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Controversial gay-parenting study is severely flawed, internal audit finds

The recently published and widely publicized study that seemed to raise doubts about the parenting abilities of gay couples was severely flawed and had many disqualifying problems, according to a new audit by the same journal that published the article. An analysis of the study will be printed in the November issue of the journal, Social Science Research.

The San Francisco Chronicle obtained an advanced copy of the article which points out conflicts of interest among the reviews and states that “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.”

The study, titled “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?,” has been fodder for conservative blogs, anti-marriage equality groups and was the subject of a long front-page article in the Deseret News, which lauded its merits.

Among the problems identified is the definition of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers.” For example, a woman could be identified as a “lesbian mother” in the study if she had had any sort of relationship with another woman, regardless of the length of that relationship and whether or not the two women raised the child together.

The peer review says this problem alone should have “disqualified it immediately” from being considered for publication.

The audit also says the peer-review system failed because of “both ideology and inattention.” Three of six reviewers are on record as being vocal opponents to marriage equality and all of the reviewers were connected to the original author, Mark Regnerus.

Regnerus wrote in his paper that he chose those labels for “the sake of brevity and to avoid entanglement in interminable debates about fixed or fluid orientations.” The audit, however, called the presentation of the data “extremely misleading.”

“Reviewers uniformly downplayed or ignored the fact that the study did not examine children of identifiably gay and lesbian parents, and none of the reviewers noticed that the marketing-research data were inappropriate for a top-tier social-scientific journal,” the audit reads.

The audit concludes that the original study is “a lowbrow meta-analysis of studies” that was “inappropriate for a journal that publishes original quantitative research.”

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