Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Polyamory and Children

At, addresses "Is Polyamory Bad for the Children?" In the years to come, there will be much more research on this topic.
In the interviews, the parents described a number of ways their children benefited from the polyamory:
  • “The children had more individualized time with adults.”
  • They “could spend less time in day care because of the flexibility of having multiple parental figures involved in their lives.”
  • “…the greater diversity of interests available from adult figures helped children foster a wider variety of hobbies and skills.”
I expected those. Regarding the first one, it is a relatively new development in history to group 20-30 kids of the same age together under the limited supervision a lone, unrelated adult or several situations like that through the day, day in and day out. Children used to work alongside their parents and other adults on farms, in the family business, care for younger siblings, or do things in groups with an age span. I'm not saying we should pull children out of school to work in mines and factories, but there is something to be said for having multiple adults and other children of different ages around.
The parents mentioned drawbacks as well, particularly “the discomfort of having partnerships between adults dissolve and the resulting emotional trauma for children who may have been very attached to a departing partner.”
That is something you find in all relationships, not just polyamorous ones.

The children Sheff interviewed were mostly White and middle class. Her impression was that they were “articulate, thoughtful, intelligent, and secure in their relationships with their parents.”

The children did not express the same concern with the real or potential loss of adult attachments as their parents did. As the authors of the review article explained:
“Many of the children reported that their parents’ former partners stayed involved in their lives even after the sexual or romantic phase of the partners’ relationships to the parents ended. The children did report experiencing some pain at losing the friendship of adults who were not involved in their lives any longer, but they felt this pain for both former romantic partners and also for platonic friends of parents whom they no longer saw for a variety of reasons.”
“Overall, the children were satisfied with their family arrangement, acknowledging that they may not choose it themselves but that it works well for their parents.”
More good news.

Conley, T. D., Ziegler, A., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., & Valentine, B. (2012).  A critical examination of popular assumptions about the benefits and outcomes of monogamous relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review.
Overall, whatever the family structure, what children need are good adults in their lives to give them love, attention, teaching, guidance, encouragement, and protection. When there are so many "monogamous" homes where neither parent is home much, or there's a series of divorces and marriages and stepparents, or with all of the homes with single parents (who are juggling so much), I don't know why, short of a religious belief in monogamy, anyone would make an issue over a polyamorous home. In a home with three or more adults, aren't children more likely to have an available adult?

The "nuclear," supposedly monogmist family of two parents with their children and that's it is a relatively new and minority model. Even putting aside polygamy, it has been very common for children to live in homes that also have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and in more affluent homes, "help." Think of the times in which a woman was expected to live in her father or brother's or uncle's house until she married, helping to raise her younger siblings, or nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Some will say polyamorous homes are bad for children because of external disapproval. But we should be telling poly people not to have children; rather, we should be educating the ignorant and telling the bigoted to mind their own business. Relationship rights and full marriage equality for all will help with that.

Children should not be raised with the notion that monogamy is the only viable option, or that it is a viable option for everyone. It isn't. What we should teach children is to learn what it is they need and want in relationships and how to develop healthy relationships, including such abilities as:
  • finding compatible people with common goals and avoiding or detaching from toxic people
  • effectively communicating/listening
  • asking for what they want, explaining their own strengths and weaknesses 
  • negotiating and setting boundaries
  • asking for/accepting/providing help 
  • trying new things
  • determining if, when, and how to end a relationship

Those are very helpful for life in general, and polyamorous relationships, monogamous relationships, friendships, and professional relationships.
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