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July 8, 2008 / C H Thompson

Same sex families

Society’s attitude to same sex relations has changed considerably over the years. Before we look at same sex families, it will be useful to watch a 1950s film clip about homosexuality in order to create a historical context for cultural resistance. It is useful to see how cultural resistance helps support the cereal packet family as an idealised family structure.

There has been a relatively small but gradually increasing number of children brought up in same sex families (gay and lesbian families). However the number of children brought up in same sex families is very small. The Office of National Statistics noted that less than 1% of dependent children lived in civil partnership or same sex cohabiting couple families in 2012. (ONS, 2012, page 7)

Ingay-couple 2009 Stonewall commissioned the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge to conduct interviews and focus groups with children of lesbian, gay and bisexual parents. Stonewall‘s findings emphasised the diversity of family life with same-sex families being one family structure which exists among many others.

Macionis and Plummer show how new reproductive technologies have helped to extend the variety of family relationships. It’s worth noting reproductive technologies are used by heterosexual couples as well as single and older women.

These types of families must be seen as families of choice to the extent they actively choose their family members as they have no other means of ‘natural’ chance driven reproduction. These processes are seen to make same-sex relations more democratic as they’re are relationships built on equality.

Many theorists have placed lesbian and gay relationships at the forefront of this cultural shift towards democratisation. Stacey (1996) argues that gay and lesbian families represent an ideal model of postmodern kinship because their conscious efforts to devise intimate relationships are freed from the constraints and the benefits of traditional patterns of family life. Without cultural guidelines and institutional supports same-sex couples are compelled to creatively fashion new forms of association.

  1. What would the New Right and feminists think of same sex families?
  2. How do same sex families fit with functionalist and Marxist perspectives of the family?

Return to family overview

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