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Rainbow families

3-minute read

A family is a unit where adults care for children with love. The term ‘rainbow family’ refers to a family with parents of the same sex bringing up a child, or an LGBTQ+ parented family.

Rainbow families, like all families, come in all shapes and sizes. They include same-sex families and gender-diverse families. That might be 2 mums or 2 dads. It might mean a single gay, lesbian or transgender parent. It might mean there are surrogates and donors involved.

The number of rainbow families in Australia is growing, and they are becoming more accepted.

Outcomes for children in rainbow families

Research over the past 30 years shows no difference in outcomes between children raised by heterosexual parents and children raised by parents of the same sex. Children raised in rainbow families do just as well emotionally, socially and educationally.

Recent research has shown that children of same-sex parents outperform their peers at school, especially in countries where there is reduced discrimination due to high levels of support for same-sex relationships.

Children from rainbow families play the same gender-typical games that other boys and girls play. They are just as comfortable as other children with their sex as a male or female.

While much of family life will be similar, there may be some particular challenges:

  • Your child may experience some stigma, which can upset them.
  • You may not wish your family to be labelled or categorised, but other people may wonder how to talk about your family unit.
  • Your extended family may need time to come to terms with what they see as your family’s ‘difference’.
  • Your child may be teased or excluded from children’s games because they ‘don’t have a mummy and a daddy’.

On the other hand, children of same-sex parents are likely to develop respect for diversity and become resilient to discrimination.

The sex of parents does not determine children’s outcomes and wellbeing: it’s what parents do that matters. Children who are raised by warm, loving, nurturing, flexible and responsive parents will do well. Same-sex parents are equally able to bring these skills and strengths to raising children as heterosexual parents.

Breaking down prejudices

People’s prejudices and misconceptions are often dispelled when they get to know the individuals involved.

Therefore, it helps if you:

  • mix with a range of other families
  • get involved with the broader community through school, sport and other activities
  • establish networks with other non-traditional families for mutual support and reassurance
  • visit your child’s prospective child care centre or school
  • explain to educators how you, your partner and your family wish to be described to other children and families

Knowing diverse families enriches the world view of children, making Australia a more open and inclusive place to live, love and care for each other.

There are a number of rainbow family groups across Australia that offer general, health and legal advice:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021


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Need more information?

Rainbow families & same-sex families | Raising Children Network

Children from same-sex and rainbow families do just as well as children from other families. Nurturing, responsive parenting is what matters to kids.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Same-sex families: services & resources | Raising Children Network

Like all families, rainbow and same-sex families need support. Get links to services for rainbow and same-sex parents, their children and their communities.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Supporting same-sex families: communities | Raising Children Network

When families feel supported and like they belong, children do well. You can support rainbow families and their children by being inclusive and respectful.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Family and siblings

Children grow up in different structures such as nuclear families, blended families, rainbow families (same sex parents) and single parents.

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Same-sex parents - two mums

More than 10,000 Australian children live with same-sex parents. This article will help you consider the main questions about becoming a mum in a same-sex relationship.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Same-sex parents - two dads

More than 10,000 Australian children live with same-sex parents. This article will help you consider the main questions about becoming a dad in a same-sex relationship.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Information for rainbow families

While many of the experiences for families are similar, rainbow families can have a number of unique experiences, joys and challenges.

Read more on Beyond Blue website

Episode #40 What is a rainbow family? - Sexual Health Victoria

In this episode, Olivia talks about her experience of being one of two mums in a proud rainbow family.

Read more on Sexual Health Victoria website

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Fatherhood can seem daunting, but getting the right advice and support will help you make the most of your new role. Children do better when their fathers spend time and interact with them in a positive way. Learn more about this exciting time here.

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Playgroups & how to find a playgroup | Raising Children Network

Playgroups are great for your child’s learning and development, and they can be good for you too. Here’s how to find a local playgroup that suits your needs.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

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This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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