FRIDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Social pressure for gay parents to raise heterosexual children can cause stress for these families and make it harder for gay children of gay parents to get the support they need, says an expert.

Research shows that children raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents are psychologically healthy and often do better at school and have a lower incidence of social problems than their peers, according to family therapist and social worker Arlene Istar Lev of Albany, N.Y.

But many gay parents still feel that in order to prove they're good parents, they have to raise heterosexual children, Lev explained in an article published in the September issue of the journal Family Process.

"Gay parents [just like heterosexual parents] may struggle with having gay or transgender children, in part because they identify with the obstacles their children will face, and in part because of the societal pressure they feel to raise 'normal' children," Lev pointed out in a news release from the journal's publisher.

She added that gay parents who see their own identity as an advantage, instead of something to be overcome, have a unique ability to nurture their children's emerging selves.

"If it is okay to be gay then it has to be okay for the children of gay people to be gay also," Lev said in the news release.

Most children of gay parents are heterosexual and some are not, just like the children of heterosexual parents, noted Lev, who's been working with gay families for nearly three decades.

Gay parents' differences should be acknowledged and honored, rather than pressuring them to be "just like" straight parents, she advised.

"We need to stop saying that being [gay] has no influence on children's identities; of course it does. Maybe whatever it is that we are doing 'differently' is the reason our children are doing so well," Lev suggested.

More information

The American Psychiatric Association has more about sexual orientation.