UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families Working Paper No. 4 2002
This paper explores the recent emergence of gay and lesbian families in the United States by contextualizing them within larger socio-historical discussions of kinship and family structure. The paper focuses on the rise of the nuclear family model in American culture, how this model became the standard by which other (i.e., ‘alternative’) family forms are measured, and how feminist and queer critiques of the nuclear family model have questioned traditional definitions of ‘family’ as being both sexist and heterocentrist . Rather than viewing the nuclear family model as a rigidly-defined idealization associated with heterosexual assumptions and values, this paper argues for an approach to the study of gay and lesbian families that focuses on understanding how gay and lesbian parents and children manage to cohere and thrive as families despite the lack of traditional institutional support systems that most heterosexual families take for granted in American society. Further, the paper argues for a research approach that focuses on understanding common family concerns and shared parenting goals within both heterosexual families and gay and lesbian families.