Volume 39 - Article 25 | Pages 701–718  

Same-sex relationship experiences and expectations regarding partnership and parenthood

By Karsten Hank, Martin Wetzel


Background: Whereas recent years have brought comprehensive demographic accounts of the gay and lesbian population in the United States and several European countries, relatively little is yet known about gays’ and lesbians’ family-related attitudes and expectations.

Objective: The present study contributes to closing this research gap, comparing individuals with and without same-sex relationship experiences regarding their expectations concerning partnership and parenthood.

Methods: We run OLS regressions, using nationally representative survey data for two cohorts of young adults in Germany (born 1971–1973 and 1981–1983).

Results: In several regards, gays and lesbians expect lower benefits and greater costs of being in a partnership, but not of being a parent.

Conclusions: We propose that the latter finding results from same-sex parenthood still being a comparatively rare event and expectations being formed on the basis of heteronormatively shaped values rather than on experience. This is different when considering romantic relationships. Even if partnership-related expectations are partially influenced by the same structural constraints that limit gays’ and lesbians’ factual opportunity to form a family, these expectations might still exhibit an independent additional impact on demographic outcomes.

Contribution: Accounting for individuals’ expectations might contribute to better explaining why, for example, marriage-like partnerships and cohabitation are less frequent in gay and lesbian couples than in heterosexual partnerships.

Author's Affiliation

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Understanding parental gender preferences in advanced societies: Lessons from Sweden and Finland
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The geographic context of male nuptiality in western Germany during the 1980s and 1990s
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Changes in Swedish Women’s Individual Activity Status and the Subsequent Risk of Giving Birth in the 1980s and 1990s: An Extension of Studies by Gunnar Andersson and Britta Hoem
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Gender Preferences for Children in Europe: Empirical Results from 17 FFS Countries
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