“Do children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as children raised by married moms and dads? U. S. District Judge Vaughn Walker [who admitted to reporters that he is ‘gay’] overturned California’s Proposition 8 in part on those grounds. The scientific evidence is so strong, he ruled that only an irrational human being could imagine the ideal for a child was a mom and dad. This week a big hold was punched in Walker’s storyline by a new study in the peer-review publication Social Science Journal.” Maggie Gallagher, Townhall.com, June 16, 2012
“The American Psychological Association declared flatly in 2005 that, ‘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.’” Mona Charen, Townhall.com, June 16, 2012
“It is widely agreed that children do best in a loving family with a mother and a father. Some will maintain that children raised by single parents or homosexuals do just fine, and undeniably many do, but as a rule children still do better with a mother and a father.” Mary Beth Style, Same-Sex Matters: The Challenge of Homosexuality, p. 115
By Maggie Gallagher June 16, 2012
Do children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as children raised by married moms and dads?
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California’s Proposition 8 in part on those grounds. The scientific evidence is so strong, he ruled, that only an irrational human being could imagine the ideal for a child was a mom and dad.
This week a big hole was punched in Walker’s storyline by a new study in the peer-review publication Social Science Journal.
Using a new, nationally representative survey of young adults ages 18 to 29, professor Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin compared how adult children who reported their mom had a same-sex romance fared on a wide variety of outcome measures. On 25 of 40 of these measures, children who reported their mom had had a same-sex romance fared worse than children in intact married families.
The outrage in the press is palpable and ongoing. The same media that routinely report the pro-gay parenting studies with scarcely a hint of their scientific limitations are posting headlines like: “A Faulty ‘Gay Parenting’ Study” (The New Yorker) and “It’s Time for Mark Regnerus to Get Collectively Dumped” (The New Republic).
Gary Gates, perhaps the leading demographer of gay families, hurled the most serious charge: “He intentionally chose a methodology that is absolutely primed to find bad outcomes in those kids.”
The outrage has focused on how the study defines “lesbian moms.”
His survey asked young adults if their moms or dads had had a same-sex romance. Regnerus took this approach because it was seeking, for the first time, to collect enough new data from a nationally representative sample to identify all children who lived with a same-sex couple, and from this larger group to identify those raised from birth by two lesbian moms.
Only a funny thing happened on the way to the first really good large study of such lesbian parents: They didn’t appear in the data.
Regnerus’ study interviewed more than 15,000 young adults. Of those, 1.7 percent said that one of their parents had a same-sex romance at some point during their childhood. Just 2 of the 15,000 young adults had been raised from birth by two moms.
The New Family Structure Survey study actually found out something very important about stable, lesbian mom families: They are vanishingly rare. The “Modern Family” of two gay dads did not appear even once.
Call it the Murphy Brown Effect: We are busily constructing a picture of how children raised by same-sex couples fare and making dogmatic assertions about the same based on images from the couples we know and the couples we see on TV. There’s a big gap between these images and the reality of the average child who has lived with a same-sex couple.
It’s quite likely that children raised by two college graduate moms who stay together do pretty darn well, especially compared to the average child in America. (We can’t say for sure because we still don’t have any nationally representative data on such families.)
Would gay marriage make such families more likely? Honestly, I do not think so. For reasons I’ll lay out in another column, I think gay marriage is going to turn out to be largely irrelevant for the well-being of children with gay parents.
It’s important to say what we do know: Many gay people are clearly loving, wonderful parents. All good parents working hard to raise their children are well-deserving of social respect. Furthermore, all people, including gay people, have a natural right to the care and custody of their own children that no government has any business interfering with.
I do not say these things because I think saying so will insulate me from criticism as a hate figure. I only say them because they are true.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
By Mona Charen – June 16, 2012
As the nation debates whether to institutionalize same-sex marriage, social scientists have been weighing in — often with a heavy hand. As Mark Regnerus, author of a new study examining outcomes for children in a variety of home environments, notes social science regarding gay and lesbian parenting has swung from “presents challenges,” to “no difference” to “superior” in the space of one decade. The American Psychological Association declared flatly in 2005 that, “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.” That prompted skepticism from Regnerus and agreement to undertake a large study, funded by conservative-leaning foundations, to examine the evidence.
Regnerus’s results, published in the journal Social Science Research, cast doubt on the “no difference” claim and have subjected Regnerus, a professor at the University of Texas, to personal vilification. His results have been denounced as “junk science” and “pseudo-scientific misinformation” by the leading gay advocacy groups, prompting even Will Saletan, a liberal writer for Slate, which published an explanatory piece by Regnerus about his results, to caution ” … before we all go get our stones, pitchforks, and kerosene … trust science … Yes, Regnerus is socially conservative. But he’s reflective, open-minded, and reality-based.”
The studies on children raised by homosexual parents that predated Regnerus’s work suffered from a number of flaws. They tended to be examinations of “mostly white, well-educated, lesbian parents” living in metropolitan areas. They were often based on parental reports of childhood outcomes and were comprised of people who had been recruited at lesbian bookstores and other contact points — skewing the sample in favor of those eager to make a point. Not all of the studies were marred by such flaws, but nearly all were small and thus lacked, in Regnerus’s words, “enough statistical power to detect meaningful differences should they exist.”
Regnerus’s study, the New Family Structures Study, interviewed 15,000 adults aged 18-39 and asked dozens of questions about their lives, including whether their mother or father had ever been involved in a same-sex relationship. Among those whose parents had been involved in same-sex relationships, the outcomes were significantly worse than for children raised by married mothers and fathers. Even after controlling for factors such as age, race, gender or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they lived, those raised in homes with one (or more) gay parents reported that they experienced more depression, ill health, unemployment, infidelity, drug use, trouble with the law, sexual partners, sexual victimization, and unhappy childhood memories.
Critics protest that the NFSS is comparing the gold standard — intact married-parent homes — with families that have experienced many levels of instability. That’s true. Only a tiny percentage of the adults in the NFSS study spent their entire childhoods with their gay parent and a committed partner. The rest had seen their parents’ marriages dissolve, either because of sexual orientation issues or for other reasons or they never formed and they lived in a variety of household configurations during their formative years. Regnerus does not deny this saying, “One notable theme among the adult children of same-sex parents … is household instability, and plenty of it. … While we know that good things tend to happen … when people provide households that last, parents in the (study) who had same-sex relationships were the least likely to exhibit such stability.”
Same-sex marriage advocates argue that once gay marriage is universalized, GLBT couples will be able to offer the same kind of stability that married heterosexual couples do. That may turn out to be true. But a) it may not, and b) it doesn’t disprove the evidence NFSS has compiled that earlier “no difference” studies were excessively cheery.
Regnerus declines to advise about whether same-sex marriage is a good idea or not. But he does make a point that his critics have entirely missed: gay marriages, even if they achieve stability and durability, will continue to lack the “kin altruism” that marks biological parents. Though it isn’t essential — many adoptive couples succeed wonderfully without it — the evidence suggests that the biological tie between parent and child is important in securing the very stability so necessary for children to thrive. Far, far too many heterosexual married couples divorce or fail to marry at all these days. And yet the stability of married, male/female parents outstrips that of adoptive, stepparent or co-habiting parents. If same-sex parents achieve a comparable level of stability, they will achieve what adoptive, stepparent and co-habiting couples have not.