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J Homosex. 2002;43(2):1-13.

Who is mommy tonight? Lesbian parenting issues.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Westfield State College, MA 01086, USA.


Developing an identity as mother and establishing what it means to mother is a task not defined by sexual orientation. Both heterosexual and homosexual women encounter role models and the dictates of society when mothering (Nelson, 1996). The present study explores how 18 lesbian adoptive parents, 49 lesbian parents who formed their families biologically, and 44 heterosexual adoptive parents experience and perceive their parenting role, how they respond when their children seek them or their partner for particular nurturing, and how the parents negotiate the cultural expectation of a primary caregiver. Lesbian couples were more equal in their division of childcare than heterosexual parents, and lesbian adoptive parents were the most egalitarian. In all types of dual parent families, parents were sought by their child for different activities. In heterosexual adoptive and lesbian biological families, the child's parental preference was rarely a source of conflict between partners. Lesbian adoptive parents were more likely to report that this preference caused occasional conflict. Reasons for this conflict are discussed in light of societal expectations of women and the role of mother.

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