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The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding
What research has been reported suggests that substantial proportions of transgender adults are parents (Erich et al., 2008). Moreover, research on children of transgender parents has found them to be developing in normal ways (Green, 1978, 1998). This is a nascent area of research, however, and any conclusions must be viewed as preliminary.
The results of research to date on lesbian and gay parents and on their children, although clear, are nevertheless subject to a number of limitations (Goldberg, 2010b; Tasker and Patterson, 2007). In large part because of the absence of sexual orientation assessments in national survey data sets, large representative samples of these populations have rarely been studied. Longitudinal or observational studies are still uncommon. Moreover, research on low-income families, as well as on ethnic, racial, or religious minorities, has remained relatively scarce. There are only a handful of studies on children of transgender parents, and these are based on small convenience samples.
Among adults, family support and acceptance play an important role in psychological adjustment. For transgender adults, higher perceptions of the quality of their family’s relationship have been shown to be associated with healthier levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem (Erich et al., 2008). This study involved 91 self-identified transsexuals gathered by a snowball technique from a convenience sample. However, not all transgender individuals receive sufficient family support. In a study involving 20 transwomen of color, the majority of respondents reported hostility and aggression from their families (Koken et al., 2009).
When families do not provide adequate support, many LGBT individuals create families of choice composed of friends. Research shows mixed levels of support from families of choice and families of origin for lesbians who choose to become mothers. Using a convenience sample of self-identified lesbians, DeMino and colleagues (2007) found that, compared with lesbians without children (n = 42), lesbian mothers (n = 47) felt that they received less support from their friends, including their gay and lesbian friends, and more support from their families of origin. A study of couples becoming parents through adoption found that lesbian couples (n = 36) perceived less support from their families than heterosexual couples (n = 39). Levels of support from friends and general well-being were similar for both groups (Goldberg and Smith, 2008).
SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS AND RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
Given the length of the phase of life represented by early/middle adulthood, it is not surprising that more data are available for this cohort than