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:
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Last reviewed: April 2021