Qualitative Research on LGBT-Parent Families

Gabb, Jacqui (2012). Qualitative Research on LGBT-Parent Families. In: Goldberg, Abbie and Allen, Katherine eds. LGBT-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice. New York: Springer.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4556-2_21


Qualitative analyses of LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-parent families tend to reside in and develop out of sexuality studies, being peripheral to mainstream agendas in family studies. Contemporary family studies (in the UK and European contexts at least) can be characterized as a dynamic interdisciplinary engagement with shifting trends in the patterning of family and intimate networks of care (Williams 2004), that create and consolidate wide-ranging relationships (Budgeon & Roseneil, 2004; Jamieson, Morgan, Crow, & Allan, 2006). In sociology, research methodologies are predominantly qualitative, focusing on how families are made and remade through ‘family practices’ (Morgan 1996), largely oriented around the connections between parent and child. In psychology, there remains a tendency to try and measure and assess family functioning and the impact of changing circumstances on children’s wellbeing and development.

In many ways, studies of LGBT-parent families follow a similar conceptual trajectory, however, there is perhaps slightly more attention paid to narratives of planned conception (Nordqvist, 2011) and the negotiation and meanings of parenthood and kin-ties in lesbian father-free families (Almack, 2008; Clarke, 2006; Goldberg & Allen, 2007). In this work, the sameness and difference of (predominantly lesbian) same-sex parent families is afforded particular attention, as well as how this impacts on children’s emotional wellbeing and personal development (Clarke, 2002; Golombok, 2000; Hicks, 2005; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001). Notwithstanding the richness of this interdisciplinary work, across both fields of study, their conceptual separateness has arguably perpetuated gaps in knowledge. We actually know very little about the ordinary experiences of sexuality practices in families per se, while the sexual identities of LBGT parents are afforded an excess of significance, determining parenthood through queer sexuality. As such, there is a schism between sexuality studies and studies of family life. In this chapter I pull together these two fields of study, demonstrating how a qualitative mixed methods (QMM) approach can shed new light on everyday practices of ‘family sexuality’(Gabb, 2001a), enabling us to better understand the multidimensional identities of LGBT parents and the negotiated absence–presence of sexuality in queer family living.

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