DEVHOM: First large-scale study of homoparental families in France

Launched in March 2014, the DEVHOM study aims at acquiring knowledge on the socialisation and identity development of children who are currently growing up in same-sex parent families, subjects as yet little explored in France. The scientists who initiated this study, which is funded jointly by ANR and the CNAF (French National Family Fund), are currently seeking volunteer families to participate in it.

In France, a series of studies examines the anthropological, sociological and psychological aspects of homoparental families. This research is essentially focused on the viewpoint of the adults and parenthood. Studies that consider the viewpoint of the children, their development and the way in which they construct their feeling of identify on the basis of their family and their family's reactions with the outside world are, on the other hand, much rarer. It is this gap that the DEVHOM project intends to fill in part.

An unprecedented multidisciplinary approach

Associating sociologists, anthropologists, clinical psychologists and psychoanalysts, this project is undertaken by three laboratories: the CAPS (Clinic of the Act and Psychosexuality) laboratory of the University of Poitiers, the CURAPP (University Centre of Research into Public Action and Politics) of the Jules Verne University of Picardy, and the LPPL (Laboratory of Psychology of Pays de la Loire of the University of Angers.

Coordinated by Alain Ducousso-Lacaze, Professor of Clinical Psychopathology at the University of Poitiers and director of the CAPS, this project is linked to ELFE (French Longitudinal Study of Children) (joint research unit comprising INED-INSERM-EFS). For information, in the ELFE study, 18,000 French children and their families will be followed from the birth of the child through to adulthood (20 years of age) from the social sciences, health and health-environment aspects.

In this context, the number of same-sex parent families involved turned out to be too small to allow a comparative statistical analysis with the other families in the study. Consequently, the Devhom study will enable the ELFE cohort to be extended to homoparental families, be more representative of the actual composition of homoparental families (male couples, female couples, children born through medically-assisted procreation (MAP) or gestational surrogacy, adopted children) and target the analysis on the socialisation and development of the children, taking up the model used by the ELFE study.

Exploring new situations where kinship invents itself

In addition to the quantitative part, the Devhom project will also have the particularity of including a qualitative part comprising a socio-anthropological aspect and a clinical psychology aspect. Based on data gathered from family interviews and observations, the socio-anthropological aspect will aim at acquiring a precise understanding of the paths followed, the life contexts and the different forms of education. The clinical psychology aspect will involve the study of twenty families, ten with children of three to four years of age and ten with children aged between nine and eleven. The interviews will be held with parents and children with the aim of identifying and assessing the psychoemotional development of the children and how they fit into the lineage in order to understand their bonds with the parents.

As a general rule, this research work aims both at producing quantitative data comparable with those of the ELFE study as concerns the identity-building of children born in homoparental situations, and to collect qualitative data in a socio-anthropological and a psychological approach.

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