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Rainbow families

2-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.

That might be 2 mums living together, or 2 dads. It might mean a single gay or lesbian 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.


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.

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 gender 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 might 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.

A way forward

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 2019

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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.

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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

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 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.

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Diverse families - Healthtalk Australia

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The official website of Twins Research Australia.

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Negotiating housework and caring for children in early parenthood - Healthtalk Australia

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Donor breast milk and milk banks

If it's not possible to breastfeed a baby because they're premature, sick or born via surrogacy or to same-sex parents, human donor milk is a great alternative.

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Children and sibling rivalry - Better Health Channel

Sibling rivalry is a common problem, particularly among children who are the same sex and close together in age.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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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