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Can Gay and Lesbian Parents Promote Healthy Development in High-Risk Children Adopted From Foster Care?


  • The research on which this article is based was supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation to Justin A. Lavner. We are grateful to Susan Edelstein and the Adoptions Division of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for their support of this project. We thank Cameron Neece for valuable suggestions and comments on a previous version of this article. Portions of this article were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, August 2011.

concerning this article should be addressed to Justin A. Lavner, UCLA Department of Psychology, Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563. Electronic mail may be sent to


Adoption is known to promote cognitive and emotional development in children from foster care, but policy debates remain regarding whether children adopted by gay and lesbian parents can achieve these positive outcomes. This study compared the cognitive development and behavior problems at 2, 12, and 24 months postplacement of 82 high-risk children adopted from foster care in heterosexual and gay or lesbian households. On average, children in both household types showed significant gains in cognitive development and maintained similar levels of behavior problems over time, despite gay and lesbian parents raising children with higher levels of biological and environmental risks prior to adoptive placement. Results demonstrated that high-risk children show similar patterns of development over time in heterosexual and gay and lesbian adoptive households.