners. 1
Data were collected in eight waves. Baseline assessments of the children
were conducted in fall 1998 while the children were in kindergarten. Waves
2, 3, and 4, were collected in spring 1999, fall 1999, and spring 2000, respec-
tively. The final waves were conducted in the spring of third grade (2002),
fifth grade (2004), and eighth grades (2007). Data collected during the fourth
wave (spring of 2000), when most of the children were in first grade, were
used for the purposes of the present study because home-school partner-
ships have been shown to be stronger in the early elementary-school years
(Marcon, 1999). In addition to child assessments during these data collec-
tion periods, parents and guardians, teachers, and school administrators were
also administered questionnaires and interviews regarding information about
their children, their own backgrounds, and the physical, organizational, and
fiscal characteristics of their schools (Tourangeau et al., 2006).
Although same-sex parents were not explicitly identified in the data set,
the ECLS-K user manual specified how same-sex parents could be indirectly
extracted from the data set. First, households in which more than one person
identified as the “father” or “mother” to the focal child and were living to-
gether with the child were categorized as same-sex couples. Second, because
not all same-sex partners identified themselves as the “mother” or “father”
to the child, households in which the respondent is the child’s guardian and
the respondent’s spouse or partner is the same sex as the respondent were
also identified as same-sex couples (Tourangeau et al., 2006). After using
1Statistical base and replicate weights included in the analysis allow for the data to be
generalized to the overall population.
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Practices and Partnerships 321
both approaches to identify these couples, a total of 40 same-sex parents
and their children of the 22,000 participants were selected for use in the
present study. A randomly selected sample of 40 heterosexual couples and
their children was chosen as a comparison group. No exclusionary criteria
was applied in generating this comparison sample, as it was intended to be
an entirely random selection of children raised by a mother and father fig-
ure. Following data compilation, five cases were excluded from each of the
same-sex and heterosexual parent groups due to missing data. Thus, a total
of 70 couples and their children (35 in the same-sex parent group and 35 in
the heterosexual parent group) comprised the sample used for the current
study. The children in the total sample were 51% female, 56%Caucasian, 23%
African American, 12% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 5% “Other.” Demographics
of the families and children in the sample are presented in Table 1. Com-
parisons between families were made using independent samples t-tests. As
indicated in Table 1, a significant difference between families emerged with
respect to the location of the child’s school (urban, suburban, or rural), with
heterosexual parents schooling their children in significantly more rural-type
settings. Although a statistically significant difference was found with respect
to the location of the child’s school, it was not necessary to incorporate this
variable as a statistical control given that this difference was not meaning-
fully significant (location of child’s school, r2=.06; Cohen, 1988; Green,
1991).
Given that both gay male fathers as well as lesbian mothers were in-
cluded as part of the same-sex parent group, statistical comparisons were
made within the same-sex parent group to evaluate any demographic differ-
ences between gay male fathers and lesbian mothers. As shown in Table 2,
we found no statistically significant differences. However, because parent
gender may have a more significant influence with respect to children’s out-
comes (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001), implications for collapsing gay male fathers
and lesbian mothers into one group will be discussed in relation to the
present study’s findings.
Measures
PARENT PRACTICES
Parents answered questions regarding their child’s development and experi-
ences at home through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (or Com-
puter Assisted Personal Interviewing if the parents did not have a phone).
Interviews lasted approximately 44 minutes and included approximately 330
questions covering children’s school experiences, child care, parent char-
acteristics, and child health. Of the 330 questions, 19 items reflecting par-
ents’ involvement in their children’s lives (reflecting the valuing,monitoring,
helping,anddoing parental practice constructs) were subjected to principal
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322 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
TABLE 1 Sociodemographic Information of Sample
Same-Sex Heterosexual Same-Sex vs.
Variable Parents Parents Heterosexual
Child’s age (years) t<1, n.s.
M6.8 (.32) 6.7 (.28)
Range 6.4 to 8.0 6.5 to 7.9
N%N%
Child’s sex t=1.937, n.s.
Boy 13 37 21 60
Girl 22 63 14 40
Child’s race t=1.522, n.s.
African American 10 29 6 16
Asian 1 3 2 6
Caucasian 15 43 24 69
Hispanic 6 17 2 6
Mixed/Other 3 8 1 3
Census Regionat<1, n.s.
Northeast 4 12 5 15
Midwest 5 15 5 15
South 18 53 19 54
West 7 20 6 16
Type of Schoolat=−1.254, n.s.
Public 32 94 30 86
Private 2 6 5 14
Type of Private School t<1, n.s.
Catholic 2 100 1 25
Private (Other) 0 0 4 75
Location of Child’s Schoolat=−2.130
Urban 4 31 6 21
Suburban 6 46 9 31
Rural 3 23 14 48
Family Socioeconomic Statusbt<1, n.s.
First Quintile (lowest) 4 11 11 31
Second Quintile 14 40 6 17
Third Quintile 9 26 6 17
Fourth Quintile 5 14 5 15
Fifth Quintile (highest) 3 9 7 20
Note: Standard deviations are given in parentheses.
aIndicates missing data for one or both groups.
bSocioeconomic status is a combined measure of parents’ education, occupation, and income.
p<.05.
components analysis (PCA) by the researcher. Inspection of the correlation
matrix revealed the presence of a number of coefficients exceeding the .3
level (most were in the .4 range). The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin value was .72,
while Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was statistically significant, thus meeting
the assumptions for factor analysis. PCA revealed the presence of two com-
ponents with eigenvalues over 1, explaining 16% and 9% of the variance.
These two components reflected two core parent practices: Helping and
Communicating.
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Practices and Partnerships 323
TABLE 2 Sociodemographic Information of Same-Sex Parents
Gay Male Lesbian Gay Male vs.
Variable Fathers Mothers Lesbian Parents
Child’s age (years) t=1.179, n.s.
M6.9 (.31) 6.8 (.34)
Range 6.0 to 7.3 6.0 to 7.1
N%N%
Child’s sex t<1, n.s.
Boy 3 38 10 37
Girl 5 62 17 63
Child’s race t<1, n.s.
African American 3 38 7 26
Asian 1 12 0 0
Caucasian 3 38 12 44
Hispanic 1 12 5 19
Mixed/Other 0 0 3 11
Census Regionat<1, n.s.
Northeast 1 12.5 3 12
Midwest 2 25 3 12
South 4 50 14 54
West 1 12.5 6 22
Type of Schoolat<1, n.s.
Public 7 88 25 96
Private 1 12 1 4
Type of Private School t<1, n.s.
Catholic 1 100 1 100
Private (Other) 0 0 0 0
Location of Child’s Schoolat<1, n.s.
Urban 1 33 3 30
Suburban 2 67 4 40
Rural 0 0 3 30
Family Socioeconomic Statusbt<1, n.s.
First Quintile (lowest) 1 12 3 11
Second Quintile 2 25 12 44
Third Quintile 3 61 6 22
Fourth Quintile 1 12 4 15
Fifth Quintile (highest) 1 12 2 8
Note: Standard deviations are given in parentheses.
aIndicates missing data for one or both groups.
bSocioeconomic status is a combined measure of parents’ education, occupation, and income.
p<.05.
The parent helping dimension was comprised of five items reflecting
parents’ active involvement in aiding their child’s education. Examples in-
cluded such items as how often parents read to children, help children with
homework, and practice numbers with their child (Cronbach’s α=.60). In a
three-item scale, communicating measured parents’ tendency to encourage
their child’s talk about troubles, discuss friends and activities, and listen to
the child when they were busy (Cronbach’s α=.67).
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324 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
Due to the small sample size of the present study, restrictions on the
number of predictor variables were necessary to maintain power in the anal-
yses (Green, 1991). Thus, a summative total of the items comprising helping
and communicating were created to form one scale of overall Parental Prac-
tices. The internal consistency for this combined scale was higher than the
two factors considered separately (Cronbach’s α=.78).
HOME-SCHOOL COLLABORATION
The researchers used a similar set of procedures through PCA in order to
extract the items that represented Home-School Collaboration. Out of the
330 questions in the parent interview, 18 were subjected to PCA using
the entire data set, as they were items reflecting parents’ relationship with
the school or teacher. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin value was .73, while Bartlett’s
Test of Sphericity reached statistical significance, meeting the assumptions
for factor analysis. PCA revealed two components (with a total of eight items)
for Home-School Collaboration: parent-initiated involvement with the school
and school-initiated involvement with parents, confirming the literature that
suggests a bidirectional nature of home-school partnerships. With eigenval-
ues over 1, these two components explained 19% and 12% of the variance,
respectively. The parent-initiated scale for Home-School Collaboration was
comprised of five items measuring such things as parents’ involvement with
PTA, volunteering activities at the school, and attending school functions
(Cronbach’s α=.60). The school-initiated scale consisted of three items and
measured things such as the school’s ability to provide parents information
on their child, help parents understand their child, and provide parents the
chance to volunteer at school (Cronbach’s α=.60). Similar to the combined
measure for the Parent Practices scale, the two factors representing Home-
School Collaboration were also combined to reflect a summative total of
the eight items. Collapsing the items allowed for a higher predictive power
by minimizing the number of independent variables in the analyses. The
internal consistency for the combined scale remained the same (Cronbach’s
α=.60).
CHILD OUTCOMES
Parents were asked to assess their children’s social skills during the interview.
These 24 questions were adapted from the Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS;
Gresham & Elliott, 1990). Topics consist of the child’s social interaction, ap-
proaches to learning, self-control, loneliness, and impulsivity. Example items
include “Is sensitive to the feelings of others,” “Forms and maintains friend-
ships,” “Respects the property rights of others,” “Comforts or helps other
children,” “Shows low self-esteem,” “Worries about things,” “Expresses own
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Practices and Partnerships 325
opinion or ideas without putting down those of others,” and “Controls tem-
per.” Parents rated whether each item was “Not at all true,” “A little bit true,”
“Mostly true,” or “Very true” for their child. For the purposes of the present
study, two of the scales (loneliness and impulsivity) were reverse coded by
the researcher to allow for the mean on the above items to be collapsed as a
measure of the child’s social adjustment. The internal consistency reliability
for this scale was acceptable (Cronbach’s α=.88).
To measure children’s academic achievement, direct academic tests were
administered to the first-grade children in the domains of reading, mathe-
matics, and knowledge of the social world (for the purposes of the current
study, only the reading and mathematics scores were used to reflect chil-
dren’s academic achievement). Easels with items printed on one side and
administration instructions for the assessor on the other side were used to
assess children’s academic abilities. The first-grade assessments asked chil-
dren to point or orally respond to questions.
The reading test measured the following skills, with the range in diffi-
culty from basic to more advanced skills: print familiarity; letter knowledge;
beginning and ending sounds; recognizing common sight words; vocabu-
lary; and reading words in context. Scores on the reading test ranged from
0 to 186, with a mean of 70.4 and standard deviation of 21.9 for all first
graders in the national data set. Items in the first-grade mathematics test
measured the following, ranging from basic facts and concepts to higher
levels of proficiency: identifying one-digit numerals, recognizing geometric
shapes, counting up to ten objects; reading all one-digit numerals, counting
beyond ten, recognizing a sequence of patterns, and using nonstandard units
of length to compare the size of objects; reading two-digit numerals, recog-
nizing the next number in a sequence, identifying the ordinal position of an
object, and solving a simple word problem; solving simple addition and sub-
traction problems; and solving simple multiplication and division problems
and recognizing more complex number patterns. First-grade scores for the
mathematics test ranged from 0 to 153, with a mean of 57.2 and a standard
deviation of 16.5.
Children’s performance on the academic tests was calculated in a variety
of means, one of which was Item Response Theory (IRT), which is based
on the child’s pattern of correct and incorrect responses. IRT scores reflect
an overall criterion-referenced measure of academic ability and are useful
in identifying cross-sectional subgroup differences in overall achievement
level as well as in correlational analysis with status variables. Moreover,
because IRT scores use the overall pattern of right and wrong responses
and the characteristics of each item to estimate a child’s ability, IRT scores
represent estimates of the number of items students would have answered
correctly at each point in time if they had taken all of the 186 questions
in all of the first- and second-stage reading forms administered, as well as
all of the 153 questions in the mathematics forms. It is therefore a more
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326 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
comprehensive measure of a child’s academic ability and will serve as the
academic achievement measures for the present study. Internal reliability was
.93 for the Reading IRT scale score and .94 for the Mathematics IRT scale
score. The child’s mean scores for the Reading and Mathematics scales were
combined and calculated as the outcome measure for academic achievement.
ANALYSIS
Before analyses were conducted, appropriate weighting techniques were ap-
plied to the data in order to generalize to the larger population (Tourangeau
et al., 2006). Further, as described earlier, comparisons between families were
made using independent t-tests to ensure similarity among groups. Although
we found a statistically significant difference with respect to the location of
the child’s school, it was not necessary to incorporate this variable as a con-
trol given that the difference was not meaningfully significant due to its small
effect size (Cohen, 1988; Green, 1991). Subsequent to these steps, the first
two questions regarding how same-sex parents compare with heterosexual
parents in their parent practices and home-school partnerships were an-
swered using independent sample t-tests to compare groups by family type
(Pallant, 2001). All assumptions for group comparisons were met, namely:
continuous dependent variables, independence of observations, normal dis-
tribution of the dependent variables, and homogeneity of variance (Pallant,
2001).
For the third question examining whether children with same-sex par-
ents are differentially affected by the strength of their family’s home-school
partnernship, a moderating relationship between home-school partnership
and children’s outcomes was assessed with family type (sexual orientation
of the parent) serving as the moderator. Before regression techniques were
used, statistical strategies were employed to test the following assump-
tions for regression analyses: adequate sample size; low multicollinearity;
the exclusion of outliers when necessary; and an adequate distribution re-
lated to normality, linearity, homoscedasticity, and independence of residuals
(Pallant, 2001). Further, both the independent and moderator variables were
centered to reduce multicollinearity (Baron & Kenny, 1986).
RESULTS
The results of the analyses are presented in several steps. First, descriptive
statistics regarding mean differences on the independent variables of Parent
Practices and Home-School Partnership as well as the outcome variables of
child Academic Achievement and Social Adjustment are presented across
same-sex and heterosexual parent groups. Further, correlations between the
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Practices and Partnerships 327
TABLE 3 Descriptive Statistics for Independent Variables and Child Outcome Variables
Same-Sex Heterosexual
Parents N=35 Parents N=35
Mean (SD) Range Mean (SD) Range
Parent Measure
Parent Practices 17.3 (4.1) 6–24 17.7 (3.3) 11–23
Home-School Partnership 7.4 (2.2) 0–11 7.7 (2.0) 3–11
Child Measure
Academic Achievement 41.1 (8.5) 23.8–55.7 42.4 (9.6) 19.3–60.0
Social Adjustment 3.1 (.33) 2.3–3.9 3.1 (.39) 2.3–3.8
predictors and child outcomes are presented. Second, the hypotheses re-
garding the three questions of the present study are tested. Third, given the
importance of parental gender with respect to child rearing (Stacey & Biblarz,
2001) as well as the few documented differences between gay male fathers
and lesbian mothers (Bozett, 1987; Gottman, 1989), exploratory analyses
were conducted within the same-sex parent group to ascertain any mean
differences between these two groups on Parent Practices and Home-School
Partnership. The same-sex parent group did not have enough participants
to explore the relationship between the predictor variables and children’s
outcomes. See Tables 3 and 4.
Question 1: How do Same-Sex Families Compare to Heterosexual
Families with Respect to the Parent Practices of Helping
and Communicating?
It was hypothesized that there would be no differences between families’
parental practices based on the literature documenting similar parental pro-
cesses, irrespective of parent sexual orientation. Results supported this hy-
pothesis in that no significant differences between same-sex and hetero-
sexual parents on levels of parent practices were found. Thus, with a total
possible score of 24 on the Parent Practices combined scale, both groups
TABLE 4 Correlations between Independent Variables and Child Outcome Variables
Parent Home-School Social Academic
Practices Partnership Adjustment Achievement
Parent Practices 1 .224 .291.087
Home-School Partnership 1 .234a.068
Social Adjustment 1 .293
Academic Achievement 1
p<.05 (two-tailed).
aApproaching Significance (p<.054).
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328 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
of families averaged a score of approximately 17, indicating that they were
similarly active in their children’s lives with respect to helping with home-
work and discussing topics such as school, friends, and activities (mean of
3 to 4 times per week).
Question 2: How does the Home-School Partnership Compare
across Same-Sex and Heterosexual Families?
Based on the school climate literature indicating that same-sex parents often
feel unsafe and unwelcome in their schools, it was hypothesized that same-
sex parents would not have as strong a relationship with their child’s school
as would heterosexual parents. The results, however, indicated that the level
of home-school partnership across same-sex and heterosexual parents was
virtually the same. Thus, contrary to prediction, both parent groups indicated
that they had a strong home-school partnership, represented by mean scores
of 7.4 (same-sex) and 7.7 (opposite-sex) out of a total possible score of
16. Further, we found no mean differences with respect to levels of school-
initiated versus family-initiated home-school involvement across family types,
indicating that both family groups perceived their level of active involvement
with the school to be equally bidirectional.
Question 3: Is a Strong Home-School Partnership more Important for
the Academic Achievement and Social Adjustment of Children with
Same-Sex Parents Compared to Children with Heterosexual Parents?
Given the societal context in which children with same-sex parents are em-
bedded, and because same-sex parents often face discrimination and ha-
rassment within the school, it was hypothesized that a strong home-school
partnership would be more beneficial to children with same-sex parents,
and would serve as a buffer for negative outcomes. Using regression analy-
sis with home-school partnership as the predictor and family type (same-sex
and opposite-sex parents) as the moderator, analyses were conducted to
examine whether children with same-sex parents were more positively in-
fluenced in their academic achievement and social adjustment outcomes
with a strong home-school partnership than children with heterosexual par-
ents. Results indicated that a home-school partnership was not differen-
tially important for children with same-sex parents for academic achievement
(F(3, 64) =.38, Adj R2=−.03) or social adjustment (F(3, 66) =1.65, Adj R2
=.03; see Table 5).
Although home-school partnership explained a significant amount of
variance for children’s social adjustment (p<.04), it was not a significant pre-
dictor of children’s academic achievement (p<.93). However, because the
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Practices and Partnerships 329
TABLE 5 Regression Analyses Predicting Child Outcomes
Child Outcomes
Academic Achievement Social Adjustment
Models βSE pβSE P
Family Type .080 2.238 .526 .029 .086 .811
H-S Partnership .016 .834 .933 .370 .031 .042
Interaction .122 1.093 .526 .179 .041 .320
overall regression model was not significant in predicting academic achieve-
ment (p<.77) and social adjustment (p<.19), the role of home-school
partnership in predicting outcomes for children in both families was found
to be minimal.
Comparisons between Gay Fathers and Lesbian Mothers
Descriptive statistics of both independent and child outcome variables were
calculated in order to examine within-group differences for same-sex parents
(see Table 6). Although we didn’t have enough participants to run mean
group comparisons, the data illustrate differences with respect to levels of
Parent Practices and Home-School Partnership. On a surface level it appears
that lesbian mothers have a higher level of Helping and Communicating
behaviors compared to gay male fathers. However, we found significantly
more variation in the levels of Parent Practices for lesbian mothers than for
gay male fathers, likely due to the larger sample size for lesbian mothers.
Similarly, although levels of home-school partnerships were slightly higher
for lesbian mothers, the range was also much wider, indicating perhaps more
variation within than between groups of parents. Child outcome variables,
however, were similar. These results are presented for descriptive purposes
and conclusions are limited due to the small and unequal sample size for
the two groups.
TABLE 6 Descriptive Statistics for Gay Fathers and Lesbian Mothers
Gay Male Fathers Lesbian Mothers
(N=8) (N=27)
Mean (SD) Range Mean (SD) Range
Parent Measure
Parent Practices 13.5 (2.9) 9–18 18.5 (3.8) 6–24
Home-School Partnership 6.8 (2.3) 4–10 7.6 (2.2) 0–11
Child Measure
Academic Achievement 41.7 (8.5) 30.2–54.4 40.8 (8.6) 23.8–40.9
Social Adjustment 3.0 (.49) 2.3–3.9 3.1 (.29) 2.6–3.8
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330 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
DISCUSSION
The present study examined the differences between same-sex and opposite-
sex parents’ parenting practices and home-school partnerships. In addition,
the relationship between parents’ home-school partnerships and children’s
outcomes were assessed in order to examine whether children with same-sex
parents were differentially affected by a strong home-school partnership. The
results are discussed in relation to previous research. In addition, limitations
and implications of the present study for subsequent work in this area are
described.
Based on the literature reporting low predictive power of parent sexual
orientation on children’s outcomes (Allen & Burrell, 1996, 2002; Anderssen,
Amlie, & Ytteroy, 2002; Crowl, Ahn, & Baker, 2008; Lambert, 2005; Stacey &
Biblarz, 2001), it was expected that parent practices would not differ across
groups. This hypothesis was supported by the sample data, as levels of
Helping and Communicating did not differ across same-sex and heterosex-
ual parents. Similar results have been documented in the literature, which
have noted the importance of family dynamics and parental processes rather
than parental sexual orientation (Patterson, 2006; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001;
Wainright & Patterson, 2006). Thus, the data suggest that both types of fam-
ilies exhibited similar types of Helping and Communicating behaviors with
their children, and that these practices did not differ as a function of parent
sexual orientation.
The second question posed in the current study concerned the differ-
ences in home-school partnerships across same-sex and heterosexual par-
ents. Similar to the results with Parental Practices, levels of home-school
partnerships did not differ between same-sex and heterosexual parents.
This finding was contrary to what was hypothesized, as there has been a
wealth of literature documenting the negative school experiences of same-
sex parents (Jeltova & Fish, 2005; Kozik-Rosabal, 2000; Lamme & Lamme,
2002). However, research in this area is minimal (Jeltova & Fish, 2005),
and thus we have much to learn with respect to same-sex parents’ expe-
riences with schools. As research with families of all backgrounds shows,
creating a climate that encourages parental involvement (celebrating diver-
sity, offering family involvement and social activities, establishing informal
contacts, having volunteer opportunities, etc.) leads to strong home-school
partnerships (Esler et al., 2002). Thus, a number of school climate variables
influence the partnership between home and school. For same-sex parents,
factors such as the exclusion or prohibition of sexual diversity topics in the
curriculum, stereotypical views of gay and lesbian individuals, heterosexist
parental assumptions (assuming all parents are heterosexual), and a lack of
communication and respect for their role as parents have all been shown
to negatively influence their relationship with the school (Jeltova & Fish,
2005).
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Practices and Partnerships 331
Given the limitations of the sample data in the present study, it was not
possible to measure such factors and their influence on the families’ home-
school partnerships. It is, therefore, unclear what factors lead both groups of
families and their schools to develop working home-school partnerships. It
is possible that sample bias influenced the results, as participants in this data
set were required to engage in a number of assessments over years of study.
Thus, these parents could be fundamentally different from parents who did
not participate in the study. Further, it was not possible to determine whether
same-sex parents had even disclosed their sexual orientation to schools, as
many parents choose not to do so in order to avoid harassment and discrim-
ination (Lamme & Lamme, 2002). All of these factors would inevitably play a
role in establishing effective home-school partnerships and, thus, serve as an
important line of future research. Qualitative research aimed at identifying
specific experiences and perspectives from parents and teachers regarding
these questions has been suggested as a fruitful means of collecting data for
complex questions such as these, as a multitude of factors influence same-
sex parents’ feelings of comfort, disclosure, and relationships with others
(Hicks, 2005).
The final research question examined whether a strong home-school
partnership exerted a differential effect for children with same-sex parents
given the social climate in which sexual minority families are embedded.
Contrary to the hypothesis, the importance of a home-school partnership
was not differentially important for children with same-sex parents. However,
given that both families exhibited similar levels of home-school partnerships,
it was not surprising that a strong home-school partnership was not shown
to be more beneficial for children with same-sex parents. In other words,
given that both families exhibited similar levels of home-school partnerships,
indicating that both groups of families participated in activities and received
information from the school about their child at relatively similar rates, it
was unlikely that a differential effect for children with same-sex parents
would be found. Given that little research has been conducted on same-sex
parents’ relationships with schools, we have much to learn about home-
school partnerships with same-sex parents. As previously mentioned, the
issue of school climate plays a critical role in same-sex parents’ willingness
to forge relationships with the school (Jeltova & Fish, 2005). It is, therefore,
possible that the school climates in which same-sex parents were engaged
were welcoming and respectful of their families. However, it is also possible
that same-sex parents had not disclosed their sexual orientation and were
therefore treated like “other” parents (Lamme & Lamme, 2002), which could
have affected their perceived level of home-school partnership. In sum,
although it is unclear why both families had similar levels of home-school
partnerships, it helps explain why we did not find a differential effect for
children with same-sex parents, as both families perceived similar relational
levels with their schools.
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332 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
Of notable importance in this study was the inclusion of both gay fathers
and lesbian mothers, as there is a dearth of research on the outcomes of
children with gay fathers (Patterson, 2006). However, although the inclusion
of gay fathers in the same-sex parent group is of interest due to the scarcity
of research on gay fathers (Gottman, 1989), comparisons could not be made
within the same-sex parent group due to limited sample size. In future
studies, caution must be taken when collapsing both sets of parents in the
same category, as gender is thought to play a more influential role than
sexual orientation in parenting processes (Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). Although
research on gay male fathers is extremely limited relative to that done with
lesbian mothers, what little data have been collected serve as a frame of
reference for the present study in comparing the two groups of same-sex
parents.
Most of the research to date on gay fathers is comprised of either a
comparison between single gay fathers and single heterosexual fathers or
the parenting practices and well-being of gay male fathers without a con-
trol group (Gottman, 1989). Currently two published studies (Turner et al.,
1990; Wyers, 1984) have compared gay male fathers with lesbian mothers.
The combined sample size for both studies was 42 gay male fathers and 45
lesbian mothers. The results of these small studies indicated few differences
between parent groups with respect to parenting styles and relationships
with children, although some exceptions did exist. First, gay fathers ap-
peared to have more difficulty disclosing their sexuality to their children
compared with lesbian mothers. Fathers therefore waited longer to disclose
their sexual orientation to their children. Second, more untoward reactions
of parents’ disclosure of their sexual identity stem from children with gay
fathers compared to children with lesbian mothers. In other words, children
of gay fathers had more negative reactions and feelings to their fathers’ sex-
ual orientation than did children with lesbian mothers. Lastly, gay fathers
report that their children have more peer relationship problems due to their
sexuality than are reported by lesbian mothers (Bozett, 1987).
Although these differences were found between gay fathers and lesbian
mothers, it is difficult to ascertain the magnitude of these differences given
the limitations of these studies (Bozett, 1989). Yet, it is important to continue
to keep these differences in mind with respect to the current study’s findings,
as gay fathers may have fundamentally different experiences from those of
lesbian mothers given the heightened stigma of being a gay parent (Gottman,
1989). With the small number of gay fathers in the present study, it was not
possible to ascertain meaningful differences between gay fathers and lesbian
mothers on the measures of Parent Practices and Home-School Partnerships.
However, based on descriptive statistics alone, it was clear that differences
exist on the measure of Parent Practices, although it is not clear whether these
findings represent true differences between parenting styles and involvement
with the children or if these differences were due to unequal sampling groups
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Practices and Partnerships 333
between gay fathers and lesbian mothers. Given the preliminary differences
between gay fathers and lesbian mothers in both the current study as well
as the two previous studies, it would be beneficial for future research to
examine in more depth the parental processes across a number of different
types of same-sex families (i.e., gay fathers and lesbian mothers; coupled,
single, and married partners; adopted, biological, and stepchildren).
Limitations
While the present study contributes important information to the literature
base on children with same-sex parents, a number of limitations must be
accounted for when interpreting results. First, the present study involved
the collection of data from parents who did not explicitly state their sexual
identity. That is, data were collected from same-sex couples but this cannot
account for other aspects of sexual identity, such as behaviors or fantasies.
Indirect extraction of same-sex parent participants poses the possibility that
these parents would not identify as gay or lesbian if explicitly asked. Similar
difficulties have been reported in previous research (Wainright et al., 2004)
and must be accounted for as a limitation in the present study.
Second, given the small sample size in the present study, a limited num-
ber of predictor variables were included in an equation that would account
for the variance in children’s outcomes. Thus, predictor variables had to be
collapsed in order to retain power for statistical analyses. This process likely
limited the degree to which specific aspects of Parent Practices and Home-
School Collaboration contributed to children’s academic achievement and
social adjustment. Collapsing specific components of each scale minimized
the opportunity to understand what particular parental practices and aspects
of the home-school relationship are important in relation to children’s out-
comes.
Third, a low internal consistency reliability index for the Home-School
Collaboration scale could have contributed to the lack of difference observed
between same-sex and opposite-sex parents. It is unclear whether the no-
difference result between families was due to low reliability of the Home-
School Collaboration scale or was a reflection of a meaningful similarity
among same-sex and heterosexual parents’ home-school partnerships. Future
research is needed to examine this question with a psychometrically strong
measure of home-school partnerships, taking into account salient school
climate factors that would influence how parents perceived their relationship
with the school.
Fourth, inherent in this study is the use of solely parent data to inform
perceptions of their own parental practices and relationships with the school.
Including both teacher and child data would provide a more comprehensive
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334 A. L. Fedewa and T. P. Clark
picture of parent-child relationships and practices as well as interactions and
communication between home and school contexts.
The final limitation concerns the methodology employed in the present
study. Although the analytical techniques employed for this study are rela-
tively robust in regards to statistical violations (Pallant, 2001), a number of
limitations must be taken into account when interpreting results. The most
notable limitation stems from the small sample size obtained from the data
set, as a small number of participants inherently creates low predictive power
(Tabachnick & Fidell, 1989). This limitation has been pervasive throughout
research with sexual minority parents given the difficulty in obtaining large
samples in this area (Tasker, 2005). Although rule-of-thumb formulas have
been developed that estimate the required number of participants depen-
dent on the number of predictors to be used in analyses (Tabachnick &
Fidell, 1989), other researchers argue for the inclusion of effect size in de-
termining the total number of needed participants (Green, 1991). Thus, with
the case of a small to medium effect size, Green (1991) concluded that
N50 +8presulted in a more accurate estimate of sample size than earlier
rules of thumb. For the purposes of the present study, therefore, it was nec-
essary to have at least 74 participants in order to incorporate all 3 predictors
(Parent Practices, Home-School Partnership, and Family-Type [Same-Sex or
Heterosexual]). Further, conventional standards for internal scale consistency
suggest a Cronbach alpha cutoff of .60. Given that the Home-School Part-
nership scale bordered on the .60 level (calculated from the entire data set),
the low internal consistency of the scale items could have affected the re-
sults of the present study. Further research is needed with a pre-established
Home-School Partnership scale in order to further examine the relationship
between home-school partnerships and children’s outcomes with same-sex
parents.
Future Directions
The results of the present study suggest a number of important research
directions. A wealth of research exists regarding what factors contribute to
strong home-school partnerships among families of a variety of backgrounds.
However, little is known about the features that influence a strong partner-
ship between home and school for same-sex parents. School climate has
been shown to play a critical role in helping same-sex parents feel comfort-
able and welcome in the school (Jeltova & Fish, 2005), but more research is
needed to help clarify specific aspects of school climate, as well as how these
factors are related to children’s outcomes. Second, the low levels of variance
and internal consistency of the Home-School Partnership scale could have
affected whether significant differences existed between family types and
whether or not this relationship was more important for children with same-
sex parents.
Downloaded By: [Fedewa, Alicia L.] At: 16:22 16 October 2009
Practices and Partnerships 335
In sum, the present study assessed the differences between same-sex
and opposite-sex parents’ practices and home-school partnerships, as well as
the relationship between parents’ home-school partnerships and children’s
outcomes. The results are consistent with the existing literature that empha-
sizes the importance of parent-child interaction variables in lieu of parent
sexual orientation. Despite parent sexual orientation, we found no differ-
ences with respect to levels of Helping and Communicating behaviors across
families, although these behaviors were associated with children’s outcomes.
Further, we found no differences with respect to levels of Home-School Part-
nerships across family types, and children with same-sex parents were not
differentially affected by a strong home-school partnership. Subsequent work
in this area is needed to substantiate these findings, as previous research has
documented differences among the relationships same-sex parents have with
schools.
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