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Analysis of the psychological functioning of children raised by female same-sex couples

Émilie Moget, Susann Heenen-Wolff

Many studies of same-sex families have been conducted over the past 35 years. Primarily quantitative in nature, these studies tell us little about the unique dynamic operating in such families. By way of an exploratory longitudinal study, we analyze the distinct experiences of same-sex families (two women) who used assisted reproduction with an anonymous sperm donor. Our study explores the following topics: the mothers’ role with the child, the place of the anonymous donor in the family narrative, the child’s relationship to his or her origins, the development of the child’s sexual identity, and the integration of these families into a heteronormative society. Through regular meetings with both children and parents, we were able to highlight specific aspects of how these families function. The originality of our research is in its exploration of the intrapsychic and intersubjective experiences of these children. We try to understand how children of same-sex parents build their psychic identity. The use of projective tests (Patte Noire [animal metaphor], CAT, family drawing) yielded precious data about their psychosexual development. These tests can be employed both projectively and perceptively and reveal clues about how children perceive, represent, and symbolize their relationships. We use case studies to illustrate our findings.