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Did you know that people with and without same-sex relationship experiences barely differ with regard to their expectations concerning partnership and parenthood?

May 2019

Living as a same-sex couple, with or without children, has gained increasing acceptance as a social phenomenon. This is, for example, reflected in changing institutional regulations, such as the “marriage for all”, which was adopted in 2017, allowing same-sex couples in Germany to legally marry. At the same time, social scientists have taken a growing interest in the living conditions of the gay and lesbian population. Demographic analyses of official statistics, mainly conducted in the US and Scandinavian countries, show that homosexuals are less likely to live in marriage-like relationships, are more likely to separate and less often have children than their heterosexual counterparts. So far, however, we knew barely anything about gays’ and lesbians’ family-related attitudes and expectations.

ISS researchers Karsten Hank and Martin Wetzel investigated this issue using data from the German Family Panel (pairfam). Almost 7,500 respondents aged 25-37 (including more than 100 who reported having same-sex partnership experiences) were, first, asked about their expectations regarding practical and emotional support by partners, concerns about lack of individual autonomy in a partnership and lack of acceptance of their partner by parents or friends. Second, respondents were asked to which extent they expect children to support them, to constrain them (non-)economically, or to expose them to mental pressures.

The study’s results indicate that gays and lesbians tend to expect slightly lower benefits and greater costs of being in a partnership than heterosexuals – but not of being a parent. The findings therefore fit well into the overall picture portrayed by recent research, namely that (once structural factors are accounted for) demographic behaviors and family relations barely differ according to individuals’ sexual orientation.