Monday, November 26, 2012

[Australia] - Gay and bisexual dads and diversity: fathers in the Work, Love, Play study - Academic Research

A new study will be published shortly in the Journal of Family Studies called "Gay and bisexual dads and diversity: fathers in the Work, Love, Play study".  The abstract and advanced copy of the text is available online, the full version will be published shortly.

Gay and bisexual dads and diversity: fathers in the Work, Love, Play study
Journal of Family Studies Vol 18 Issue 2-3 (2012) Pages 143-154
Jennifer Power,
Amaryll Perlesz,
Ruth McNair,
Margot Schofield,
Marian Pitts,
Rhonda Brown,
Andrew Bickerdike


This paper reports on findings from the Work, Love, Play (WLP) study, an Australian/New Zealand study of same-sex attracted parents. There were 88 fathers who responded to the WLP survey. There was a diversity of contexts in which these men had become parents and were currently parenting: 34 (39%) had become parents while in a previous heterosexual relationship, 20 (23%) were parenting children who had been conceived via surrogacy in the context of the respondent's current same-sex relationship, 17 (19%) had become parents through sperm donation and co-parenting arrangements with single women or lesbian couples, while ten (11%) were parents to foster children. The shift to parenthood generated largely positive outcomes for most men including bringing men closer to their families, although some men who had children from previous heterosexual relationships faced challenges confronting their families concerns about the impact of their 'coming out' on their children.

Article Text (Advanced Copy)

In recent decades, there has been an expansion of opportunities for same-sex attracted men to pursue parenthood. International commercial surrogacy has become more accessible, increasing numbers of gay or bisexual men are co-parenting with lesbians or single women, and adoption or fostering has become an available option for gay couples or single men in many areas (Berkowitz & Marsiglio, 2007; Dunne, 1999; Tuazon-McCheyne, 2010). This has occurred in the context of cultural developments that have seen a decline in the prominence of the traditional ‘nuclear family' as the ideal family form. In the modern West, there is increasing acceptance and visibility of families comprised of non-married couples, single parents, same-sex parents, divorced and blended families and couples who are childless by choice (Dempsey, 2006, p. 6 and 16; Gross, 2005, pp. 286-287; Perlesz et al., 2006; Short, Riggs, Perlesz, Brown, & Kane, 2007). In Australia and New Zealand, these changes are reflected in significant shifts in Family Law that have sought to accommodate a diversity of family forms. For example, the Australian Family Law Amendment (de Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Act 2008, enabled same-sex de facto couples to use the Family Law Act with respect to child and property matters, ensuring greater legal recognition of non-biological parents in same-sex relationships (Sifris, 2010). Similarly, in New Zealand the Status of Children Amendment Act 2004 sought to eliminate laws that disadvantaged children born outside of a heterosexual marriage (Gunn & Surtees, 2009).

Data from the 2001 census indicate that up to five percent of Australian men in same-sex relationships have children. However, it is unclear whether this figure is a reliable marker of the number of gay and bisexual fathers given it excludes single men, those who did not acknowledge their same-sex relationship in the census and possibly fathers who have never resided with their children, such as donor fathers (de Vaus, 2004). A 2004 national survey of lesbian, gay and bisexual New Zealanders indicated that about 11.8% of male respondents had some kind of parenting relationship with children (Henrickson, 2005). A more recent Australian survey of 3835 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals found that 11 percent of male respondents were parents or step parents (Leonard et al., 2012).

Research has suggested that, despite the cultural trend away from the nuclear family, many gay and bisexual men envision their potential family life in the ‘traditional' form of two parents in a committed relationship organising daily life around their children (Rubun & Faith-Oswald, 2009). This family form, however, is not the experience of many gay and bisexual fathers, particularly those who are donor-parents (Dempsey, 2006; Van Reyk, 2007) or those parenting post-separation, with either a female or male ex-partner (Bozzett, 1989). These men are often living within non-traditional families, in some cases negotiating everyday life with two or more co-parents or entering into fatherhood as a non-resident parent (Power, Perlesz, Brown, et al., 2010). For some of these fathers, their parenting role has been constructed as an arrangement whereby they are available for the child psychologically and physically but do not have any day-to-day caring or financial responsibilities (Donovan, 2000; Dunne, 1999; Rane & McBride, 2000).

This pattern of fatherhood is part of the contemporary landscape of family life in the modern West. Increasing numbers of men father children outside of marriage, live apart from their children and/or create parenting relationships with children to whom they are not biologically related (Flood, 2003). In this sense, the scope of what constitutes ‘fatherhood' is evolving in line with broader shifts in contemporary family life. In recent years, there has been a push within both social research and family services toward re-orienting perceptions of the ideal role of fathers from that of breadwinner to a more active role in the care of children (Flood, 2003). However, new patterns of parenting, such as that seen among donor-fathers and separated fathers who do not reside with their children, have emphasised a more fluid definition of fatherhood. Parenting may not always involve day-to-day residential care of children. Instead, the defining characteristics of fatherhood may be the development of a meaningful relationship with a child (Donovan, 2000). Gay and bisexual fathers are at the forefront of redefining the possibilities of what fatherhood can look like. This occurs not only through gay and bisexual fathers who parent outside of traditional family structures, but also through gay couples who are parenting children without the involvement of a mother, such as with gay men who become fathers via surrogacy arrangement (Tuazon-McCheyne, 2010).

The experience of fatherhood for some gay and bisexual men is often marked by a shift in their social relationships. New fathers tend to gravitate away from their gay, non-parent friends toward friendships with other, often heterosexual, parents. This transition can be complex for some men whose identity and friendship networks are strongly connected to the gay community (Bergman, Rubio, Green, & Padron, 2010; Wells, 2005). However, despite documented negative social attitudes toward gay men and parenthood, gay and bisexual fathers have reported feeling supported as a parent, particularly by their own families and close networks (Bergman, et al., 2010; Rubun & Faith-Oswald, 2009; Wells, 2005).

The bulk of existing research on gay and bisexual fatherhood has been qualitative, involving small samples and focusing on discrete aspects of the parenting experience. This work has looked at a range of fatherhood experiences: examining gay and bisexual men's desires to become parents (Berkowitz & Marsiglio, 2007; Stacey, 2006), gay men's transition to parenting (Benson, Silverstein, & Auerbach, 2005; Bergman, et al., 2010), men's experiences of adoption and fostering (Hicks, 1996; Riggs, 2007), sperm donation and gay men's co-parenting relationships with lesbians (Dempsey, 2006; Van Reyk, 2007), and gay men becoming parents via surrogacy (Bergman, et al., 2010; Tuazon-McCheyne, 2010). This paper describes the characteristics, pathways to parenting, family organisation and family and social connections of a comparatively larger and broader sample of gay and bisexual men than in previous work. The aim is to identify commonalities and differences across gay and bisexual men who have come to fatherhood through a range of different pathways. It is hoped that this will build a picture of the different dimensions of parenting that exist within the categories of a ‘gay father' or ‘bisexual father'. We also aim to explore the pattern of social and family connections available to gay and bisexual fathers and the way in which these have changed due to becoming parents.


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[Source: Original Document]

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