In both the popular and academic media, lesbian and gay parenting is the issue of the moment. Recent examples include the case of two gay men fathering twins with a surrogate mother in the US; the results of a study of gay fathers by Gill Dunne at the London School of Economics (Guardian, January 12, 2000); and comments from Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, President of the Family Court, on the appropriateness of lesbian women and gay men as adoptive or foster parents (Guardian, October 16, 1999). These examples show that current debates focus on gay fathers, assisted reproduction and fostering/adoption. Does this mean that the concerns first raised in child custody disputes in the 1970's - that children raised in lesbian mother families would be at risk for psychological problems and atypical gender development – have been laid to rest?
Concerns about the psychological well-being of children of lesbian mothers were based on the widely accepted view that some childhood experiences carry a risk of psychiatric disorder. This is predominately an argument about social acceptance; because lesbianism is not socially acceptable, the children of lesbian mothers will experience social disapproval. Thus, they will be likely to experience teasing and bullying by peers, which in turn may cause them to become socially withdrawn. Ultimately, it has been argued, the child will be unable to form and maintain friendships, an ability that has been shown to be important for self-esteem and psychological well-being in later life.