A UK study into children adopted by same-sex couples has found that those adopted by gay or lesbian parents are just as likely to thrive as those adopted by heterosexual couples.

The study, which was carried out by Cambridge University, coincides with LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week.

Researchers explored the experiences of adoptive families, looking at important aspects of family relationships, parental wellbeing and child adjustment.

The study compared 41 adoptive families headed by gay fathers, 40 headed by lesbian mothers and 49 headed by heterosexual parents.

Professor Susan Golombok, director of the Centre for Family Research and co-author of the report said: “Overall we found markedly more similarities than differences in experiences between family types. The differences that did emerge relate to levels of depressive symptoms in parents, which are especially low for gay fathers, and the contrasting pathways to adoption which was second choice for many of the heterosexual and some lesbian parents – but first choice for all but one of the gay parents.”

The research showed gay fathers were significantly less likely to report having depressive symptoms than lesbian mothers and heterosexual couples, most probably reflecting the lower levels of depression shown by men than women generally.

However, it should be noted that the level of depression reported by lesbian mothers and heterosexual parents was below, or in line with, the national picture for mental health.

Most parents across the family types had received positive experiences of the adoption process with many speaking warmly of the support they received.

A number of same-sex couples, however, reported that agencies lacked experience in working with gay and lesbian parents and that this showed itself in awkwardness.

One gay parent described having the phone put down on him when he said that his partner was a man.

The research showed gay fathers appeared to have more interaction with their children and the children of gay fathers had particularly busy social lives.

Each year some 4,000 children look for adoptive families. Same-sex couples have had the legal right to adopt since 2005 but remain a small proportion of the total number of adopters.

National statistics show that annually around 60 children are adopted by gay couples and a further 60 by lesbian couples.

Last month, Welsh Secretary David Jones was criticised and subsequently apologised for saying that gay couples would not be able to provide a “warm and safe environment” for the upbringing children.

The senior Tory cabinet minister was explaining his decision to vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Bill) – along with 135 other Tory MPs in last month’s Commons vote.