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  • New Research on Children of Same-Sex Parents Suggests Differences Matter

    Two peer-reviewed articles published Sunday in a scholarly journal cast doubt on a core assumption used to advance same-sex marriage.

    A number of studies and articles have suggested that research shows no difference in outcomes between children whose parents have same-sex relationships and their peers raised by heterosexual parents. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated 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.”

    Yesterday the academic journal Social Science Research published a detailed methodological review of the research on which the APA bases its conclusion—a study that questions the validity of the “no difference” assertion. Conducted by a Louisiana State University family scholar, the article concludes:

    [N]ot one of the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 APA Brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children. The available data, which are drawn primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalizable claim either way. Such a statement would not be grounded in science. To make a generalizable claim, representative, large-sample studies are needed—many of them.

    A large representative sample is supplied in a second new study, conducted by a University of Texas–Austin sociologist and published in the same journal. The New Family Structures Study (NFSS), under the direction of Dr. Mark Regnerus, provides the most representative picture to date of young adults whose parents had same-sex relationships. NFSS is a large, random, nationally representative sample.

    In other words, because of how the sample was collected, it is representative of all young adults in this age group in the United States. Knowledge Networks, a respected research firm responsible for collecting the data, screened more than 15,000 young adults (ages 18–39) to identify nearly 3,000 participants, including 175 respondents who reported that their mothers have had a romantic same-sex relationship and 73 respondents who reported that their fathershave. This is the second-largest such sample of children whose parents had same-sex relationships, after the Census. The Census, however, provides a limited set of social welfare outcomes, while NFSS provides data on 40 outcome areas compared across seven family structures.

    As Professor Paul Amato of Penn State University notes in his critique of the study, published in the same issue, “The New Family Structures Study is probably the best that we can hope for, at least in the near future.”

    According to NFSS, just 1.7 percent of young adults ages 18 to 39 reported having a parent who has had a same-sex romantic relationship. The experience of long-term stability in same-sex households is rarer still. Among those who reported having a mother who had a same-sex relationship, 91 percent said they lived with their mothers when they were in the relationship. Fifty-seven percent reported living with their mother and her partner for more than four months, and 23 percent for at least three years. Among young adults whose fathers had a same-sex relationship, 42 percent said they lived with them during the relationship; 24 percent said they lived with their fathers and fathers’ partners for more than four months; and less than 2 percent for at least three years.

    Only two respondents whose mothers had a same-sex relationship reported that this living arrangement lasted all 18 years of their childhood. No respondents with fathers who had a same-sex relationship reported such longevity.

    The NFSS surveyed young adult respondents about their own relationship history and quality, economic and employment status, health outcomes, abuse history, educational attainment, relationship with parents, psychological and emotional well-being, substance use, and sexual behaviors and outcomes.

    Compared to young adults in traditional, intact families, young adults whose mothers had a same-sex relationship tended to fare worse than their peers in intact biological families on 24 of the 40 outcomes examined. For example, they were far more likely to report being sexually victimized, to be on welfare, or to be currently unemployed.

    Young adults whose fathers had a same-sex relationship showed significant differences from their peers in intact families on 19 of the outcomes. For example, they were significantly more likely to have contemplated suicide, to have a sexually transmitted infection, or to have been forced to have sex against their will.

    These differences take into account the respondent’s age, race/ethnicity, gender, mother’s education, perceived family of origin’s income, whether or not the respondent was ever bullied, and the legal status of same-sex relationships in the respondent’s current state of residence. In other words, the study compared respondents who were identical on these characteristics, except for parental relationship status.

    A significant improvement on the limited research to date on child outcomes and same-sex parenting, this new study marks an important development in the research. As findings based on studies using the NFSS and other large, nationally representative data on same-sex parents and their children accumulate, a more generalizable picture will begin to emerge.

    At present, far too little is known about this new household form into which activist courts are pushing America—and much of what has been presented to date gives an inaccurate picture of the reality that children of same-sex parenting have experienced.

    NFSS project director Dr. Mark Regnerus concludes in a piece running on Slate today that “the stable, two-parent biological married model [is] the far more common and accomplished workhorse of the American household, and still—according to the data, at least—the safest place for a kid.”

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    25 Responses to New Research on Children of Same-Sex Parents Suggests Differences Matter

    1. iu70us says:

      It should come as no surprise that children of gay couples have more problems than children of straight parents, when society has ridiculed and discriminated against gays during entire lives of the youths in the study.. Everyone has a basic need to "fit in" with a group. When that group is bigoted against his/her parents, it makes it that much more difficult being a teenager. As societal attitudes change the adverse impact on children of gay couples will hopefully disappear.. Therefore, the gay community should not become defensive when reacting to this study.

      • Bongela says:

        I've seen this assertion before, however it doesn't hold water. If societal acceptance were the key, homosexuals in places like Canada would have normal well-adjusted (adopted) children. However, there is no data to back this up. What's more, children with homosexual parents/guardians are several times more likely to become homosexual themselves, raising the issue of genetic vs. behavioral drivers behind sexual preferences.

        • Pragmatic says:

          I don't think there is any empirical evidence to support your last sentence (at least, I'm not aware of it). If you have the link to the research, I would love to see it.

        • Stefan says:

          And you base both assertions…on absolutely nothing.

      • Don says:

        Your conclusion is silly. Statistically, most homosexuals stay in relationships no longer than 18 months. This study bears that statistic as being correct when adult children are asked how long their homosexual parents stayed in a relationships. The statistic that 39% of homosexuals, who are only 1.7 percent of the population, molest childern seems also statistically correct as written in this article about molestations within homosexual parented families. Good parenting is good parenting. Homosexual clearly cannot provide it. Poor, two heterosexual families provide much better adjusted children. This nonsensical, no-one-likes homosexuals exuse that is why homosexual make lousy parents doesn't hold water compared to heterosexual parent who face worst odds in the world.

      • I fail to see your point. First, elites have been saying that children of gay parents are just as stable – or even better off.

        Now that their studies have been undermined by facts, their defenders say, “Yeah, but, yeah, but it’s all discrimination’s fault.”

        Either way, the kids are still better off with their biological parents. It’s also a statement of fact not opinion, that men can’t breastfeed.

    2. Julie says:

      In families where kids were raised by heterosexual parents, there have already been studies establishing that parents who are dating, have live-in boyfriends/girlfriends or children with step-parents significantly increase a child's risk of abuse or performing poorly on all of these measures.

      Homosexual parents can't marry (in almost all states, and certainly couldn't 18 years ago when these kids were born), and often can't adopt together. Therefore – these kids were born into what would better be compared with a single-parent family or a family where the parents have divorced.

      To create an unbiased study, you can't compare heterosexual couples who produced their own kids together to homosexual couples who may or may not have been together when the child was born/adopted, and parents who can and are legally married for the entire life of the kid to parents who are still dating or in relationships other than an equivalent of a long-term committed relationship/marriage.

    3. Jaden says:

      This is a very poorly written article. These comments provide more insight than the article itself. Embarrassing…

    4. Ralph says:

      Marriage is a common law legal term meaning of a civil union between a "barron and femme". No one can pass any law to change this fact. To do so is like passing a law stating that green can be red. Nothing compares to the complementary union of a man and women raising thier own child and no law or legal status that pretends that something otherwise can somehow be equal, comparable, or equivalent. As this study only indicates that same-sex parents…a bit of a misnomor for what often is not much more that what is a guardian…tend to fair worse than married couples in raising children you can often find some strong-willed survivor children who overcome the odds of what upbringing they had…no matter who or what. So exceptions to any rule are just that, and exception to a rule. Exceptional cases then do not make cases for granting co-parental rights to same sex relationships.

    5. @grlong85 says:

      "Thou shalt not lie." This is a horribly deficient study. Where is the comparison with heterosexual, nonmarried couples? Gays cannot marry in many states, and that contributes to familial instability. Comparing apples with oranges is poor science. Its only purpose was to provide "evidence" to support a predetermined outcome. Gay families face discrimination, backed by regressive and increasingly irrelevant religious institutions, which carries many psychological and economic costs for the children. Replace the word "homosexual" with "black," "Hispanic," or any other ethnic minority, and these "conclusions" mirror those of equally biased studies carried out by the backers of segregation and racial discrimination just half a century ago.

      • Liz says:

        No, the homosexual agenda is not the same as racial discrimination. In fact, homosexuals do not suffer from economic disenfranchisement, as historically was/is the case with racial minorities and even women. Quite the opposite (economically) is true. Homosexuals also do not have to face segregation in the public sphere, including schools and the workplace. This isn't to say that homosexuals have not suffered injustice in the past, but for some to elevate their cause (and equality of it) with that of the black american or native american is simply ridiculous.

        In respect to marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman: Yes, sometimes discrimination is right and necessary when you are talking about an institution as foundational and ancient as marriage. If homosexuals are given marriage rights, then by all means polygamists / bigamists should have their day, too. And as long as we're on the topic of "discrimination", if a consenting father and his consenting adult daughter want to marry, then yes, by all means, this too should be legalized. And if you say that the last example is immoral, let me ask you what basis you have for making this determination, especially since religion is "irrelevant"?

        One last thing. My sister who is white is married to a black man. They cringe every time this comparison to homosexuals by homosexuals is used. Not only is this comparison untrue, but they both believe that homosexuality is wrong, and are irritated when some people exploit mixed-race relationships for such ends.

    6. Jacob AG says:

      This is interesting, thanks for writing about it.

      I'd caution that the causality here is really quite unclear. It could run in many different directions. It could run from family type to outcomes, or from outcomes to family type, or from external factors to both outcomes and family type. Most likely it's a mix of all three, and indeed there are still further possibilities (e.g. outcome to family type to outcome to *other* outcome, and so on).

      I'd also point out that in general, in this study, intact biological families outperformed *all* other types of families. If we were to assume that causality tends to run from family type to outcomes — not that that's a safe assumption — we might want to discourage not only same-sex parenting but also adoption, divorce, single parenthood, and re-marriage.

      Finally, an interesting follow-up study would look at differences between sub-groups within these groups, controlling for different variables. For example, is there any difference between outcomes for children of parents in homosexual relationships in San Francisco vs. Alabama? How about across income levels? Do the differences disappear (or reverse or complicate themselves in some other way) when we look at various sub-group comparisons? What association might there be between perceived tolerance for homosexuality and these 40 outcomes? Do homosexual parents raise children with better outcomes in more tolerant neighborhoods, as compared to homosexual parents in less tolerant neighborhoods? And so on.

      Anyway, as I said, very interesting study. I look forward to future research.

    7. Str8Grandmother says:

      Dr. Regenerus's Respondents were raised in a MIXED ORIENTATION MARRIAGE (MOM), or a MIXED ORIENTATION SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP. A MOM is where one spouse is gay and one spouse is straight. That is who responded to this survey people who had parents in a MOM. Regnerus confirms that he found only a few Respondents who were raised in a straight up lesbian or straight up gay home. Here is part of his e-mail to me which he asked me to post.

      [snip]"By the way, one of the key methodological criticisms circulating is that–basically–in a population-based sample, I haven’t really evaluated how the adult children of stably-intact coupled self-identified lesbians have fared. Right? Right. And I’m telling you that it cannot be feasibly accomplished. It is a methodological (practical) impossibility at present, for reasons I describe: they really didn’t exist in numbers that could be amply obtained *randomly*. It may well be a flaw–limitation, I think–but it is unavoidable. We maxxed Knowledge Networks’ ability, and no firm is positioned to do better. It would have cost untold millions of dollars, and still may not generate the number of cases needed for statistical analyses.[end snip] You can read the full e-mail exchange here- http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/11/45557

      We know that only 1/3 of Mixed Orientation Marriages attempt to stay together after disclosure and of that 1/3, only half manage to stay together for 3 years or more (and it goes really down hill after 7 years).

      FWIW I agree with Dr. Regnerus Mixed Orientation Marriages (or Mixed Orientation Sexual Relationships) that produce children are VERY BAD for the children. And that is what his study proves. It does not attempt and does NOT assess the outcomes of children raised by 2 loving moms or 2 loving dads. It.Does.Not.

      This pic by Rob Tsinai describes this research perfectly. I know he will let you re-post it. http://wakingupnow.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/20

    8. Bobbie says:

      why is the male and female the only ones that can procreate? because a life needs the balance having one of each gives. The roles of each are learned instinctively by the new born life. An infant doesn't reach for her father's breasts to nurse. What better reason for two who naturally procreate to be married as one foundation in the upbringing of their procreation? Gay people only took on the issue with children because of the term marriage they're trying to fit in. Gay people are too selfish to be parents since they are so open and in the face with their sexual preference being the front of it all…

      • Wilson says:

        So… what exactly is the role that men play in the upbringing of a kid and what is the part that women play? Have you not heard of stay-at-home men and women who bring home the bacon?
        There are devices that men can use to breast-fed infants, and I'm sure that an infant that is fed by his/her dad WILL reach for him when he/she is hungry. That's the natural reaction I see when an infant is bottle-fed by his/her dad…
        And are you seriously saying that gay people have kids solely because they want to be married? And that if you are selfish you are not allowed to be married? So what's next? If you are too dumb or too ugly you are selfish if you have kids?

        • Bobbie says:

          a little touchy aren't you Wilson? read it again and stop your irrationalities that fit your lack of common understanding…

          I don't hear anyone else demanding special privilege because of the way they conduct their private life. it's all gay that's in total contrast to marriage…

    9. Don DeHoff says:

      Children of parents of a particular religion, tend to follow that of the parents, and which is also true for most family orientations. Surely with all of the studies, they can come up data as to how many children of gay parents, also turn out to be gay, which in turn brings up he quandary; is the matter genetic or environmental? If it is the latter, some degree guilt has to be assessed. My sense of logic and deductive reason dictates that ratio must be considerable higher than that of a heterosexual marriage. That brings up the issue that children living in such an environment must have a "Pandora's Box" full of conflicts, when they must constantly compare their family lifestyles with that of the "outside" world and their heterosexual instincts. How do gay parents reconcile those differences; are they straight forward (no pun intended), or do they present a biased explanation? Also, how do the children cope with the fact that they are living in an environment that is not generally accepted by a society in which they are forced to live?

    10. Wilson says:

      I think this response to the NFSS survey by William Saletan raises very good questions about exactly what takeaways can be drawn from the survey results. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/

      Basically, it points out that the NFSS is basically a comparison of children in all same-sex marriages (in an era where same-sex relations faced even more discrimination than they do now) vs children in the ideal stable, 2-parents, biological household. What the NFSS needs to do now is to open up access to all the data it got from the surveys (including all the data on broken heterosexual family kids) so that other researchers can look at the full set of data and determine what exactly the research says about same-sex marriages.

    11. Jacob AG says:

      Here's The Economist's take on methodological criticisms of this study: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica

    12. Buddy Whatley says:

      aha, now we see obama's predilection toward homosexual's, they both play the blame game. obama blames bush and europe and republicans and conservatives; homosexuals blame their failure to marry (what's stopping them from living together "til death do us part?" if they really "love" each other?) and the stress of sexism (get over it!).

      we all bear stress for a variety of reasons and we're all discriminated against in some way including color, economics, gender, height, weight, geographics, intelligence, work ethic, etc. some people wallow in it and live in it all their lives; other people get over it and succeed in life and work.

    13. Why the hate? says:

      As a doctor, I can tell you that this study is an abomination of science. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I can tell you that children almost always do poorly when their parents are discriminated against by large, established groups. This whole movement to restrict gay marriage is a travesty and only exacerbates the problem. Aren't we past this kind of immature, uninformed, spiteful behavior yet?

    14. Raven says:

      I don't understand why people are saying you need both parents in your life. I was raised through 2 divorces, my father leaving, and my step father being an alcoholic. If I could choose between a hell life like that where we struggled just to keep the house verus a household with two loving parents in a stable relationship for my child I'd pick the two loving parents. Why wouldn't anyone want that for children? There are so many homosexual couples out there who want to adopt children. Instead, we're keeping these children moving from house to house in the foster care system or out on the streets. You're honestly worrying about gays raising children but you'd rather them never truly find a home? Seems somewhat like selfish views from my perspective.

    15. cha says:

      @bongela
      Just because Canada has liberal laws on LGBTQ rights doesn't mean LGBTQ people won't feel any discrimination. Surely, there will still be homophobics there. They will also constantly have to deal with homophobic people in other places and on the internet. Sometimes I think certain studies slyly present LGBTQ people just as plainly emotionally damaged. LGBTQ people are more likely to commit suicide, their relationships are less likely to last, etc. Most of these studies are just all about presenting statistics. Gay people are beaten by their parents for being gay. Gay people are bullied for being gay. They are hated for being themselves, something they can never change, even if they're not hurting anyone. Generally, in our society, there's still more indifference than acceptance and that's what makes LGBTQ people's lives harder. So naturally, it could be worse for their children. Children raised in an unconventional household feel pressure for being in an unconventional household because our society puts a premium on having/being in a traditional one. Like it's such a bad thing to be raised by an amazing, loving single mother… or two.

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