Once in a while you hear people opine that gay couples shouldn't be allowed to adopt. Let's investigate this idea.

Oftentimes, such a discussion involves analysis of gay couples and their potential impact on children. However, a fair analysis would analyse not only the impact of gay parents on children, but the impact of heterosexual parents on children, for comparison.  One should never just assume that the status quo (in this case, heterosexual parents) is the ideal simply because of historical dominance.

So, what is the ideal sexual orientation of a child's parents?  Well, I haven't reviewed research on the subject, and I suspect there likely has been such research conducted.  My aim here is to simply use logic to guide the way for anyone that might want to investigate further.

Is it ideal for a child to have heterosexual parents?  It's very plausible.  After all, since it's mostly heterosexual couples that give birth to children, it's plausible that (in some ways) a child may benefit most by being reared by both a man and a woman. For example, in one respect it would be beneficial to have parents of both sexes:  the sexes think differently, and having parents of both sexes would aid in children's social understanding of and communication with both sexes.

But when it comes to adoption, the question isn't whether it's heterosexuals or gays that are the ideal parents.  When determining who should be allowed to adopt, the question should be this:  Do the benefits of allowing gay adoption (or heterosexual adoption) outweigh the costs?

In order to answer this, supply and demand factor in the equation.  Because there is a long waiting list to adopt children, the demand from parents far exceeds the supply of children for adoption.  This means that society can afford to be very selective in determining who they allow to adopt, and they may be able to limit adoptive parents to whomever the ideal is determined to be.

One concern you sometimes hear is this: that adoptive children of gay couples will be more likely to be gay.  Although this is plausible, I think the likelihood of this being the case is extremely low.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if children reared by gay couples are not at all more likely to be gay than children reared by heterosexual couples.  My reasons for making this claim have to do with the abundance of, and nature of, the evidence that shows a strong genetic basis of homosexuality.

Now, it is true that the concordance rate of homosexuality is less than 100%.  That means that when you locate an identical twin who is gay, and then look at his/her identical twin, less than 100% of the time the second twin is gay.  This means that, indisputably, the environment is one factor that influences homosexuality.

Now, I don't know what the actual concordance rate is, only that it's less than 100%.  However, I suspect that the concordance rate is likely very high, so high that it would suggest a very strong influence of genetics toward homosexuality.  Logically, that is to be expected.

I suspect that the environmental factors causing homosexuality are not what you might think.  I doubt the factors have to do with things like what toys the children are bought, the sexual orientation of the couples a child is exposed to, etc.  I suspect that the environmental factors that are an influence toward homosexuality are things like the level of hormones in the womb during pregnancy. And those hormones might be affected by many other environmental factors including the mother's nutrition, medication, even the amount of red beef she eats.

And the environmental influences toward homosexuality may not be enough, by themselves, to cause homosexuality.   I strongly suspect that one must have a genetic predisposition for homosexuality in order for there to even be a possibility for one to be homosexual.  I suspect that in some, or all, cases, when one has this genetic predisposition, the environmental factors act as a trigger causing homosexuality.

So, although plausible, I would be ok with assuming that most children adopted by homosexual couples are very likely not more likely to become homosexual. Some people might suggest that it's prudent to prevent gays from adopting children as a precaution against them being more likely to become gay.  Given that we don't know what the environmental influences toward homosexuality are (as far as I know), you could make that case.  It's debatable.

What if we assume one doesn't have to worry about children of adoptive parents being more likely to be gay? What other factors should influence adoption criteria?  (I don't even like to write things like "worrying about children being gay", as if there's something wrong with being gay; there isn't.  But the truth is, I think it's safe to say more people would prefer to have heterosexual rather than homosexual children).

Well, there are many criteria that ideal adoptive parents should have.

Let's look at lesbian couples.  Given that women tend to have more of a nurturing inclination then men, one might argue that lesbian couples might be more ideal than a heterosexual couple when it comes to nurturing (although I think it's fair to say that lesbian women tend to have more masculine traits than heterosexual women, I would think that they likely still have more of a nurturing inclination than heterosexual men).

Another advantage that lesbian couples have is this: the chance of one of them molesting their children is very low.  In fact, one study found it to be zero.  I don't know what the odds are that a male parent would molest his children, but I'm sure it must be above zero, and it's likely high enough to be a factor of concern in regard to adoption.

Traditionally, a male parent was instrumental in offering physical protection to the child and the mother (which in turn allowed the mother to be able to raise the child).  In today's society, however, in order for the family to be physically protected, men aren't needed nearly as much.

So what benefits do male parents provide? One benefit is huge:  Financial support.  Men earn more than women, and hence are able to better support the children and the mother (who in turn is better able to support the child).

What about gay male adoptive parents?  Compared to heterosexual and lesbian couples, would two gay men provide the most financial support to their children?  They very well may (although many gay men work in traditionally lower paid female fields, I suspect that a gay man still tends to earn more than a heterosexual or lesbian woman).  But given that men are more likely to molest children, and given that a gay couple has two, not one, male parents, the likelihood that a member of a gay male couple will molest their children is likely greater than the likelihood that a member of a lesbian or heterosexual couple would do the same.

The adoption issue is a complex topic, with many factors that should be studied, including factors I haven't studied here.  Not only do I not know whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt, I don't even know if one should assume that heterosexual couples would tend to be better adoptive parents than gay and/or lesbian couples.

One thing I feel more sure about is this: I think it's likely that the well-being of the child should be the first priority when it comes to studying this issue. I don't think that many people would disagree.  Consider that a child has most of its life to look forward to, while a potential adoptive parent likely has only about 40-50 years of lifespan to look forward to.  Using that measure alone, the adoptive decisions will have a greater effect on the children than on the parents (everything else being equal.  However, not all other factors are equal, but I am not going to get into such detail here, although readers can feel free to expand.  One factor to consider is whether the joy provided to a couple allowed to adopt is more valuable than the quality of well-being provided to a child).

To conclude, I think it's likely that heterosexual couples tend to provide both nurturing (female) and financial support (male) but also a noticeable level of risk of the child being molested.  I think it's likely that lesbian couples tend to provide an abundance of nurturing, less financial support, but almost no risk of the child being molested.  I think it's likely that gay male couples tend to provide the most financial support of the three couples being compared, but also provide the greatest likelihood that the child will be molested.

It appears that heterosexual, lesbian and gay male couples each provide their own set of costs and benefits to be considered.
11/30/2010 10:30:35 pm

Are you Autistic or do you have Asperger's Syndrome by any chance?

12/1/2010 05:49:23 pm


no to both. Why do you ask?

12/1/2010 11:04:38 pm

Your reasoning is very cold, mechanical, and one diminsional, as if you are disconnected from the world. I have worked with high functioning Autistic patients before, and your blog posts remind me of some of the conversations I have had with them.

12/3/2010 01:41:52 am


I agree my reasoning in this article seems cold and unemotional.

Isn't that the best way to reason? Unbiased, unemotional?

I am actually close to being the opposite of autistic in many ways. I am extremely perceptive, very sensitive to stimulus. Very aware. But I have a unique ability to see around my emotions and be very unbiased.

Other than taking emotion into account when weighing costs/benefits that are related to emotion (for example determining people's emotional reactions to policy decisions), isn't it best to leave emotion out of it?

What are your thoughts?

12/9/2010 02:24:49 pm

if heterosexual couples produce a high chance of molestation, then wouldnt most people be victims of molestation simply by the given number of heterosexual couples with children over gay male couples or lesbian female couples? To bad your opinions were not based in fact. If that was the case your attempts at reasoning would be much more sucsessful.

12/9/2010 02:25:01 pm


where did I claim that heterosexual couples produce a high chance of molestation? I never said that more than 50% (in your words, "most") of hetero couples have a molester.

12/9/2010 02:25:21 pm

There is evidence to show 'real' gays are less likely to molest children than a heterosexual male. ('Real', as opposed to a paedophiles calling themselves gay). The reason is simple, a male child looks less like an adult male, than a female child looks like an adult female.

12/9/2010 02:25:41 pm


very interesting. Your point about the child-adult difference is logical!

But wouldn't most people who molest children be pedophiles? After all, if you molest a child, wouldn't most people who do that do it out of attraction to them?

12/9/2010 02:25:54 pm

A child without Maternal input is likely to have issues.

Quite what a male child will make of Lesbian parents is the stuff of playground legend.

And we have not touched on the impact of the childs age and its race in its marketability to prospective couples.

Homosexuality is a dysfunction of normal evolution, whereas Bisexuality may not be. Scoring in the wrong goal is never good.

12/9/2010 02:26:08 pm


it's very plausible that a child without maternal input will be worse off, in some manner (other than financial support), compared to a child that has maternal input. However, I haven't thought about the logical aspects of the argument much, and haven't seen any research, so I wouldn't go as far as to say they are "likely" to have issues.

Why do you think homosexuality is a dysfunction of normal evolution? I highly doubt that's the case. First, why would you think that evolution suddenly fails in regard to homosexuality? I bet you would attribute many other aspects of human behavior to evolution (for example, walking upright, opposable thumbs). Actually, by DEFINITION, homosexuality may be a product of evolution, since, for whatever reason, that's how people have evolved. Also, homosexuality is found among many species. The fact that evolution hasn't eliminated it among many species would support the idea that it isn't dysfunctional.

12/9/2010 02:26:47 pm

Your article makes reference to whether having gay parents will make the child more of less likely to be gay. Is this not irrelevant in a cost-benefit analysis? It seems this is more a moral judgement than a statement of the (de)merits of gay adoption.

Surely the only consideration is what is better for the child. The only thing that matters on that front is that the couple would be fit parents. That's not about straight/ gay, rich/ poor. It's about how they raise the child.

Can you realistically say that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie could provide a child with a more stable home environment than a loving and emotionally balanced gay couple?

12/9/2010 02:27:06 pm


I wasn't making a moral statement at all. I don't know of any reasons to believe that homosexuality is morally different than heterosexuality. None at all.

However, I would argue that whether their children turn out to be gay is something that most parents have preferences about (and perhaps THEY consider it a moral issue), and as such it would be a factor worth consideration, especially since it could influence how they treat their child.

As for what's better for the child, in the context you provided, wouldn't you think it would be better for the child if you could increase the chance they are straight? (So they endure less hardship)?

As for the Brad Pitt example...first, you are being selective with your examples, and second, your comment implies that you think that I think that a straight couple is more ideal as parents than gay couples.

My article didn't argue that at all, I simply weighed some benefits and costs of each of the three types of parent couples.

The only thing that I said was that it's plausible that a straight couple could be ideal simply because most babies are born to straight couples, and hence evolution may have hard wired children to benefit most from them.

At the same time, if you could identify benefits that some gays have, (such as nurturing lesbians), that could outweigh the costs.

But regardless, you must realize that there is often an uphill battle that minorities (like gay parents) have to struggle against, simply because their position is unpopular and the minority, and that alone is a cost that would make things more difficult.

12/9/2010 02:27:24 pm

You say that parents are likely to see their child's sexuality as an issue, and could influence how they treat their child. This is irrelevant, however. If gay people are more likely to bring up gay children, then they would be the parents who would be affected. However, why would they care?

As for how the parents/ children would be treated, I think this is only a short term issue. As gay adoption became more commonplace, it would cease to be an issue. Therefore, while in the short-term costs and benefits might be more even, the costs would diminish in the long term.

12/9/2010 02:27:48 pm


you write:

"You say that parents are likely to see their child's sexuality as an issue, and could influence how they treat their child. This is irrelevant, however. If gay people are more likely to bring up gay children, then they would be the parents who would be affected. However, why would they care?"

Anonymous, your original point was indeed about gay parents, and I switched to a discussion about heterosexual parents. I apologize. This wasn't done intentionally in an attempt to deceive.

You original point was:

"Your article makes reference to whether having gay parents will make the child more of less likely to be gay. Is this not irrelevant in a cost-benefit analysis?"

You then commented that you don't think having gay children would be an issue for gay parents.

I disagree. I would think that most gay parents, just like hetero parents (although perhaps a smaller majority), would prefer to have heterosexual kids. Why? Simply because life will be likely easier for a straight child.

You mention that the troubles gay children could have with their parents may be a short term issue, until gay adoption becomes more commonplace.

Even if that was the case, why would one choose to have any short term trouble at all, if it could be avoided completely?

If one could increase the chance that a child is straight, why wouldn't someone do that? It would eliminate situations in which parents ostracize their gay children, the children run away, the children don't introduce their partner to their family etc.

Your argument reminds me of the flaw with the argument that I assume some people made when they decided to introduce multiculturalism.

Even though mixing different cultures together has resulted in disaster in most places in the world (ethnic genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia etc), politicians in the 1960s still decided to go against evidence from since the beginning of time and invite multiculturalism into the USA (btw, this doesn't mean that the immigrants invited in are at fault, it's the policymakers that are at fault).

12/9/2010 02:28:00 pm

I slightly agree with you on multiculturalism. However, I think, particularly with regard to africa and the middle east the problem largely derives from colonialism and the creation of 'countries' made up of diverse different peoples; i.e. creating new lands based on administrative convenience rather than accepted tribal boundaries.

Back to the issue of gay adoption, I whole heartedly disagree with your sentiment that most people would want straight children simply because it would give them less potential for problems throughout their life. In fact, this only highlights the limitations of economic cost-benefit analysis in profoundly human issues. If one extends that line of thinking then all human existence becomes stripped of any variation. Applying economic analysis to all human experience accounts for only the rational and ignores, or, worse still, denounces whatsoever does not fall within its compass. The simple fact is that difference IS good. It challenges individuals to bring out the best in themselves, and encourages tolerance and understanding.

I also find it surprising that you should say that short term trouble should be avoided if it can be. Typically, in your other blogs, you have accepted that short term pain can often mean long term gain. I think that would be the case in this instance.

12/9/2010 02:28:17 pm

Re: Dec 2 comment.

Homosexuality is as counter-evolutionary as you can get.

Bisexuality I can understand.

At best, a 100% homosexual person (if such a person exists) is an evolutionary dead-end.

12/9/2010 02:28:36 pm


you write:

"I slightly agree with you on multiculturalism. However, I think, particularly with regard to africa and the middle east the problem largely derives from colonialism and the creation of 'countries' made up of diverse different peoples; i.e. creating new lands based on administrative convenience rather than accepted tribal boundaries."

I agree that a significant part of the problem was related to colonial administration. There was a great book that examined this, unfortunately its name escapes me.

However, I would be hesitant to say that the majority of the tension stems from this. I believe it's likely that differences in general are a cause for tension, regardless of culture. It's so widespread! From tension between high school cliques to religious tensions, anything that sets you apart is a potential cause of tension, and often it creates tension.

About gay adoption. I wasn't referring to economic analysis when I referred to hardship, I was referring to mostly the social hardship that tends to be suffered by gays.

You are right that any cost/benefit analysis needs to take everything into consideration, not just economics, and I always make sure to do this.

Myself, I wouldn't say that "difference is good". There is an immense amount of pain suffered in the world as a result of differences between people.

However, I'm not convinced that it would be ideal for there to be NO differences. I feel that there is probably an ideal balance in which the benefits outweigh the costs. But how do you determine that level? Well, its tough, given that you can't perform field experiments on millions of people.

However, I do think that its clear that the current level of multiculturalism is disastrous, not just from a common sense point of view, but by comparison to the more homogenous earlier decades.

Although I don't know much about Japan, apparently they have a model that encourages homogeneity and discourages multiculturalism. I say good for them. I'd say it's likely that that model has helped them quite a bit. It has perhaps resulted in less tension, and less crime, in their society. After all, they have an extremely low murder rate (although genetics likely play a factor in that as well).

12/9/2010 02:28:56 pm


I thought that you might misinterpret what I wrote about the short term. I didn't explain myself well enough.

What I meant was this: why try to fix a system that isn't broken with the hope (not the certainty) that things will get better in the long run?

In other words, if you were able to determine that some environmental factors were more likely to make a child gay, and if you knew that this causes hardship for gays and their relationship with their parents, why would you still go ahead and promote the environmental factors leading to homosexuality knowing this? I agree that if adoption of gay children became more common, there would tend to be less hardship, but the level wouldn't likely reduce to zero. Even if it did, all the pain in the short term has been suffered. And what has been gained? Greater acceptance of gays as children? That's important, but acceptance of gays isn't advanced much in this context, because the context was whether you'd want to promote having more homosexual children knowing the hardship they have. Given the strength of genetic factors toward homsexuality, you might have trouble creating enough situations in which environmental factors increase rates of homsexuality, making it become more common and more accepted.

There are already plenty of gay people in the world. My suggestion is to use that hefty sample of children and parents to promote their acceptance, and THEN once acceptance occurs, you might then be in a situation whereby people don't end up having a preference for straight children.

However, I'm not sure that a preference for straight children will ever disappear. Why? Well, if evolution theory claims that people want to spread their genes, that would mean people have a preference for children that are likely to have children.

12/9/2010 02:29:21 pm


although it may seem logical to believe that homosexuality is a dead end evolutionarily, I disagree.

Why? Well, I haven't seen any evidence suggesting that homosexuality is dying out, becoming less common. And given that many species have homosexual members, that means that homosexuality hasn't died out over millions of years.

I would think that the number of homosexuals who have children is small, less than a majority. They aren't all spreading their genes by having kids. One might think they should be dying off, but they aren't, plenty of heterosexuals are having gay children.

I just realized something! The fact that homosexuals don't have as many children yet they still don't seem to be reducing their numbers in the population, as you would think...that might suggests that the environment is having a bigger effect than you would think, since many heterosexuals with straight genes are having gay children, so perhaps the environment is influencing homosexuality (hormones etc).

However, that's just a line of inquiry to be pursued. It might not explain why many species have homosexual members, and it's still possible that straight people DO have gay children mostly as a result of passing those genes down for some good reason. after all, the concordance rate of homosexuality is likely very high, suggesting a very strong genetic component.

1/17/2011 10:02:30 am

In response to Anonymous's post stating:"if heterosexual couples produce a high chance of molestation, then wouldnt most people be victims of molestation simply by the given number of heterosexual couples with children"

Polls on molestation rates are entirely unreliable because MANY victims of molestation have difficulty admitting that they were molested to themselves, let alone enter it into a nationwide poll. So there are probably many uncounted victims of molestation out there.

1/18/2011 11:31:42 am


good point.

Regardless of the what the actual stats are, however, I would think that gay male couples are more likely to molest than hetero couples simply because there are more men in the couple.

I would be interested in knowing what the stats for both types of couples are, even if they are skewed.


Leave a Reply.