Gay men make excellent fathers, according to a groundbreaking study from Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).
“It’s the first study of its kind,” noted Éric Feugé, who over seven years observed 46 families, including 92 gay fathers and 46 children ages one to nine, for his doctoral thesis.
“One of my main objectives was to study the degree of engagement of gay fathers, and how they distribute parental work,” Feugé told the Montreal Gazette. “I wanted to see if that had an effect on the adaptation of the children; and to understand the determinants of (the fathers’) engagement — why some fathers get involved in certain areas of their children’s lives rather than others.”
The fathers involved in the study went mainly through the adoption services of the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux (CIUSSS) of the Centre-Sud-de-l’isle-de-Montréal, specifically the Banque mixte, comprising children taken from their biological parents by the Direction de la protection de la jeunesse.
Approximately one-third of children in the CIUSS’s care are adopted by gay fathers. Gay adoption has been legal in Quebec since the passing of Bill 84 in 2002, though Feugé is quick to point out that no other country allows gay parents to adopt internationally.
“We learned that gay fathers’ sharing of tasks is very equitable,” he said. “There was a high degree of engagement in all types of parental roles.”
Though gay male couples bypassed many of the issues that gender stereotypes can have on heterosexual couples, the two parents often assumed different roles when it comes to child-rearing.
“There was still a statistical difference, though it was minor,” Feugé said. “There was always one dad who did a bit more. That brought us to categorize fathers as principal and secondary caregivers.”
That said, gay fathers deviated more frequently from conventional notions of masculinity by taking on traditionally feminine roles when caring for their children.
“They could be playmates, caregivers, protectors, role models, morality guides,” Feugé said. “They have a larger palette than (men in) traditional heterosexual families. What’s really interesting is that they don’t conform to roles of conventional fathers. They were able to redefine and propose new models of cultural notions of paternity and masculinity.”