Psychosocial Adjustment Based on Family Type
The controversy over same sex marriages and relationships are at an all-time high. With the recent legislation and political attention, there are a number of issues that are being addressed. One of the most highly charged elements of the debate are the adolescents or offspring’s that are living in same sex relationship households. There is a great bit of difference between media information and recent same sex relationship studies, which are commonly quoted. A number of studies have been conducted to determine the level of impact that these living arrangements have on children. This paper will focus on summarizing and detailing a study conducted by Wainright, Russell and Patterson, entitled, Psychosocial Adjustment, School Outcomes and Romantic Relationships of Adolescents with Same Sex Parents.
Three researchers from the University of Virginia and the University of Arizona, joined together to study the offspring of same sex relationship’s. To date there had not been a great deal of research, however what had been done suggested that there was not a significant difference in the development between children of same sex marriages and opposite sex marriages. The researchers set out to determine the impact that gay and lesbian relationships had on their offspring’s. After reviewing like studies and literature, they developed the hypothesis that same sex marriages would have few differences in adjustment between young individuals living with parents of both types of relationships. They further theorized that they would find individual difference between relationship variables and adolescent adjustment outcomes. This suggested that there would be little difference between the development phases of adolescents, but there could be notable differences in the individual variables tested.
METHODES OF THE STUDY
To collect an appropriate sample that would account for culture, school size, grade level, school type and various other demographic characteristics the researchers drew their sample from eighty high schools. Students of the high schools were between the grade levels of seventh and twelfth grade. A stratified sample was drawn and resulted in a total of 12,105 interviews of students. The sample was narrowed down to 200 students when they ensured that they had an accurate representation from each grade, school and gender. The focus group was made up of 44 adolescents, consisting of 23 girls and 21 boys. The focal group had an average age of 15.1 years of age, 68% of which were white or European American, 31.8% were biracial or non-white. The average household income was $45,500.
In order to gather information from the participants a questionnaire was administered to the participants during school hours. This assisted the researchers in determining the focus group of the study. Once these individuals were identified, in home interviews were conducted to further collect data. In order to protect privacy the participants were asked some questions by the interview and for more personal or embarrassing information, they were provided earphones and recorded messages in order to collect the appropriate information. Researchers collected information based on composite and family/relationship variables of; adolescent connectedness at school, autonomy or self-esteem, depressive symptoms, anxiety, parental warmth, community integration and romantic attraction or behavior.
In order to interpret the data and determine the differences between same sex and opposite sex families, statistical tests such as MANOVA, t tests, regression analysis and chi-square tests were used. To determine the differences in psychosocial adjustment, the researchers used the MANOVA analysis to interpret the data. The results suggested that there was no significant difference between the two groups based on demographic factors or gender. This means that different schools, gender or geographical areas did not influence levels of depression, anxiety and the other psychosocial variables. The data collected based on family relationship results also suggested that there was little to no difference between the reported levels of parental warmth and autonomy. Family type, parental warmth and perceived care by peers or teachers did not appear to affect the psychosocial development of the participants either.
One sample t tests and chi-square tests were used to compare dependent variables against the focal sample compared to the entire group. It was important for the researchers to be able to have a confidence that the results of the focal group could be generalized to the entire sample group. There were also simultaneous multiple regression analyses conducted in order to determine the family and relationship variables and the significance of their ability to predict adolescent adjustment. The controls for the comparison of the multiple regression analysis was family type, adolescent gender, and socioeconomic status.
A regression analysis was also conducted to separate for variables. The variables included were those such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, self-esteem, GPA and school connectedness, as well as difficulty or trouble in school. The results assisted the researchers in determining the difference between parental positive relationships with their children and the amount of their depressive symptoms, trouble and school and connectedness. The results showed that the quality of family relationships was significantly associated with how the adolescents adjustment, emotional health and self-esteem.
The findings of the study were consistent with what the researchers hypothesized. They researched and reviewed much literature, which was relatively close to the findings of their study. What they discovered is that there is relatively little difference between adolescent personal adjustment and the type of family that they lived in. The results showed that there was relatively little difference between the adolescent’s happiness, development, sexual orientation or grades in reference to their parent’s sexual orientation.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
There were relatively few limitations of the study, however there like any study there were some. The data collected from both adolescents and their parents, were purely based on reports by both parents and adolescents. There was no way to conduct observational data, which may have resulted in a difference in the data reported. Adolescents or parents may have felt pressured or the need to portray a happy or well-adjusted life, rather than a truthful appraisal of their life or feelings. There was also no assessment of interaction with peers, teacher or parents, which could have shown a difference in adjustment or happiness of the adolescents. The only reliance was on self-reported data, which could have skewed the findings. Also only direct assessment were used in reference to sexual preference. Opposite sex parents and children were not asked about their sexual identities. This limitation did not allow for the assessment of different types of homes or the dynamics of single lesbian homes or gay homes either.
IMPLICATIONS AND CRITIQUE
The study was a professional study that took into consideration many of the important factors that would detail the adjustment level of adolescents. Comparing the two homes and the adjustment factors such as emotional, grades, problems in school and feelings of belonging provide the ability to determine the difference or lack thereof based on type of family. The sample was drawn from various areas and a number of schools to allow for differences between communities, grade levels and also unique cultural beliefs.
Wainright, Jennifer L., Stephen T. Russell, and Charlotte J. Patterson. “Psychosocial Adjustment,
School Outcomes, and Romantic Relationships of.” Child Development 75.6 (2004): 1886-898.