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  • Why the Liberal Intolerance for New Family Structures Study?

    The author of a new study showing some negative outcomes for young adults whose parents had same-sex relationships is under attack because his findings conflict with what, in some corners, has become conventional wisdom.

    Apparently, the idea that there is “no difference” between children of same-sex parents and their peers raised in traditional married mother-and-father households has become so entrenched among some advocates that new research presenting a contrasting picture is unwelcome—to put it mildly.

    University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus’s New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is a large, nationally representative random sample of 3,000 young adults ages 18–39. It found better outcomes for those raised in intact biological families when compared to peers in seven other family structures.

    Despite the quality of the sample and the wide range of findings, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) called it a “flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound paper that seeks to disparage lesbian and gay parents.” A writer at The American Prospect said it was “appalling and irresponsible.” An assistant editor at The New Republic called Regnerus a “retrograde researcher” and suggested that this study should “mark the beginning of the end of Mark Regnerus’s credibility with respectable news outlets.”

    And these are the folks who urge us to be tolerant of differences and respect scientific research.

    The peer-reviewed study that some are writing off as “dangerous propaganda” has in fact been credited by its critical reviewers for advancing research through its use of a large, nationally representative random sample. In a response that appears in the same issue of the journal Social Science Research, demographer Cynthia Osborne says that “the Regnerus study is more scientifically rigorous than most of the other studies in this area.”

    Similarly, Penn State sociologist Paul Amato writes that the NFSS “is probably the best that we can hope for, at least in the near future.”

    Another Penn State sociologist, David Eggebeen, concludes that Regnerus’s study and Loren Marks’s analysis of prior studies, published in the same journal, “offer reasonable arguments for…more caution when drawing strong conclusions based on the available science.”

    “Caution” is not what we’ve seen to date in judicial activists’ use of social science in decisions that overturn society’s understanding of marriage. For example, in his opinion overruling California voters’ Prop 8 marriage amendment, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker included in his findings of fact this statement:

    Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology.

    In the most recent opinion on Prop 8, which denied review of an earlier decision against Prop 8 and set up the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, dissenting Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain recalled that when President Obama announced in May his support for same-sex marriage, he also urged that “a conversation continue in a respectful way.”

    The Ninth Circuit’s decision effectively curtailed such civil discourse, according to O’Scannlain:

    Today our court has silenced any such respectful conversation.… [W]e have now declared that animus must have been the only conceivable motivation for a sovereign State to have remained committed to a definition of marriage that has existed for millennia.

    Civil society depends on reasoned debate in the court of law and the court of public opinion. When activists in either arena deem some reasoning or research illegitimate—accusing it of animus—without engaging its merits, civil discourse screeches to a halt.

    Regnerus’s and Marks’s research has significantly advanced analysis of children’s outcomes in new family structures. Marks’s review of prior studies found data “drawn primarily from small conveniences samples” that cannot support generalized claims for the population at large. Meanwhile, as the Osborne and Amato statements above convey, the NFSS sets a new standard for quality of research comparing emerging family forms.

    Such rigor should be welcomed—not rejected—and the new information should enhance—not preempt—debate about the important policy questions related to the institution of marriage.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    32 Responses to Why the Liberal Intolerance for New Family Structures Study?

    1. JeffreyRO5 says:

      I can't imagine (or maybe I can) why this author has been so defensive of what is widely being identified as an enormously flawed study with impossible conclusions. Regnerus didn't study children raised by same-sex couples; he studied children whose parents had, at one time in their lives, a same-sex relationship. He is overwhelmingly studying children conceived in a different-sex marriage, fractured by a out-of-marriage same-sex relationship. Far more likely, it is the fractured marriage that leads to worse outcomes for kids, not the experience of a parent who had a same-sex relationship. This is propaganda, not research.

    2. Str8Grandmother says:

      Here let me help you out with your confusion as to why the gays are all upset. –
      Everyone NEEDS to understand that Dr. Regenerus did NOT study families with mommy+ mommy or daddy+daddy. In fact he only found out of his whole sampling, TWO straight up lesbian women who raised children and in an e-mail to me he says these children turned out GREAT! And he found no daddy+daddy.

      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 2 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.

      Gays are not fighting for the right to a Mixed Orientation Marriage, they can already have that if they find somebody. They are fighting for the right to a mommy+mommy and daddy+daddy marriage and family. And they do NOT want to be smeared by this mommy+daddy research. Is that so hard to understand?

      THIS GRAPHIC, IN ONE GRAPHIC, DESCRIBES THE RESEARCH PERFECTLY. CLICK ON THE LINK AND VIEW. graphic by Rob Tisinai who WANTS this graphic widely posted everywhere. http://wakingupnow.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/20

    3. Fritz says:

      Jennifer, the problem people have with the study is the false equivalence that you yourself fail to recognize : you disingenuously equate "children of same-sex parents" in the second paragraph with "young adults whose parents had same-sex relationships" in the first. It is, in fact, those people who respect scientific research who are loudly pointing out this flawed misrepresentation. Calling this study better than those that have preceded it is faint praise indeed; you'll note that you couldn't find a quotation from a scientist that actively supports the methodology of the study.

    4. A. McSweeney says:

      "And these are the folks who urge us to be tolerant of differences and respect scientific research."

      Shouldn't you tell us what their criticism of the research is? It is very specific criticism of the methodology and has merit. The majority of children who fell under the category of "children of gay families" were children who came from a previously heterosexual marriage, essentially children of divorce or separation, children from a broken home. The results for them are right in line for children of heterosexual single or remarried parents.

    5. @DaMav says:

      Thank you for this excellent article. Too many Americans have simply given up on the concept that homosexuality is at best a problem, not a condition to be glorified and officially endorsed by the government.

      That doesn't mean homosexuals should be punished or treated badly, but it also doesn't mean teaching children (or adults) to ignore all the evidence of depression, suicide, diseases and the like that accompany it. Or to suppress research contradicting politically correct orthodoxy.

      Stop socially experimenting on children. No adoption by same sex couples!

    6. Martha says:

      Of course liberals object to the findings of the study. It proves they are blooming idiots.

    7. William Schaffer says:

      Any scientist worth his/her salt will categorically state that crappy research does get into the literature. As for those sociologists who praised the study, did you use your rolodex of conservative-leaning sociologists or did you actually ask someone who works with statistics and experimental design. Regnerus' study has been eviscerated for its poor design in grouping together disparate groups where one parent at some point in time had a same-sex relationship, may have been divorced multiple times, shunted around between unstable family situations, lived with a single parent and never even lived with the homosexual parent. All this group was compared with children who spent their whole childhood with their biological parents.
      Regnerus even admitted that there too few cases of children spending a large portion of their childhood in stable homes where there was a stable same-sex relationship to make any statistical comparisons, so he had to group together the the children with the few stable situations with many more that came from unstable family situations.
      What Regnerus essentially did was compare red delicious apples with an agglomeration of kumquats, pumelos, durians, strawberries, cherries and a few golden delicious apples. Would you expect the tastes of the groups to be different?
      For a cogent discussion by a talented amateur, see http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2012/06/r….

    8. HDM, MD says:

      I read the study by Dr Regnerus after reading your article. I would anticipate the differences he found because he compared several family structures of gay and lesbians vs an intact heterosexual family. To address this issue that roils the left/right, one would need to study apples to apples. To eliminate as many variables as possible, one might compare intact hetero couples adopting a child at birth vs intact same-sex couples adopting at birth and both raising the child until the age of eighteen. Obviously divorce during the child rearing years would be eliminated from the data. Another study might look at intact hetero vs intact same-sex couples who used in-vitro fertilization with both groups raising the child until age eighteen. That study may be influenced by the child knowing he has an additional parent. I would like to see enough of these type of studies done to see what is the trend. I doubt anyone's opinion in the left/right will change but those of us in the middle are fascinated at the outcome

    9. Str8Grandmother says:

      Here let me help you out with your confusion as to why the gays are all upset. – Because the study respondents were raised in mommy+daddy homes. And either mommy and/or daddy had a gay fling.

      The research did NOT study mommy+mommy or daddy+daddy families. Dr. Refnerus admits he only found 2 respondents who were raised for 18 years by straight up lesbains, and actually those 2 turned out very well.

      The reserach respondents were raised in homes where their parents had a MIXED ORIENTATION MARRIAGE or a MIXED ORIENTATION SEXUAL UNION. One spouse straight and one spouse gay.

      We knwo that only 30% of Mixed Orientation Couples attempt to stay together after disclosure and of that 30% who even try only 50% manage to stay together for 3 years and it goes downhill after 7 years. The research repondents were raised in these very unstable mommy+daddy homes and divorce and infidelity makes life very hard for these children in these mommy+daddy homes.

      The gays are saying, "Hey we are NOT mommy+daddy; we are mommy+mommy or daddy + daddy you didn't study US. All those bad results are from Mommy+daddy homes. Quit smearing us for the bad behaviors of people who enter into a mommy+daddy and then have an extra marital gay relationship.

      Now do you see why the gays are all upset?

      • Rick says:

        What I take from this discussion is this: The study was done on a much larger sample than many other previous studies on this topic and in that aspect was more scientifically sound. On the other hand, it was not optimal because it concluded that the stable, traditional biological childrearing home was superior in terms of out comes to all others, though it did not compare that situation to stable gay lesbian child rearing homes. According to the study's author, this was not due to prejudice, but simply the lack of availability of statistically significant numbers of such homes to include.

        It is premature for anyone to conclude that this study proves that stable biological hetero homes are better than stable gay homes for raising children based on this study alone, or vice versa for that matter.

        But here are questions I have:

        Where in the "quest for justice" is the discussion of the rights of children?

        Do children have a "right" to have at least a chance to have a loving present mom that is female and a loving present dad that is male?

        Who among us, LGBTQ or straight would not want or have wanted to have that if it were possible?

        For which or your parents was gender irrelevant to your development? Is their nothing special about parental femaleness in the development of both male and female children? Nothing special about parental maleness?

        When the complex issue of raising of children is considered only from the perspective of the rights of the parents, the above questions will not be seriously addressed. They will be, and have been dismissed as "homophobic."

        The Regnerus study within its own stated limitations DOES NOT prove the superiority of stable biological hetero over stable G/L homes for raising children, but it does demonstrate, with at least enough scientific reliability to get published in a reputable journal, that a stable biological hetero home is superior to EVERY OTHER SITUATION STUDIED, and in that sense it is consistent with the bulk of research on the topic. Gay and lesbian persons, if they truly care about justice for all, not only themselves, should at least honestly address these issues.

    10. Ken Lovell says:

      Perhaps the intolerance is mainly directed at people like Maggie Gallagher and other conservative writers, who are touting the study as 'scientific proof' of the evils of gay marriage. Regnerus explicitly states in his response to critiques of his paper that the study has no implications at all for children raised by married gay couples, for the simple reason that gay marriage was not lawful when the subjects of the study were children. In other words one reason some people support gay marriage is that it will help to CORRECT the problems of instability associated with same sex relationships in past generations, and identified in Regnerus's study.

      Rigorous research is indeed to be welcomed. Unfortunately, it is usually contained in academic journals that deter most people because of their length, technical language and complexity (and in most cases require an expensive subscription even to get access). It is therefore completely reprehensible for people like Gallagher to persistently misrepresent research findings, even when the errors of interpretation have been pointed out.

    11. Bartleby says:

      No, the study has been attacked because — as you well know — its methodology was not just flawed but deceptive.

    12. Nick Flynn says:

      This is a remarkably disingenuous piece of writing. Rather than engage with any of the substance of the criticisms of the study, the piece instead reads like the response of a unprepared high school debater. "Those who preach tolerance are themselves intolerant of the intolerant. Q.E.D."

      That you resort to that level of comment in the middle of a piece which accuses others of refusing to engage in a civil debate on the issues would make this quite a clever piece of a satire. Lacking any evidence that this was in fact intended as a humor piece, I am forced to conclude that you have instead accidentally produced a tiny masterpiece of self refutation.

      Perhaps this will pioneer a new direction for Heritage? High quality sophisticated humor writing is rare on the Internet, but perhaps all that has been lacking is institutional support.

    13. jewelbomb says:

      The problem with the study is that the data does not support the conclusion that the author draws. The reason for the so-called "liberal intolerance' is that the study is laughably flawed.

      Apparently since peer-reviewed since is now unimpeachable (at least according to the author) we can put to rest the debate on global warming.

    14. jewelbomb says:

      The problem with the study is that the data does not support the conclusion that the author draws. The reason for the so-called "liberal intolerance' is that the study is laughably flawed.

    15. joe from Lowell says:

      Is there some reason why Ms. Marshall refused to explain the objections raised by the critics?

      Of course there is: their objections are perfectly reasonable, and undermine her attempt to dismiss them as examples of intolerance.

      The study itself is fine. As anyone who clicks on the critics' links can see, they aren't objecting to the study. Rather, they are objecting to the spin that the author puts on the study, in which he misrepresents his evidence. Specifically, he describes children who come from opposite-sex households that broke up, and had a parent later involved in a same-sex relationship, as "children from same-sex households."

      Of course children whose parents' relationship breaks up are going to fare worse than those whose parents stay together. This is true of children who see one of their parents later enter into an opposite-sex relationship as well.

      But heaven forbid Ms. Marshall's readers find out what the dispute is about. Why, they might conclude that the big, bad liberal bogeymen whose argument she buries actually have a point, and that would make it a lot harder to insult them.

    16. JR in W Va says:

      But the actual study didn't address stable gay couples' parenting outcome versus stable straight couple parenting outcomes. It addressed a difference in parenting outcomes between straight stable parents and parents which were straight when their kids were born and in which one parent later came out as gay.

      A straight couple relationship where one partner comes out as gay might be quite stable, but I would expect that more would become markedly less stable, depending upon the reaction of the partner who remains straight.

      The researcher is misrepresenting his own study, and claiming he found something he didn't even address, which should cause his respect among social scientists to be called into question. Lying about the meaning of your research results is about the same as falsifying your data – isn't it?

    17. Eli Rabett says:

      Mark Regnerus’ study compares outcomes of stable heterosexual couples compared with outcomes where one of the partners took up with someone of the same sex. If a sexual relationship blows up a marriage, that the kids suffer, is not exactly news or unexpected. The novelty of the study is that the bomb was an adulterous same sex relationship rather than the usual opposite sex partner at the office. Offhand, any bunny would agree, that after a marriage breaks up, why yes, the kids tend to suffer no matter what the reason, and there is lots and lots of evidence for the truth of that assertion.

      Regnerus is comparing fidelity with adultery. He would have gotten the same result if he had compared stable couples with those where one of the partners had an affair with someone of the opposite sex that lead to significant marital strife.

      He then proceeds to draw the conclusion that same sex couple who stay together with kids will negatively affect the outcomes for the kids, something that HE DID NOT STUDY, and for which, what evidence is available says is simply not so.

      You are right liberals are intolerant of joke science, and this study is a really bad joke. It is, however, quite typical of the kinds of studies you see from people who deny the efficiency of vaccines, that HIV is caused by the AIDs virus, that climate change is a threat, that tobacco smoking kills a lot of people and more.

    18. Carl Fichtner says:

      What do you expect from liberals. they are liars..Its pathological. They are not even ashamed of it. Their philosophy is: My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts.

    19. Scott_Rose says:

      In Re: Mark Regnerus’s anti-gay parenting study:
      In this letter to his university president, I accuse Regnerus of SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT
      Please read and re-post http://tinyurl.com/7hmyxye

    20. Scott_Rose says:

      NOM-Regnerus ‘Gay Parenting’ Study: A One-Percenter Dirty Campaign Trick http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/nom-regnerus

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    23. MC62 says:

      Given the pseudoscience gay activists have used to "prove" the non-existent gay gene, it is not surprising the hysterical response they have marshaled against Regnerus's study. Their transvalued worldview carries through to all their so-called studies that are filled with sample bias and predetermined outcomes. When moral relativism is your creed deconstructed history, deconstructed science, deconstructed culture, and deconstructed morality are unavoidable. Hence the credibility gap for gay rights crusaders.

    24. MCH says:

      While the study may indeed be flawed, that does not change the fact that there have been NO reliable studies of this question in the past, yet the "no difference" hypothesis is still accepted as fact among many academics.
      Until academics are willing to admit that their own beliefs on this matter can not yet be scientifically proven, claiming that the criticisms are due simply to the poor design of this study is hypocritical and self-serving.

    25. Stefan says:

      I love how all the civil posts which explain how flawed this study is have gotten so many mark downs. It's nice to see the types of people The Heritage Foundation caters to.

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