Polyamory and Kids: Some actual research on poly families

Amazingly, there is some new research on polyamory! Apparently the first International Academic Polyamory Conference happened last month in, of course, Berkeley, CA. One of the areas researchers are beginning to focus is families who practice polyamory. Below I have excerpted from a recent Live Science online article with some of the key findings. My kid has found the people in my life to be positive influences and relationships.

Here is the excerpt:

One big question about polyamory is how it affects families with children. The answer to that is not entirely clear — there have been no large-scale, long-term studies on the outcomes of kids growing up with polyamorous parents.
But some early research is suggesting that polyamory doesn’t have to have a bad impact on the kids. Sheff has interviewed more than 100 members of polyamorous families, including about two dozen children of polyamorous parents ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old.

Parents list some disadvantages of the polyamorous lifestyle for their kids, namely stigma from the outside world and the danger of a child becoming attached to a partner who might later leave the arrangement, a risk most tried to ameliorate by being extremely cautious about introducing partners to their children.

For their part, kids in the 5- to 8-year-old range were rarely aware that their families were different from the norm, Sheff found. They thought about their parents’ boyfriends and girlfriends as they related to themselves, not as they related to mom or dad. “A 6-year-old may not think of someone as mommy’s girlfriend, but think of that person as ‘the one who brings Legos’ or ‘the one who takes me out to ice cream,'” Sheff said.

From ages 9 to 12, kids became more aware of their families as different, but mostly said it was easy to stay “closeted,” because people tend to mistake polyamorous arrangements as blended families or other relics of modern relationship complexity. The teens in the 13- to 17-year-old crowd tended to take a more in-your-face approach, Sheff said, “an approach of, ‘If you think this is wrong you’re going to have to prove it to me. My family is fine.'”

Some teens indicated that they’d consider polyamory for themselves; others weren’t interested at all.
Both parents and kids saw advantages to the polyamorous lifestyle as well. For parents, having more than two adults on hand to help with child-rearing could be a lifesaver. Kids also reported liking having multiple adults whom they trusted — though they complained that with so much supervision, they couldn’t get away with anything. Children also spoke of the advantages of growing up knowing they could make their own decisions about how to build their families. The results are likely somewhat optimistic, Sheff said, as dysfunctional families are usually less likely to volunteer for studies. But the lack of widespread trauma among the children of polyamorous families suggests that polyamory is not, by definition, terrible for kids.

“One of the main things this does indicate to me is that these families can be really good places to raise children,” Sheff said. “Not necessarily that all of them, definitionally, are, but that they may be, depending on how families work it out.”

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