Studies challenge established views development of children raised by gay or lesbian parents

Jun 10, 2012

Despite considerable research showing that children of same-sex parents fare just as well as children with heterosexual parents, two papers - a review of existing studies and a new study - published today in Elsevier's Social Science Research, find insufficient data to draw any definitive conclusions.

The review by Dr. Loren Marks from Louisiana State University finds that much of the science that forms the basis for the highly regarded 2005 official brief on same-sex parenting by the (APA) (http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/parenting-full.pdf) does not stand up to scrutiny. The new study by University of Texas sociologist and professor Mark Regnerus, provides compelling new evidence that numerous differences in social and emotional well-being do exist between young adults raised by women who have had a lesbian relationship and those who have grown up in a nuclear family.

Dr. Marks reviewed studies published between 1980 and 2005 cited by the 2005 official APA brief which asserted 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."

"The jury is still out on whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children", explains Marks. "However, the available data on which the APA draws its conclusions, derived primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way."

Of the 59 studies referenced in the APA brief, more than three-quarters were based on small, non-representative, non-random samples that did not include any minority individuals or families; nearly half lacked a heterosexual comparison group; and few examined outcomes that extend beyond childhood such as intergenerational poverty, , and criminality, which are a key focus of studies on children of divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation. In other words, "A lack of high quality data leaves the most significant questions unaddressed and unanswered," concludes Marks.

In his study, Professor Mark Regnerus used data from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) (http://www.prc.utexas.edu/nfss/), a large nationally representative sample of just under 3,000 young Americans aged 18 to 39, to compare how children raised in eight different family structures fared on 40 social, emotional, and relationship outcomes.

According to his findings, children of mothers who have had same-sex relationships were significantly different as young adults on 25 of the 40 (63%) outcome measures, compared with those who spent their entire childhood with both their married, biological parents. For example, they reported significantly lower levels of income, more receipt of public welfare, lower levels of employment, poorer mental and physical health, poorer relationship quality with current partner, and higher levels of smoking and criminality.

"This study, based on a rare large probability sample, reveals far greater diversity in the experience of lesbian motherhood (and to a lesser extent, gay fatherhood) than has been previously acknowledged or understood," explains Regnerus. "The most significant story in this study is arguably that children 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."

In a series of commentaries published in the same issue of , three family researchers share their views on both studies.

David Eggebeen, Associate Professor of Human Development and Sociology at Pennsylvania State University, remarks, "Dr. Marks' paper, by turning a bright light on the shortcomings of previous work, challenges researchers to develop better data and conduct kinds of analyses that allow more confidence in generalizations. The Regnerus paper introduces a data set based on a national probability sample that has the potential to address some of Mark's criticisms. The analyses in the Regnerus paper are provocative but far from conclusive. These very preliminary findings should not detract from the real importance of this paper, the description of a new data set that offers significant advantages."

"Whether same-sex parenting causes the observed differences cannot be determined from Regnerus' descriptive analysis," cautions Professor Cynthia Osborne from the University of Texas at Austin. "Children of lesbian mothers might have lived in many different family structures and it is impossible to isolate the effects of living with a lesbian mother from experiencing divorce, remarriage, or living with a single parent. Or, it is quite possible, that the effect derives entirely from the stigma attached to such relationships and to the legal prohibitions that prevent same-sex couples from entering and maintaining 'normal relationships'."

In a final comment on Regnerus' research, Pennsylvania State University, sociologist and professor Paul Amato points out, "If growing up with gay and lesbian parents were catastrophic for children, even studies based on small convenience samples would have shown this by now […] If differences exist between children with gay/lesbian and heterosexual parents, they are likely to be small or moderate in magnitude—perhaps comparable to those revealed in the research literature on and divorce."

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More information: "How different are the adult children parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study" by Professor Mark Regnerus (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.03.009).

"Same-sex parenting and children's outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association's Brief on lesbian and gay parenting" by Dr. Loren Marks (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.03.006).

"What can we learn from studies of children raised by gay or lesbian parents?" by Associate Professor David Eggebeen (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.04.008).

"Further comments on the papers by Marks and Regnerus" by Dr. Cynthia Osborne (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.05.002).

"The well-being of children with gay and lesbian parents" by Professor Paul Amato (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.04.007).

Also of interest:

"Response to Paul Amato, David Eggebeen, and Cynthia Osborne" by Professor Mark Regnerus (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.05.003).

"We see what we seek: A rejoinder to the responses of Amato, Eggebeen, and Osborne" by Dr. Loren Marks (dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.05.001).

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User comments : 19

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tamouse
2.5 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2012
None of the DOI links work....
dogbert
2.7 / 5 (7) Jun 10, 2012
It is refreshing to see a study which is actually congruent with scientific principles rather than agenda based.
210
1 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2012
None of the DOI links work....

They work now my friend....thanks for pointing out...
word-
aeolius
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 10, 2012
I believe that I a not the only psychologist who feel that the Amer. Psol Assn. has long been taken over by a political clique. This article is thus no surprise.
As long ago as 1988 a group of those who were more interested in a scientific approach broke away and formed the Amer. Psol. Society.
In my opinion it has replaced the APA as the umbrella for serious research in psychology.
poster_atat
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 10, 2012
When can we do a study on what causes homosexuality?

Of course, there is a genetic aspect. Nobody would be sexual at all if there were not a genetic aspect.

And if there were no traumatic triggers to 'cause' homosexuality, then let's have a study to prove it.

Also, how about a study on stability of Gay Marriages and emotional well-being?

Finally, I don't care if 'social stigma' can be blamed for why kids or adults suffer from such relationships... what's of moment is that they suffer from such relationships regardless as to the fairness of the cause. Example, it's not 'fair' that I'll be in increased danger if I jog in a high crime area at midnight while wearing my bikini. That's not 'fair' either. But I'd be wise not to do such a thing, regardless of my 'right' to do it.

Of course, if all things are not equal, I strongly suspect that a gay set of parents is better than a lousy set of hetero parents. Everyone can agree to that.
LaurieLee
1 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2012
Mark Regnerus is an advocate of early marriage and has a conservative point of view toward marriage himself, so this study may not be the most unbiased itself.
BruceWilson
3 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2012
LGBT rights activist and journalist Jim Burroway has an excellent critique of Mark Regnerus' fatally-flawed new study, at Box Turtle Bulletin. Writes Burroway,

"Children of parents who have had a same-sex relationship a group that includes very large numbers of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and other family structures have developmental outcomes which are remarkably similar to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and other family structures overall when compared to intact, non-adoptive heterosexual families. Regnerus designed his study to show this result by constructing samples which mimicked these characteristics. By constructing his LM and GF samples the way he did, the only legitimate comparison he could make would be to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and other family structures. But thats not the comparison he made."
Caliban
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 10, 2012
It is refreshing to see a study which is actually congruent with scientific principles rather than agenda based.


You're seeing nothing of the sort.

Follow the link to the study and check its design, you'll discover that it's composed of data from self-respondents via a web application.

It doesn't provide any information on the provenance or composition of the "control group", but one supposes this data was collected in much the same way.

Right out of the gate, then, we are faced with three very big problems with the data's validity:

What criteria(if any) were used to screen the respondents so as to ensure a statistically representative sample, across age/education/income demographics?

How were respondents recruited? What about the "control group"?

What format was used to collect the data? A questionnaire? Were the questions framed in a way that constrained responses in a predictable way?

Self-reporting alone pretty much consigns this to the junk science realm


Lex Talonis
4 / 5 (4) Jun 10, 2012
A nit picking study of studies.....

Cool! nothing like original research of research.

They of course should only be using real "christian family values" researchers to do the research with, because we need people who talk to imaginary friends to give objective, unbiased and agenda free results.

We need people who glorify idiot tour guides that take 40 years to cross a distance of 3 or 4 days walk along established routes, and the morons who follow him.

We need an imaginary diety to commit incest and produce an imaginary love child, who grew up living with and loving 12 "best friends" in the desert, and who never actually wrote anything, but had lots of losers create stories about him, to base our factual and objective opinions on.... that others of the cult had told us to have.
ormondotvos
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2012
Junk science, confirmation bias, politics. What's not to believe?
Judson_Wallace
5 / 5 (3) Jun 10, 2012
So one study analyzed the same data that hundreds of other scientists have looked at and came to a different conclusion. OK. Not really sure that is convincing.

The Other study is based off data collected from the internet. Its basically a web survey. Not even remotely scientific.

So basically crap science, that people with no scientific training can latch onto and then make statements like "It is refreshing to see a study which is actually congruent with scientific principles rather than agenda based." What an idiot you are 'dogbert'
dogbert
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 10, 2012
Judson,
I see you prefer to believe the so called studies set up to promote an agenda.

This study does not promote an agenda. It simply notes that the conclusions of previous studies cannot be drawn from the data in those studies.

You may, of course, believe the PC agenda. Science is not necessary to such belief.
MandoZink
5 / 5 (4) Jun 10, 2012
It is refreshing to see a study which is actually congruent with scientific principles rather than agenda based.

After doing research on Mark Regnerus, I would have to say this is DEFINITELY agenda based. This guy wouldn't have a clue.

I have known several gay couples who raised children. The children turned out just wonderful. Funny thing though, they also turned out completely straight! They also had LESS issues to confront because they inherently understood the error of the arguments people think they have. It appears the parent's love and dedication to the children actually gives the children a BETTER view of the human spirit. Confusion? Heck no! Those kids get it!

Mark Regnerus's generalized, low-class description of same-sex families are utterly terrible. Most of the same-sex couples I know have great relationships, are highly successful, and many are businesses owners. I wonder if he even knows any gay people - at all! Who is he kidding?
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2012
It's claimed that the identical qualities of earth and moon isotope concentrations prove they were formed when a large body collided with earth, spinning off the moon; then, it's asserted that they are too similar, that the composition of the other body whould be seen, too.
It's revealed that the West aggressively ignored Soviet descriptions of finding water in moon soil samples.
The FDA no longer requires 20 year testing periods for drugs, they just include huge amounts of fine print with the medication about possible side effects.
"Science" is becoming like the accounting scam of withdrawing money from an account and doing whatever you want with it, as long as you return it just in time for accruing interest. "Scientists" say whatever they want, that feeds their agenda, then grab whateve they can while their lies are being accepted, then they just say they were wrong and expect that many if not most will assume they were complete innocents!
alfie_null
5 / 5 (3) Jun 11, 2012
This study does not promote an agenda. It simply notes that the conclusions of previous studies cannot be drawn from the data in those studies.

No. It's an attempt to raise FUD. If he is interested only in sexual orientation, he should have used a population whose other attributes were only such that we understand well, so that the effects of these other attributes are less likely to cause incorrect conclusions.
His invocation of marriage, for instance, signals a warning regarding the veracity of his methods.
Origin
1 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2012
There are studies, which don't favour the excessive feminization of educational system and I'm afraid, that the raising of children in homosexual families will suffer with the similar problem. Such a family cannot provide all aspects of rich balanced family life for children. But because most of homosexual pairs are well situated and motivated about responsible founding of their families, then the children of such pairs may still thrive better, than the children of average heterosexual pairs. Until the founding of homosexual families will not become a rule rather than an exception.
Judson_Wallace
5 / 5 (4) Jun 11, 2012
Dogbert.

First of all, I have no beliefs. What I have is enough scientific and mathematical training to analyze the results for myself.

I doubt seriously you have that.

If you want to discuss beliefs, how about the funding for this study?
As others have uncovered, this study was funded by several political organizations.
Secondly, web surveys are simply not a scientific tool. Please educate yourself.
Judson_Wallace
5 / 5 (2) Jun 11, 2012
There are studies, which don't favour the http://www.themar...-too-far of educational system and I'm afraid, that the raising of children in homosexual families will suffer with the similar problem. Such a family cannot provide all aspects of rich balanced family life for children. But because most of homosexual pairs are well situated and motivated about responsible founding of their families, then the children of such pairs may still thrive better, than the children of average heterosexual pairs. Until the founding of homosexual families will not become a rule rather than an exception.


My cousins are being raised by my gay uncle and his partner. They seem to be doing well above average.
Sanescience
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2012
"The jury is still out on whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children"

Or for that matter, represents an advantage? Can't say that isn't true now either. Sword can cut both ways. Heh.

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