More and more people are identifying as non-monogamous or polyamorous, meaning that they ethically pursue multi-partner relationships. The effect of such relationships upon children, however, is the subject of vigorous debate with potentially harsh consequences.
This article reports on some of the studies thus far, both rigorously researched and informally carried out. However, there hasn’t been a lot of research done on this topic, partly because it’s been under most scholars’ radar, and partly because poly parents are reluctant to speak to anyone “official” for fear that they’ll be judged unfit as parents. As the author points out, there is a “common perception that children in poly (and nonheterosexual) families are at higher risk for sexual abuse than those in monogamous families,” which is actually unfounded, but must be considered by anyone in these situations. Studies of gay and lesbian families have provided some parallels, such as the notion that most of these types of families that experience instabilities are facing pressure and criticism from outside the family unit rather than from within it. This indicates that non-heterosexual, non-monogamous families aren’t inherently unstable or dangerous for kids, but perceptions of them as risky can be harmful.
One Swedish academic published a paper arguing in favor of multi-parent families, specifically triparent families. Among other reasons, having more adults committed to raising a family means more resources (both financial and emotional) for the family unit, as well as spreading out parenting tasks among a greater number of participants to lessen the burdens. Apparently “what seems to matter for children’s emotional well-being is family process, whatever the number of, genetic link with (or lack of it), sex and sexual orientation of, their parents,” which is a good indication that multi-partner parenting is as good as (or perhaps even better than) the other kinds of parenting out there.
On a more sober note, this poly parent is losing custody to the parent who claims to have gone back to being monogamous, despite indications to the contrary, since the poly lifestyle is perceived as harmful to children. A person’s relationship choices should not be seen to impact their fitness as a parent any more than their skin color or career, in my opinion. I hope that more research backs this up so that parents can focus their energy on parenting rather than how they should represent themselves to outsiders. (Thanks to @Wolven for that last link.)
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