New research shows that children adopted into lesbian and gay families are as well-adjusted as children adopted by heterosexual parents, and follow similar patterns of gender development, said Charlotte J. Patterson, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.

Patterson discussed the results of a study in press in Applied Developmental Science at an APA Annual Convention symposium on same-sex marriage.

Patterson and co-authors Rachel H. Farr, a psychology doctoral student at UVA, and Stephen L. Forssell, PhD, of George Washington University, studied 106 families — including 56 same-sex couples and 50 heterosexual couples — who adopted children at birth or in the first few weeks of life.

In the study, parents assessed their own parenting styles and relationship satisfaction. They also filled out the Preschoolers’ Activities Inventory, which assesses whether gender role behavior conforms to expected patterns or not, and the Child Behavior Checklist. Teachers and day-care providers were asked to complete the Caregiver-Teacher Report Form, which assesses a child’s somatic complaints, anxiety, depression and withdrawn behaviors.

By looking at parents’ self-reports and reports of others, the researchers found that the children of gays and lesbians were virtually indistinguishable from children of heterosexual parents.

Patterson and her co-authors point out that while numerous studies have documented patterns of healthy development among children born to lesbian and gay parents, very little research about adoptive gay and lesbian families has been reported. With an estimated 100,000 children waiting to be adopted in the United States as of 2008, the research indicates that policies in states that forbid gay and lesbian couples from adopting need to be re-examined, Patterson said.

—C. Munsey