Leading Child Psychologist Professor Susan Golombok Addresses TCD on Non- Traditional Family Forms and Child Outcomes

Posted on: 11 December 2008

Does family structure really matter for the wellbeing of the child?

Family and child psychologist, Professor Susan Golombok, delivered the Children’s Research Centre’s Annual Lecture at Trinity College Dublin this week.  Author, solicitor and Senior Lecturer in Family and Child Law at the Law Society of Ireland, Geoffrey Shannon, responded to Professor Golombok’s paper.

A leading international authority on the effects of family structure on children’s development, Professor Golombok’s lecture: ‘New family forms: What do we know about their effect on children’s development?’  examined the scientific evidence on what really matters for children’s healthy psychological development. The lecture considered whether it was necessary to have two parents, a father present, parents who had a genetic link with their child, or parents who were heterosexual. It also explored the psychological processes that underlay optimal development for children, particularly the quality of the child’s relationship with parents, other family members and the wider social world.

Professor Golombok’s presentation  involved debunking the many myths which surround new family forms, e.g. sons and daughters of lesbian and gay parents do not necessarily become lesbian and gay themselves; children of single mothers can grow up to be well-adjusted adults; and children raised by non-genetic parents are not all confused about their identity. According to Professor Golombok, when considering what aspects of family life matter most for children’s psychological well being, more attention should be paid to the quality of family relationships and the child’s relationship to the wider social world than simply to whether the child is being raised in one type of family or another. Given the complexity of modern family life, she believes it is inappropriate to assume that children raised in new family forms are more likely to grow up psychologically disturbed while children raised in a traditional family will fare well.

Responding at the lecture, Geoffrey Shannon, author, solicitor and Senior Lecture in Family and Child Law at the Law Society of Ireland  highlighted features of the recent debates in Ireland on new family forms and their implication for children.

About Professor  Susan Golombok Biography
Susan Golombok is Professor of Family Research and Director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, and a Professorial Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. She is a leading international authority on the effects of non-traditional families on children’s development. Susan began her academic career in London, first at the Institute of Psychiatry and then as Professor of Psychology and Director of the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre at City University.

Her research focuses on the impact on children’s social, emotional and identity development, and on parent-child relationships, of being reared in new family forms, including lesbian mother families, solo mother families, and families created by assisted reproduction procedures such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), donor insemination, egg donation and surrogacy. She has written many academic papers on this subject and several books including “Parenting: What really counts?” (Routledge, 2000) and is co-author of “Growing up in a lesbian family” (Guilford Press, 1997).

Geoffrey Shannon Biography
Geoffrey Shannon is a solicitor and senior lecturer in family and child law at the Law Society of Ireland. In June 2006, he was appointed by the Government to the independent position of Special Rapporteur for Child Protection.
Geoffrey has been selected by the European Expert Organising Committee as the Irish expert member of the Commission on European Family Law. In September 2007, he was appointed by the Government as Chairman of the Adoption Board.
Geoffrey’s many publications include Divorce: Law and Practice (Thomson Round Hall, 2008).
He is the editor of the Irish Journal of Family Law and has written extensively on family and child law issues.