Until recently there had been no research studies about LGBTIQ families in Croatia. The reason for that probably lies in the fact that, before the Life-Partnership Act was passed in July 2014, LGBTIQ families were not perceived as families, or their number was considered negligible. Even though the data from the last national census (2014) shows there are less than five LGBTIQ families in Croatia, the last study by Zagreb Pride and LORI (Milković, M. (2013) Brutal reality: A research study investigating anti-LGBTIQ violence, discrimination, and hate crime in Croatia, Zagreb: Zagreb Pride) indicated that the number is higher. This study conducted on a sample of 690 LGBT persons, found 35 respondents that have a child or children. Eleven of them live with their partner, five with their children and four with both partner and children. Also, 53% of the respondents state that they want to register their relationship as life-partnership, and 39% of those who do not have children express plans to have them.
In 2014 the first extensive research study on the subject of LGB families in Croatia is “I am not a Gay Mom, I am a Mom: Parenting in the LGB Population in Croatia”, was conducted by the researchers Antonija Maričić, Marina Štambuk, Maja Tadić and Sandra Tolić for the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth with the aim of investigating the life of LGB families from the perspectives of the parents, future parents, their partners, and children. The study included 19 adults, 6 children and one donor, or 13 family communities in total, and was conducted using the method of semi-structured in-depth interviews for parents, children and partners, and focus group for future parents, which were analysed using framework analysis. Two of the adult respondents identify as male, and 17 as female; 13 define their sexual orientation as homosexual, and 5 as bisexual. Transgender parents were also planned to be included in the study, but could not be reached. The topics that were included in the interview were the following: motivation for participating in the research study, coming out, pathways to parenthood, coming out about parenthood, family communities and relationships, the parent’s impression of the child’s psycho-social adjustment, the child’s impression on his/hers own psycho-social adjustment, support for LGB parents, experiences of homophobia, stigmatization, discrimination, violence or harassment, needs and wishes regarding the future, children, and LGB rights.
Most parents and children reported harmonious, intimate and warm relationships. If there are challenges they mostly arise from high level of conflict before and during divorce (for mothers who have children from previous heterosexual marriages), from current conflicts among parents, the negligence of one of the parents (usually the father), financial problems, or from the complexity of the parenting structure where the roles are not clearly arranged. Thus, challenges derive from the quality of family relations and not from the form of the family as such. Sometimes the source of tension is the extended family and its non-acceptance of the parent’s sexual orientation. The parents vary according to the level of support they report they need in parenting, and the kind of support they get as LGBT persons they define as passive support. The main sources of support are the parent’s partners, other family members, friends, colleagues and the LGBT parents support group. According to most of the respondents, state institutions hold the largest part of the responsibility for the support to the LGBTIQ families, followed by the LGBTIQ persons themselves, and the LGBTIQ associations. Different experiences regarding the contacts with healthcare institutions are reported: some say that medical professionals should be more informed about different sexual orientations, but also that the LGBTIQ persons should work themselves on informing their doctor; some have very positive experiences; some complain about the practical problems deriving from the unresolved issues about the rights of the social (non-biological / co-) parents.
Most of the reported violence inside the family and close friend circles occurs during the process of coming out, while violence among partners is not reported. One respondent however states that even if she herself did not experience violence from the partner, this problem can be present among LGBTIQ families and therefore the legal recognition of these families should also contribute to the protection from violence, especially for the sake of the children. The researchers conclude that education and raising awareness about the specific challenges inside LGBTIQ families are necessary for a wide range of professionals: for the associations of civil society, social welfare centres, health centres, school psychologists etc.
This research study gave us an important insight into to lives of Croatian LGB families. Even if some respondents report high level of conflict, it is usually not from the current partner. In cases when there are conflicts with the partner, it is not because one is trying to control and subordinate the other, but conflicts resulting from ‘external’ problems such as financial issues. However, some of the participants showed awareness for the problem of potential domestic violence and the need for healthcare and other professionals to become more aware and educated on the subject.