WEDNESDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Bystanders judge same-sex parents more harshly than straight parents, according to a new study.
Researchers examined people's responses to the actions of gay and straight parents, and found that gay parents were much more likely to be viewed negatively in identical situations involving poor parenting behaviors.
"We noted that when parents displayed favorable parenting behaviors like comforting an upset child, gay and straight parents were judged in a similar, positive manner," Sean Massey, of the interdisciplinary research group for the study of sexuality and gender at Binghamton University, in New York, said in a university news release.
"However, if parents got frustrated -- raised their voice or slapped their child on the hand -- the gay parents were judged more negatively than the straight parents," said Massey, a research associate professor.
The findings, published in the March issue of the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, are important because holding gay parents to a different standard adds additional stress to the already stressful job of being parents, Massey said.
This type of attitude may also harm same-sex couples' chances of adopting or becoming foster parents, Massey said in the news release.
"We feel that it is very important for social workers and adoption counselors to be made aware of the effects of modern anti-gay prejudices and they need to educate themselves and develop policies that help protect against these potential biases," Massey said.
He noted that hundreds of thousands of children in the United States are waiting to find a foster or adopted family, but there is a shortage of people willing to take them into their homes. Gay parents can provide homes for these children, but this study suggests they may be at a disadvantage.
"Raising awareness of these attitudes is a critical step in being able to utilize a potentially valuable pool of prospective adoptive and foster parents, but it is also vital to improving the day-to-day lives of our families and our children," Massey said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement Sunday supporting same-sex marriage and restating its support for the adoption of children by gay families.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Administration has more about gay and lesbian adoptive parents.