“Why Isn’t It the Same as Any Other Family?”: Understanding Emergent Family Narratives and Early Education Experiences Among LGBTQ+ Parents
Matthews, Timothy Joseph
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CitationMatthews, Timothy Joseph. 2020. “Why Isn’t It the Same as Any Other Family?”: Understanding Emergent Family Narratives and Early Education Experiences Among LGBTQ+ Parents. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractResearch on LGBTQ+ parenting experiences has recently proliferated. Further examination is required to understand these families’ encounters with early education, when their first sustained exposure to the Bronfenbrennerian (1977) “microsystem” outside the family takes place. Infants enter “storied worlds”; the families’ sharing over time underpins a co-constructed family narrative (Fivush & Merrill, 2016, p. 308), which encompasses the family’s origin story, any stories they tell that span across time and generation, and an ongoing process of co-construction, integrating children’s questions and experiences into a shared whole. Before kindergarten entry, parents and children weave together unique narratives to make sense of everyone’s evolving identities. Understanding how all family members make meaning of that co-constructed narrative enriches our understanding of LGBTQ+ parents’ family formation.
The present, exploratory study used a mixed-methods approach to paint a portrait of LGBTQ+ parents with children enrolled in early education settings outside the home. Study 1, an online survey of 241 relatively well-educated and well-resourced LGBTQ+ parent families with at least one child under 6 years old, assessed associations between family-school relationships and measures of stress, social support, and family functioning. Study 2’s four case studies explored same-gender parents’ experiences through the preschool years, as their family narrative evolved.
As has been found among families with opposite-gender parents, perceived social support was positively associated and parental stress negatively associated with family functioning and school engagement. Reports of minority stress via heterosexist experiences were occasional, but minority stress related to such reports was not associated with family functioning or school engagement. This survey also found that LGBTQ+ parents were generally highly engaged in their child’s learning environment, both within and outside the home, as would be expected given the participants’ social class and educational background.
Case studies revealed how same-gender parents built a narrative about the family’s identity as an LGBTQ+ family. At home, varying levels of preparation commonly started before birth or adoption, as parents purchased books, forged relationships with like-minded LGBTQ+ parents, and discussed as a couple how they might explain the complex story of reproduction or adoption. High levels of parental engagement with their children’s supportive early educators allowed parents to problem-solve for uncomfortable, narrative-challenging heteronormativity when necessary. This research identifies important drivers of family narrative and engagement in early education systems among same-gender parent families.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37364535