Queer-rights groups as well as social scientists are denouncing a recently released study that claims children who grow up with two parents of the same sex may face more challenges later in life than those who grow up with heterosexual parents. The study was conducted by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus; and many journalists, social scientists and queer-rights organizations are attacking the study as misleading and misrepresenting.
“[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,” Regnerus wrote.
Using a data set of nearly 3,000 randomly selected American young adults, Regnerus surveyed more than 40 measures of social, emotional and relationship outcomes and found significant differences in more than 20 categories including lower income levels, poorer mental and physical health, and more troubled romantic relationships. On the surface, this study looks as though gay parents simply are poorer parents.
However, the study looked almost exclusively at children who reported having lived with a parent who had a same-sex partner at one time. But adopted children of gay parents were not considered, only children of parents who were divorced and went on to pursue a same-sex relationship.
Regnerus’ study says that the children “seldom reported living with their father for very long, and never with his partner for more than three years.” Also, “less than 2 percent reported living with their mother and her partner for all 18 years of their childhood.” The people studied aren’t the actual products of same-sex parent households. They’re the products of other family structures that include divorce and unwed heterosexual parents.
The study gets even more dubious with more investigation. Regnerus’ study says one in six children of gay parents “reported both a mother and a father having a same-sex relationship.” Were the parents bisexual swingers? Closet cases who used one another as beards? Does the study really attack loving and committed gay parents who decide to bring a child into the family, or does it attack an era of poorly planned and dangerous fake straight marriages?
The paper completely ignores the very factors it claims to study. It inappropriately compares children who are raised by heterosexual parents with children who have had much more difficult and troubled pasts — children who live with divorced parents, children who have been through the foster care system and other blended family situations.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin attacked the study.
“Because of the serious flaws, this so-called study doesn’t match 30 years of scientific research that shows overwhelmingly that children raised by parents who are LGBT do equally as well as their counterparts raised by heterosexual parents,” he said.
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation president Herndon Graddick called the study “junk science.”
“A growing majority of Americans today already realize the harms this kind of junk science inflicts on loving families. If the media decides that this paper is worth covering, journalists have a responsibility to inform their audiences about the serious and glaring flaws in its methodology, and about the biased views of its author and funders,” Graddick said.
The Mormon church owned-Deseret News touted the survey as prolific and undisputable science in a both a front-page article and an editorial. While other papers around the country had to wait to read the study, the News was granted an advance copy by Regnerus, who has a long history of participating in conservative causes.
“It now appears that the research supporting that conclusion (that gay parents are competent) was merely accepted instead of debated. Although there have been dozens of papers produced by academics on the issue, until today, the vast majority of those studies have been based on small, unrepresentative non-random samples,” the News’ editorial reads.
Other conservative anti-gay groups are touting the study as conclusive and indicating the possibility that the courts will consider this study when deciding cases such as the Proposition 8 challenge.