The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

It's 2:00 AM: Who Does the Feeding In Gay Male Parented Families?

Sunday, January 20, 2013: 9:15 AM
Executive Center 3A (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Dwight D. Panozzo, PhD, Adjunct Lecturer, New York University, New York, NY
Purpose:  Families formed by gay men are increasing in frequency. Little is known about parenting arrangements in these families.  No quantitative study has determined what factors are associated with the assignment of childcare responsibilities in these families. Lacking the biological basis as predestination for greater childcare responsibility (CCR) experienced by the majority of heterosexual families in the arrangement of parenting responsibilities, these families can be expected to define patterns based on different factors. Thus far, quantitative studies have focused on lesbian parented families.  This lack of research leaves social workers without a foundation of knowledge to draw upon when planning treatment goals and interventions with these families when they seek social work services. The objective of this study is to begin to create a base of knowledge regarding factors associated with parenting arrangements and their implications in gay male parented families where the children were not the product of a dissolved heterosexual relationship by one of the fathers.  It is hypothesized that the father with greater CCR will have made less money, had lower career importance, and a greater desire to parent than his partner prior to the arrival of their first child. Additionally, it is hypothesized that this same partner will be perceived as fulfilling a mothering role for the child as well as having lower career importance and making less money than his partner in the present.

Methods: This study featured convenience sampling: utilizing list serve and e-newsletter ads for recruitment in local, regional, and national same-sex family organizations in the United States. An internet-based survey with a lottery component as an incentive was deployed to collect data over a 6-month period. A modified version of the Cowan and Cowan Who Does What instrument was included to determine predominance of CCR. Data from 76 families were utilized in the analysis of the study hypotheses. The sample was predominantly Caucasian (90%), working full-time (76%), and highly educated (56% with a post graduate degree). They had a mean age of 46 years and a mean relationship length of 15 years.  Data related to all hypotheses were subjected to paired t tests with groups defined as the partner with greater CCR and lesser CCR.

Results: All hypotheses were found to be statistically significant in the expected direction (p≤.01) with the exception of career importance before the arrival of the first child (p=1.0), which had very high levels for both fathers.

Conclusions and Implications: This first quantitative study of CCR among these men found that gay fathers arrange CCR according to desire to parent, making less money, perception of providing a mothering role and career importance after the child arrives. These findings are in keeping with those of heterosexual families who adopt similar CCR patterns when they are not bound to traditional sex roles. Treatment around supporting communication to negotiate couple specific CCR is recommended. Longitudinal research with the population is indicated to validate this cross-sectional analysis. Policies to support equal treatment of and full equality for these families are indicated.