A study has found that children growing up with gay parents are on average happier than those raised by straight parents.

The preliminary findings from the Australian study from the University of Melbourne, further dispelled the idea that children do better with opposite sex parents, rather than being raised by a gay couple.

Dr Simon Crouch, the lead researcher, said there were a lot of strongly-held beliefs on what made up a family.

“Our research does not support this. There are a lot of same sex families where there isn’t a mother figure or there isn’t a father figure and we find that the children are doing really well,” he said.

Dr Crouch, who is openly gay, and who is the father to four-year-old twin boys, ran the study, the world’s largest of its kind, on gay parenting.

The study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families collected extensive data on the mental, physical and social well being of 500 children aged 5 to 17, from 315 gay, lesbian and bisexual parents.

80% of the parents who completed the questionnaire were women.

The interim results found that children of same-sex parents were no different from those raised by opposite-sex couples, in terms of physical and mental health, and in their reaction with others and their relationship with their parents.

In terms of family cohesion and general health, children of same-sex parents scored significantly higher.

The study did also find, however, that children of same-sex parents are likely to face discrimination based on their parents’ sexuality. The interim results do not analyse the effects of the discrimination, but that will be part of the study’s wider findings.

“One of our hypotheses is that this experience of discrimination does have an impact on child health and well being,” Dr Crouch said.

His decision to conduct the study was prompted by politicians on both sides of the equal marriage and adoption debate asserted that children did better when raised by a straight couple.