As far as the welfare of children is concerned, it doesn't matter whether their parents enjoy a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, according to a new study by researchers in the US. In both cases, the data suggest that the sexual orientation of the parents has no negative social or behavioural impact on a child's upbringing.

The wide-ranging examination of the scientific literature concerning same-sex couples and parenting, led by Jimi Adams from the University of Colorado Denver and published in Social Science Research, analysed thousands of peer-reviewed articles on the topic. The aim was to find if any substantial evidence existed to suggest the children of same-sex parents were worse off than their heterosexually parented counterparts.

The paper, co-authored with the University of Oregon's Ryan Light, concludes that the scientific consensus of some 19,000 other research efforts conducted between 1977 and 2013 is that kids brought up by same-sex parents experience "no differences" when compared to children from other parental configurations.

By analysing patterns in the way academic papers referenced one another between 1977 and 2013, the researchers uncovered changing scientific attitudes to same-sex parenting over time in the period.

As Light told Shelby Sebens from Reuters, some disagreement existed within the scientific community over the outcomes of same-sex parenting during the 1980s, but these attitudes diminished over the course of the 1990s, and by the turn of the millennium, a strong consensus among scientists held that no negative social, behavioural, or educational impacts were suffered by the children of same-sex parents.

The study, which is said to be the most comprehensive historical analysis of scientific attitudes on the topic, could help debunk the kinds of claims put forward in legal disputes by some who allege "scientific proof" of the disadvantages of same-sex parenting by citing narrower studies.

However, it's believed the late arrival of Adams and Light's research means it will have little or no chance to impact the US Supreme Court's imminent ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage, although its authors are hopeful their findings will have a positive effect in future legal circumstances.

"I hope we'll see acceptance of gay marriage of the courts and by the public at large," Light said.