Although there is very high interest in the demography and welfare of families headed by lesbian and gay (LG) parents, there is currently very limited longitudinal research on LG families or the transition to LG parenthood. Most of the extant literature is descriptive, comparative, or limited to distinct subgroups of LG parents. Of this research, demography studies that examined trends in LG family structures have rarely considered the family and individual processes that may account for changing trends in LG family formation;meanwhile developmental studies of LG parents have rarely considered the ecological and cultural influences on family and individual functioning, nor systematically considered how family structure may impact the family dynamic. Lastly, no studies that I am aware of have integrated family demography and biosocial approaches to understanding how stress is related to ecological and individual or family decisions and behaviors in LG families. The current research will use both secondary data analyses of longitudinal national datasets such as the U.S. Census and American Community Survey to examine within-state changes in rates of LG family structures over the past 10 years and how these changes correlate with state-level sociopolitical climates and public policies pertinent to LG family formation. This will be followed by a pilot study that will explicitly examine how sociopolitical and ecological factors ar associated with decisions regarding family formation and LG family functioning as mediated by individual mental health, relationship stability, and stress load. I have outlined 3 training goals that are critical for the success of this timely and innovative research study. The first goal is t develop conceptual and methodological expertise in the study of family demography, with an emphasis on contextual influences on family formation for lesbian and gay parents. The second goal is to increase my knowledge and expertise in using established national datasets such as the U.S. Census and the American Community survey to conduct secondary data analyses pertinent to the study of LG families. The third goal is to conduct a multi-state pilot using a biosocial model of individual and family formation and functioning to understand how contextual factors are related to LG individuals'well-being, decisions regarding the timing, method, and location for family formation, and parental functioning in preparation of submitting an R01 proposal on this topic in the later years of this K01 funding period. I have established an extremely strong and accomplished mentorship team that will guide my training and collaborate on each phase of the proposed research. In consultation with my mentors and consultants I have established a training plan that includes (1) mentor-based supervised training and directed activities, (2) formal graduate level coursework and short courses, and (3) participation in relevant research seminars, colloquia and scientific meetings. This training and pilot research will provide me with the skills, experience, and preliminary data necessary to establish an independent research program on this highly significant and innovative topic.
This study will expand on the current lesbian and gay parent-headed family studies literature by applying both family demography and psychobiological systems approaches to a biosocial model examining patterns of lesbian and gay family formation and family functioning. When considering all possible structural and custodial arrangements, the American Academy of Child &Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that there are millions of children living with LG parents in the United States, and a 2011 Institute of Medicine report concludes that a better understanding of the role of parenthood in adult LGBT is necessary for a fuller understanding of LGBT health. This research will examine how sociopolitical climates and individual stress and adjustment are related to lesbian and gay family formation and functioning in the United States.