Category: Psychology


Children of Lesbians

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20-year study: Lesbians’ kids better in social, academic competence
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By Serena Gordon, HealthDay
When compared to teens of the same age,
adolescents raised by lesbian parents are doing just fine socially,
psychologically and academically, new research finds.

Not only that, they have fewer social problems, and less aggressive and rule-breaking behaviors than other teens.

The nearly 20-year study has followed 78 teens
since their lesbian mothers were planning their pregnancies, and
concluded that these children "demonstrate healthy psychological
adjustment." These findings stand in contrast to what some vocal
opponents of gay or lesbian parents might have expected.

"One of the things that opponents of the
equalities of gays and lesbians — in marriage, parenting, adoption and
foster care — often bring up is the so-called gold standard of
parenting, which defined by them is the traditional family where
children are conceived in traditional ways and not through insemination
or surrogates. But, when we compared the adolescents in our study to
the so-called gold standard, we found the teens with lesbian mothers
were actually doing better," said study author Dr. Nanette Gartrell,
the Williams Distinguished Scholar at the University of California Los
Angeles School of Law.

As to why these teens are doing better, Gartrell said, "Moms in the lesbian family are very committed, very involved parents."

Gartrell said she expects that these findings
would also translate to the children of gay male parents as well. "Gay
male parents are another group of very committed parents, and really,
(among gay male couples) only economically privileged gay men have
access to the opportunity to become parents right now," she said.

Family therapist Andrew Roffman, at the New York University
Langone Medical Center, wasn’t surprised by the findings and agreed
that such results would likely be similar for gay male parents.

"Good parenting makes for healthier children,
regardless of your sexual orientation. Whether you’re gay, straight or
lesbian, good parenting is good parenting," said Roffman.

Results of Gartrell’s study are online and will be published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Between 1986 and 1992, Gartrell and her
colleague, Henry Bos, recruited 154 prospective lesbian mothers as they
were considering artificial insemination, or once they were already
pregnant.

As the children have grown, the researchers have
been periodically checking in on them, and the latest follow-up
included questionnaires completed by 78 children when they were 10 and
again when they were 17. The study also included an interview with one
of each child’s mothers to assess the child’s psychological well-being.

The results were then compared to a group of age-matched children from traditional families.

Compared to the traditionally reared teens,
adolescents with lesbian parents rated significantly higher in social,
academic and total competence, according to the study. The teens with
lesbian parents also rated significantly lower when it came to social
problems, rule-breaking and aggressive behavior than teens raised in
more traditional families.

Even in homes where the lesbian parents had
split up, the researchers found that those teens still fared better
than teens from more traditional families.

Just over four in 10 of the teens raised by
lesbian parents reported that they had been stigmatized at some point
because of their parents’ sexual orientation, said Gartrell. But, when
the researchers compared those who had been stigmatized to those who
hadn’t, they found no significant psychological differences.

"These young people seem to have done well; they have some resilience," she said.

Roffman said there’s likely a resilience factor
at play. And, he said, it may come from the lesbian parents thinking
ahead of time about what the child’s experiences might be and talking
with the children before anything happens.

"Probably the most effective thing to do is to
prepare kids ahead of time. Let them know that there is still a
cultural stigma and that they may encounter children and adults who are
insensitive. Having these kinds of talks is relationship-building for
both parents and children," said Roffman

"The outcomes here were very clear. These are
families in which the mothers were very committed, involved and loving.
The 17-year-old adolescents are healthy, happy and high-functioning,"
said Gartrell.

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Researchers find genes related to autism
Updated 1d 20h ago |  Comments 63  |  Recommend 19 E-mail | Save | Print | Reprints & Permissions |
 Q&A FROM AUTISM STUDY

A study published in Nature answers some questions about autism’s genetic roots but raises many others. USA TODAY’s Liz Szabo asked experts to explain.

Q: Will the study help doctors diagnose autism?

A: Yes. Within a few years, children may be able to take a blood
test to predict their risk of developing autism, says coauthor Louise
Gallagher of Trinity College Dublin.

Q: Will the study help to develop new drugs for autism?

A: Doctors hope so.

The study points out new genetic targets, says co-author Anthony Monaco of the Wellcome Trust
Centre for Human Genetics in the United Kingdom. Drug companies are
likely to test drugs that are already "on the shelf" to see whether any
existing chemicals might correct some of these newly discovered genetic
flaws.

Creating hundreds of new autism drugs for each genetic problem
wouldn’t be practical, says study co-author Stephen Scherer. But he
notes that many of these defects are clustered on the same
communication pathways involved with how brain cells talk to each
other. So researchers may be able to create a drug that targets an
entire pathway, correcting defects along that line.

Q: Does the study explain why diagnoses of autism are 10 times more common today than a decade ago?

A: No, says Bryan King of Seattle Children’s Hospital, who wasn’t
involved in the study. Autism now occurs in one in every 110 children,
according to Autism Speaks.

Q: So why are autism diagnoses rising?

A: The trend could be related to an increase in premature birth,
older parents and use of assisted reprodutive technologies, which
increase the risk of autism. It’s possible that increased awareness has
led to more diagnoses even if the real rate hasn’t changed that much,
King says.

 AUTISM AT A GLANCE

Autism
is an umbrella name for a family of disorders that begin in childhood,
last a lifetime and disrupt a person’s social and communication skills.

Prevalence
• 1 in 110 U.S. children is diagnosed with autism. Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism.
• 1 million to 1.5 million Americans have an autism spectrum disorder

Diagnosis
• Less than a decade ago, the disease was diagnosed at age 3 or 4. Now it is routinely diagnosed at 2.
• Symptoms range from mild to severe. Many people with autism display rigid routines and repetitive behaviors.

Treatment
• There is no single treatment for children with autism. Most respond best to structured behavioral programs.

Cost
• Lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism: $3.5 million to $5 million
• Annual U.S. cost: $90 billion

Source: Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks

 HEALTH REPORTER TWEETS
http://i.usatoday.net/_common/_flash/twitter.swf?strFileName=http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-06-10-autism10_st_N.htm&fileurl=20100312-lizszabo/&preview=false

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
Scientists have found dozens of new
autism-related genes, according to a study that eventually could help
doctors develop better ways to diagnose and treat the condition.

Yet the study, published online Wednesday in Nature, also suggests that the genetic roots of autism are quite complicated.

Unlike children with cystic fibrosis, whose
disease is caused by defects in a single gene, people with autism may
share little in common genetically, says study co-author Stephen
Scherer, who compared the DNA of nearly 1,000 children with autism with
nearly 1,300 children who don’t have autism.

But even the most common genetic changes in his
study were found in only 1% or less of patients, Scherer says. That
suggests that "most individuals with autism are probably genetically
quite unique," says Scherer of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, one of 120 scientists from 11 countries working on the study, called the Autism Genome Project.

As co-author Stanley Nelson of the University of California-Los Angeles describes it: "If you had 100 kids with autism, you could have 100 different genetic causes."

Taken together, these genetic changes could
explain up to 20% of cases of autism, says Hakon Hakonarson, director
of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Applied Genomics, a
co-author of the study, which was funded by Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers focused on a type of genetic change
called "copy number variations," places where DNA has been either
inserted or deleted. Because genes include instructions for making
proteins, that can lead to an overdose of a protein, an underdose, a
total absence of protein or a malfunctioning one, Hakonarson says.

But much about autism remains a mystery,
including the cause of the other 80% of cases, says Bryan King, an
autism expert at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Study authors say they
need to study the genes of many more children to get more precise
answers about autism’s genetic roots.

But doctors may one day be able to use these
findings to offer parents an early genetic test to help predict
children’s risk of autism, says co-author Louise Gallagher of Trinity
College Dublin.

The study also could lead to new drugs, because it points out new genetic targets, says co-author Anthony Monaco of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in the United Kingdom.

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