Psychology researcher discusses adoptive families

Story by Mikayla MarshallStaff writer

Rachel Farr continues her research for “The Kids Are All Right” by studying the growth of several families, which includes a heterosexual, gay and lesbian couples.

Farr spoke about her research thus far on March 29 in the Dr. and Mrs. Gary Brummer Colloquium series in Psychology. She spoke about child development and family dynamics in adoptive families with lesbian and gay parents. The presentation showed the first and second waves of her work, which presented three families in different stages throughout life.

The first wave showed the couple and the child, in preschool at the time, playing a game of their choice and seeing how each couple acted around the child. The video showed that the lesbian couple was very supportive and attentive to their child. Farr said support and attention are important qualities to show a child, especially at that age.

The second wave captured the families making vacation decisions and how well the parents listened to the child, who was 8 years old at this time. Again, the couple with two moms listened to their children and made sure each was satisfied with the plans.

Farr also showed a couple with two dads and a couple with a mom and a dad. Each couple showed different strengths and weaknesses, but Farr said all were great parents.

“It boils down to the fact that this is still an ongoing controversy and debate, but there are children out there who need a foster or adoptive family and so shouldn’t we be considering the broadest pool of people possible?” Farr said.

Sixty-three percent of people were in favor of LGBTQ parents adopting in 2014, according to national surveys.

Farr said her work is both personal and professional because she grew up in an adoptive family and experienced what it was like to have that type of diversity. In graduate school, she became even more interested in adoptive families and wanted to study families that could be possibly limited or prohibited. She said the heart of this work is the question “What makes a family?” and “What defines a family?”

“There’s a lot of misinformation out about this topic, and it’s really frustrating, especially being someone in that situation,” said Casey Brugh, sophomore from Evansville, Indiana. 

“The types of parents you have don’t matter. The family dynamics and how they love you are what truly matter,” Brugh said.

She said she enjoyed the presentation a lot and appreciates that this information is being shared. She liked that Farr studied the actual parenting that was taking place and not if the child was “normal.”

In the conclusion, Farr found that couples differed in their divisions of labor and in some co-parenting dynamics. Also, families with more supportive co-parenting had children with fewer behavior problems.

Overall, family process variables appeared more important to child outcomes than family structure.

Wave three of her work will be interviewing the kids in the study as adolescents and getting their perspective on growing up in their households. She said so far they do not notice a difference between their families and others. She’s excited to see how the families will progress.