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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?

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

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

Family and siblings

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

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Same-sex parenting: a family story | Raising Children Network

‘What makes us special isn’t our family structure, but just us’. Two mums talk about family life and the joys and challenges of being same-sex parents.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Child and Family Health Service • Supporting Parents

The Child and Family Health Service recognises that families can be any shape or size, including single parents or same-sex couples, and families with adopted or foster children, and we respect and welcome all kinds

Read more on Child and Family Health Service website

Recognition of same-sex relationships | Department of Social Services, Australian Government

Improving the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia.

Read more on Department of Social Services 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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