Post Author: Bill Pratt
Traditional marriage advocates have often argued that children are better off when they are raised by their married biological mother and biological father. The data is overwhelmingly in favor of married parents as opposed to single parents.
Those who support gay marriage almost always counter this data by saying that single parent homes may be worse for children, but homes where there are two loving gay parents are just as good for kids as homes where a traditional married couple raises children. They point to studies that purport to show no difference between the two different kinds of households.
Traditional marriage proponents have always countered by saying that the studies referred to by the gay marriage side are methodologically flawed, mostly because the sample sizes are too small and the gay couples taking part in the research almost always volunteer to be part of that research.
Where do we go from here? Who is right? Are same-sex households equivalent to opposite-sex households when it comes to outcomes for children? New answers seem to be emerging that do not look good for same sex couples.
On June 10, the Washington Times reported on two new studies that were released which undermine the gay marriage argument that children are no worse off when raised by same sex couples. Here are some excerpts from the article:
Two studies released Sunday may act like brakes on popular social-science assertions that gay parents are the same as — or maybe better than — married mother-father parents.
“The empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go,” University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus said in his study in Social Science Research.
Using a “gold standard” data set of nearly 3,000 randomly selected American young adults, Mr. Regnerus looked at their lives on 40 measures of social, emotional and relationship outcomes.
He found that, when compared with adults raised in married, mother-father families, adults raised by lesbian mothers had negative outcomes in 24 of 40 categories, while adults raised by gay fathers had negative outcomes in 19 categories.
Findings like these contradict claims that there are no differences between gay parenting and heterosexual, married parents, said Mr. Regnerus, who helped develop the New Family Structures Study at the University of Texas.
Instead, “[C]hildren appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day,” he wrote.
Mr. Regnerus’ study of 2,988 people ages 18 to 39 — including 175 adults raised by lesbian mothers and 73 adults raised by gay fathers — marks the first research from the new data set, which initially included some 15,000 people.
Here are a sample of some of the 24 negative outcomes for children raised in a home where their mother had lesbian relationships:
- Family received welfare growing up: 17% of children with married parents, 69% of children with lesbian mothers
- Recently or currently in therapy: 8% of children with married parents, 19% of children with lesbian mothers
- Had an affair while married or cohabiting: 13% of children with married parents, 40% of children with lesbian mothers
- Was ever forced to have sex unwillfully: 8% of children with married parents, 31% of children with lesbian mothers
The article goes on to report on second study released:
The second study, also in Social Science Research, takes a critical look at the basis of an oft-cited American Psychological Association report on gay parenting.
The APA brief says, “Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.”
After looking at the 59 studies that undergird this assertion, however, “The jury is still out,” said Loren Marks, an associate professor at the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana State University. “The lack of high-quality data leaves the most significant questions [about gay parenting] unaddressed and unanswered.”
Problems with the APA-cited studies were their small size; dependence on wealthy, white, well-educated lesbian mothers; and failure to examine common outcomes for children, such as their education, employment and risks for poverty, criminality, early childbearing, substance abuse and suicide. Instead, the APA studies often looked at children’s gender-role behaviors, emotional functioning and sexual identities.
The results of these studies, especially that of Regnerus, are extremely important. Finally we have larger sample sizes, coupled with a random data set. The results are certainly very troubling for same-sex marriage advocates. Their claims that same-sex households are equivalent to heterosexual households cannot be sustained without ignoring these new major studies. Certainly more research is needed, but at least we are starting to see data collected with proper methodology.
Note: If you would like to see a Q and A with Mark Regnerus, click on this link.