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Alternative Families: A Look at the Same-Sex Nest

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This paper will introduce the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"neonuclear\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" family, homosexual couples with children and attempt to present a brief overview of the unit. First the nature/nurture theories will be presented to explain the origins of sexuality; then discussing the formation of gay and lesbian families including the reasoning for legalization of marriage and the introduction of children to these lifestyles; including scaffolding and barriers to achieving stability within the family. This paper will then discredit some of the stereotypes associated with alternative families while listing repercussions of such stereotypes; then moving onto the issue of AIDS, harassment, and behavioral effects, ending with a discussion of societal acceptance and educational affects.

Alternative Families: A Look at The Same-Sex Nest


As times have changed, there is a noticeable decrease in the traditional family structure of mom, dad, two point five kids and the family dog. This forces society to the realization that the modern family develops over the years into varying forms and that the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"nuclear family\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" is degenerately less of the norm. Diversity of this structure is often the result of divorce, chosen single motherhood and other factors. However, in the more recent years, yet another family pattern is emerging: gay and lesbian couples with children. Gay and lesbian families are often viewed as deviant, immoral, and even dangerous to the development of children by some people. Such beliefs in society will create more than just moral controversy; it will surface issues of legality, decisions of custody, and basic human rights.

The Nature Nurture Debate: Biological vs. Cultural-based Sexuality

Before one examines the issues of same-sex families, the reader should understand the two arguments behind the origin of sexuality. It is debated if sexuality is an innate biological process that takes place as a result of one\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s genetic make-up or if it is a result of one\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s cultural background and the environment in which one is raised. These two differing theories are known as the nature/nurture debate, nature representing the biological theory for one\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s sexuality and nurture representing environmental influences for one\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s behavior.

The Biological Argument

From the point of conception, human beings are made up of 46 chromosomes, 23 male and 23 female. After insemination, paternal and maternal chromosomes fuse, this fusion determines the sex of the child. The amalgamation of two X chromosomes creates a female child, while the combination of X and Y chromosomes, leads to the development of a male offspring. Each chromosome contains thousands genes and each gene contains specific information about how part of the body will be formed. Genes are responsible for almost every aspect of the human body, from hair color to the development of our organs, organs like the brain and it is within the brain were the biggest changes take place when our bodies under go their sexual metamorphous, during sexual maturation. When we reach sexual maturity, we have our first insight into our sexuality, an insight which is genetically programmed into our consciousness through our DNA, Whilst in the womb, it seems that our sexuality is being preprogrammed by our genes but there are other biological developments taking place, namely the formation of our hormones, hormones which will lie dormant until the onset of puberty.(Radford, T. 1993)

Cultural Relevance

The nurture theory, put simply, means that our sexuality is not the result of our biology (nature) but rather that our sexuality and characteristics are socially learned through experience. A study by Albert Bandura et al ( 197-) has shown how \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"children learn their roles from those influential models they observe around them, particularly their parents. If the two sexes are treated differently and have different expectations of their behavior then they will learn to behave differently. These differences include their gender and this might be papering them for the kind of social roles that they find them selves in later\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" In this statement, Bandura is trying to tell us that the essence of who we are and who we perceive our selves to be, is acquired at an early age, through observational learning and it is through observational learning that we develop our concept of social norms. Social norms are expected patterns of behavior that develop in any social group over time, they become a major part of our culture and one part of that culture is the perception of our sexuality. (Radford, T. 1993)

Emergence of the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"NeoNuclear\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" Family

Traditionally, families have always included a mother and a father. Today, however, more and more families are being headed by gay parents; some having children from previous marriages. Many must use artificial insemination or surrogate mothers because it is extremely difficult for gay couples to adopt children. There is no valid reason for refusing to call lesbian and gay headed household families. They

fall under every conceivable criterion for identifying families and the concept of a family.

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"They are groups of coresident kin providing jointly through income-pooling for each others need of food and shelter. They socialize children, engage in emotional, physical support, and make up part of a larger kin network. Homosexual households are also typically characterized by flexible sex role behavior and a more equal division of household labor than heterosexual families, which is viewed as an advantage .These new definitions of family create concerns for mental health professionals. Homosexual families are faced with legal and social obstacles which may be unfamiliar to counselors. In addition, professionals are encouraged to make themselves aware of their own value systems and how those principles may influence the course of counseling. Counselors should also be aware of the role of scientific research in the lives of gay and lesbian families, including how it may affect legal decisions and social conditions, and how research in this area can



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