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US study examines apparent negative outcomes for grown children of a gay parent

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  1. well as LGBT parents on the whole can’t marry comparing with couples who can seems problematic to me. The lack of legal recognition of relationship is an important factor, secondly stigma faced by parents giving them different economic and social conditions are factors… but hats of to author pointing out this doen’t prove a cause of the effects shown

    1. The report actually only compares all people from broken homes, a few of whose parents at some stage had a gay experience or affair, with people from stable heterosexual married homes. It’s more likely they were affected by such things as divorce etc.

  2. Reed Boyer 11 Jun 2012, 6:39pm

    Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin did an excellent take-apart the problems of this study’s methodology yesterday.

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/10/45512

    And I’ll quote the following, because the source of all of this is suspect. Regarding the money used to finance this report:
    “The lion’s share came from the Witherspoon Institute, a think tank in Princeton, New Jersey (and not affiliated with Princeton University). Members of the Institute include Robert P. George, who drafted the Manhattan Declaration and whose recent paper in The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy on same-sex marriage was critiqued at length by BTB’s Rob Tisinai. The Withersoon Institute reportedly has close associations with such organizations as the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the secretive Catholic order Opus Dei. George also sits on the board of directors for the Bradley Foundation, which also provided funds for this study. “

    1. Which is all very well. But the results of the research point to instability as the real cause for the problems these children experienced, which could be interpreted as an argument *for* same sex marriage.

      It’s good to examine research carefully and check for potential conflicts of interest, but in this case the scientist in question seems to have a good job of remaining impartial, acknowledging the fears of the gay community and putting forward plenty of alternative explanations for the findings.

      We don’t get to discount the results just because we don’t like them.

  3. Sam Maloney 11 Jun 2012, 6:41pm

    Apples and oranges! All he proved is that families that break up are harder for children than families that manage to stay intact– that’s not exactly news.

    He basically gave the gay bashers a stick, then asked them not to hit us with it *too hard*.

    1. Absolutely.

  4. Robert in S. Kensington 11 Jun 2012, 6:54pm

    Regnerus is a bloody christian conservative activist. This study is going to provide even more ammunition for the right wing ‘christian’ bigots on both sides of the pond. This is the sort of thing Christian Institute in the UK thrives on. The University of Texas has a long history of consorting with right wing organisations. I expect there to be a lot of blow-back on this one now that the New York Times has published it.

    1. Mumbo Jumbo 11 Jun 2012, 7:32pm

      Indeed. Amongst other churchy stuff, he is an advocate of abstinence:

      http://goo.gl/Dppsm

    2. I don’t know if it’s true, or relevant to his methodology, but it may be to some of his flawed conclusions – there were posts on Box turtle indicating that he was until last year an Evangelical, but recently converted to Catholicism.

    3. now i don’t know very much about this regnerus chap at all. i trust your keen knowledge robert, in this and many things you write in these comments. i’ve just googled and read “gay parents and the marriage debate” (a new york times blog by ross douthat) and feel it sets a decent clarification of regnerus’s study and more and i think it’s essential to read.

  5. Studying large numbers, all with varying situations and then concluding with broad statements? Surely, studying people in the same situation and comparing them would provided better reading.

    I also question how many of these parents are “gay” rather than a heterosexual having a gay relationship at some point. Or perhaps even bisexual. I don’t remember seeing if all the “gay families” were headed by a biological parent who now identified as gay or lesbian?

    1. The analyses on Turtle indicate that he padded the “fathers with a gay experience” sample (as it wasn’t large enough) with respondents from broken families, which means you can’t draw any conclusions relating to the sexuality of the parent.

  6. Mark Regenerus is a Christian with an anti-gay agenda, I don’t think this study will stand up for long once it is critiqued.
    NOM was quick to give this a lot of attention, it’s an attention getting bit of anti-gay propaganda and will be exposed as such very quickly, don’t worry. it’s sham science.

    1. The anti gay foundations behind it paid about £500,000 for it. They will spin and publicise it everywhere for all they are worth. But all it shows nothing about having a gay parent. It does tend to show that children from stable families do better than those from broken up families, but even then, by “better” they seem to largely be saying: they smoke and drink less, and watch less television.

      But if the outcomes are better in stable families, it provides argument for society to beef up the protections for gay parents and their kids by making sure the parents have the choice to marry.

    2. It doesn’t matter how much serious scientists will pick it apart. Anti-gay groups don’t care about that. This study will be quoted for years, cited in front of courts and by politicians to justify anti-gay laws

  7. I wish my parents were gay. They wouldn’t have asked me to go for therapy when I told them about my sexuality.

  8. Mumbo Jumbo 11 Jun 2012, 7:23pm

    As Oscar Wilde might have put it “there are good parents and there are bad parents and that is all”.

    1. His own children seemed to do okay for themselves too…

  9. Steven #
    The Regnerus study was not a study of same-sex parents. It’s data set was parents who at some point had a same-sex relationship. That data set included a significant percentage of broken families, including many children who had been through the foster system. Not surprisingly, the study found higher levels of poverty in the set. Comparing broken families to intact families and then attributing negative outcomes in the former to homosexuality is sham science. And Scienceblog has done its readers a disservice by failing to read the study before posting on it.

  10. With just a little digging on the internet I discovered the Prof Mark Regenus lists his first degree as being from Trinity Christian College. The vast majority of his publications consider links between sex and religion.

    Is he an unbiased author, doubt it!

    1. If they wanted credibility they should have opted for a non-zealot researcher, or even an atheist, as the Vatican sometimes does.

    2. Miguel Sanchez 12 Jun 2012, 3:35pm

      Stu,
      Leave it to a “So Called Christian” to have been behind this. What they didn’t say is that people from straight couples are unemployed because of the economy NOT because they come from gay parents. Also there are more hetero families on assistance today for the same reason, a BAD economy, Not because they’re living in a home with gay parents.

  11. Some of the funding for this study comes from the Witherspoon Institute, who state on their website that they “promote the application of fundamental principles of republican government and ordered liberty” and “supports scholarly research and teaching that enhance understanding of the crucial function that marriage and family serve in fostering a society capable of democratic self-governance”

    Now that sounds like a biased funding source to me!

    Other funding is from the Bradley Foundation which states it funds programmes which will ” seek to reinvigorate and reempower the traditional, local institutions — families, schools, churches, and neighborhoods”

    Again there appear to be grounds to be concerned about bias at the outset of this study and a lack of open mindedness.

    The study identifies parents who have experienced same sex encounters. Identifying a parent who has had a same-sex relationship is not the same as identifying a parent who is gay, lesbian or bisexual in a

    1. functional relationship.The study provides no explanation as to which criteria are used to judge whether those relationships are “gay or lesbian in content. It appears the question used was very simple: “Did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?” Did a short affair count? What about a relationship that only lasted two weeks? Four months? Social conservatives who reduce gay and lesbian relationships to behaviors only would say yes to all of those, many eagerly so. Actual gay and lesbian couples in committed, long-term relationships naturally scoff at that, and rightfully so.

      Marriage equality opponents will trumpet this study as proof that children raised by loving, committed, married same-sex couples will have more problems than those who are raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual household. But the samples that Regnerus put together to compare to the ideal heterosexual household cannot make such a claim because it says

    2. almost nothing about committed same-sex couples who, together, decide to become parents via adoption, in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy.

      this study couldn’t have been designed more badly if information on children in stable, long-term, committed gay and lesbian families was actually the goal. It seems to be crafted to highlight the worst conditions — broken homes, perhaps where one or both parents have an affair, or where one comes out late in life,etc. All that money and another train wreck of a study. I really don’t understand.

      We should try not to make assumptions from funding — it’s too easy and often wrong — but sometimes you have to at least wonder. There is no problem with facts, even if they are not what we would like — the truth is the truth. But does Regnerus realizes the damage caused by bad research such as this?

      1. It is alleged on Box Turtle that these organisations give funding to groups considered to be hate groups in America, such as AFA, NOM etc. is this true?

        1. Robert P George is a senior fellow of the Wetherspoon Institute. Accoding to their own website:
          “Professor George serves on the boards of directors of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Institute for American Values, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the Family Research Council, and the Center for Individual Rights.”

          So one the senior fellows of the Wetherspoon Institute is on the board of the other funders and is on the board of directors of a designated hate group which is deemed to be homophobic.

          Now this “research” is sounding less and less credible!

    1. Mumbo Jumbo 11 Jun 2012, 10:47pm

      And Time Magazine are unimpressed also:

      http://goo.gl/q3ukz

      ………Another damning critique: the [study] compares kids of “any parent who ever ‘had a relationship’ with someone of the same sex to those who lived with both married biological parents from birth to age 18,” says Philip N. Cohen, professor of sociology at University of Maryland, College Park. “It is not about people who were ‘raised by’ lesbians or gay men.” (Only two respondents in the entire survey fit that description.) In other words, the study does not fairly compare apples to apples……..

  12. From one analysis on box turtle:
    When you look at the data, the study’s real findings become obvious. 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 that’s not the comparison he made. He focused the study on making the wrong comparison, and then concluded that children of gay and lesbian parents have more negative outcomes…

    1. than children of straight parents in intact households.
      But his conclusion is as illegitimate as his comparison, and his comparison is as illegitimate as his samples. Instead of making an apples to apples comparison, he compared apples to elephants and concluded that there was a difference. To which anyone with a minimal understanding of design of experiments would answer, Duh!
      But when you make the right comparison — compare children of divorced gay parents to children of divorced straight parents, compare children of single gay parents to children of single straight parents, compare children of long-term committed gay parents to children of long-term straight parents — there is nothing in this study to suggest that children of gay parents are at any disadvantage whatsoever to children of straight parents. And when you make the right comparison, the study goes much further toward confirming that conclusion than the one Regnerus arrives at.

  13. Another expert commented:
    To increase the sample size of children who experienced a same-sex parent, Regnerus included respondents in either the LM or GF comparison groups if they reported that their parent ever had a same-sex relationship. Although this decision has a lot of merit, it makes comparisons across groups somewhat of a challenge. Because the LM group is comprised of young adults who experienced multiple family forms and transitions, it is impossible to isolate the effects of living with a lesbian mother from experiencing divorce, remarriage, or living with a single parent.
    Importantly, one cannot clearly link having a lesbian mother (or gay father) with any of these outcomes. As stated earlier, the group is comprised of young adults who experienced multiple family structures, not only a same-sex parent household (indeed, some of the respondents never lived with the mother’s same-sex partner)…

    1. It is quite possible, for example, that many or most of the negative outcomes result from the divorce of the young adult’s biological parents that preceded the mother’s same-sex relationship. …
      …The concern for Regnerus is not Type II errors (saying something is NOT significant when it is), but the possible attribution of differences to living in a same-sex household rather than to experiencing multiple family structures in childhood, one of which happened to be a same-sex parenting relationship.

    2. LM = Lesbian mother; GF= Gay father (though on the criteria they are not necessarily gay or lesbian, but had a same sex experience of some sort which is not defined in the report).

  14. The methodolgy seem a little suspect. There are other variables such as adoption and an assault from the right on the same-sex parents.

  15. Perhaps the problems which children of gay parents have encountered are mainly down to a largely homophobic society discriminating against them for having gay parents.

    1. There doesn’t seem to be any significant number in the study that were raised in a gay household. Most are from a broken heterosexual relationship.

  16. Paddyswurds 11 Jun 2012, 9:40pm

    I knew when I was half way through the story that it was a fraud, another desperate attempt by the xtian lobby to get their way.
    Anything with the words family and research in the same sentence is automatically suspect in my book so I’m not surprised to hear this Mark Regenus creep is an xtian crazie……

    1. Nonetheless it is a very expensive (£500,000) smoke bomb with superficial respectability that will get lobbed at the Supreme Court in America and legislatures around the world with false claims made against gay parents, that it doesn’t remotely support. I’m sure they will omit the admissions of this by the author.

  17. A link to some analysis and useful dissemination of the flaws in this US Study . . .

    http://michael-in-norfolk.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/right-wing-think-tank-funds-ant-gay.html

  18. New Aussie 11 Jun 2012, 9:56pm

    Note that up to now there has been substantial research on the middle term outcomes for kids brought up by gay couples. One artefact of these has been a marked regional variation in rates of bullying with kids in northern Europe experiencing little or no bullying but kids with gay parents in the south and Midwest of the USA experiencing frequent and severe bullying. Given that it is this latter population that has been sampled for this study, I would hazard that the bullying rather than the sexuality of the patents is the issue here

    1. Possibly if they had actually bothered to study kids raised in gay families, in this study. But they didn’t.

  19. Solution = same sex marriage

  20. The way this is reported gives the impression that they looked looked at children who’s parent, singular, had gay relationship as opposed to children who are raised by gay parents, plural!

    No were do they refer to parents.

  21. Kathryn Howie 11 Jun 2012, 10:44pm

    Jeez, they have created an own goal here.

    Given the obvious right religious bias of the donors and commisionees of this “study” it is to be expected they came to the conclusions they did – “religious gay hating group funds study that portrays gays in bad light – duh!”.

    But what they have done, actually shows it is that lack of stable gay relationships that gives worse outcomes – and what is needed is gay marriage and stable supported gay famalies.

    This flawed “study” underlines the need for marriage equality.

  22. Wonder if researchers have also looked at the outcomes of kids from various race and religious family backgrounds?

    1. Cardinal Capone 11 Jun 2012, 11:13pm

      Yes fair’s fair, it’s a bit like the KKK commissioning a report from a White Supremacist statistician and claiming that outcomes for black kids are worse than for white kids, therefore blacks shouldn’t be allowed to marry and have kids.

      It would be really interesting to know if children raised in the homes of the excessively religious emerge as balanced, whole individuals; also if, say, there is a higher or lower rate of child abuse between Catholic and Protestant adherents. I think we should be told!

  23. At least one of the directors of the major funders of the research is also the director of a designated hate group – the Family Research Council

  24. Even if the study was reliable (it isn’t) and had well thought out and respected methodology – which it doesn’t; then it would probably be viewed by most reputable social scientists as a skew study amidst masses of other studies which demonstrate LGBT parents are at least as good, safe and beneficial to children as heterosexual counterparts.

    Even if the study was reliable, it ignores the decreased stability of same sex households that stems directly from the strenuous efforts to deny gays and lesbian legal protections taken for granted in the straight world. Nor does it look at the consequences faced by children who constantly hear their parents maligned and described as perverts, would be child molesters or worse.

    The study is funded by hate groups with dodgy methodology and poor analysis – that in my opinion was bought to order by hate groups.

    Its as reliable as anything Dr Paul Cameron said – and he was removed from most reputable prof bodies due to his falsehoods and deceptions

  25. This is like having the KKK finance a study on African Americans that – surprise, surprise – finds blacks are inferior. One can only hope that this study is quickly ripped apart and totally discredited.

    1. Hacker of the Yard 11 Jun 2012, 11:16pm

      Someone already said that.

  26. Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. I’m a sociologist and his methodology is wonky. I’ll wait for some more data before drawing a conclusion.

  27. It appears the study was not designed to compare the outcomes for children raised by a continuously married heterosexual couple with a LGBT couple that remains together for a comparable period.

  28. The writer of the article makes a good point, it isn’t that the gay parents are bad parents it is just because of the social beliefs around homosexuality in the time. Do the same study in twenty years and results would have improved, and the same in twenty years after that.

    Homophobes constantly complain that LGBT individuals should not have children because they are damaging them- when in fact it is the homophobes who are damaging them by creating an unsafe world for them to live in.

  29. GingerlyColors 12 Jun 2012, 7:15am

    Children born into unhappy marriages do tend to have more problems than those born to happy couples.
    Therefore a child born to a gay parent who is married to someone of the opposite sex in order to ‘conform’ is not going to be the result of a happy marriage.

  30. Study purportedly examining same sex parenting draws fire.

    http://www.livescience.com/20882-sex-parenting-study-controversy.html

  31. Gary Gates, a researcher at the Williams Institute, at the University of California, Los Angeles said of the study published by Regenerus “All he found is that family instability is bad for children and that’s hardly groundbreaking or new … [it appears] he intentionally chose a methodology that is absolutely primed to find bad outcomes in those kids.”

    Pennsylvania State University sociologist Paul Amato said “If growing up with gay or lesbian parents were catastrophic for children, even studies based on small convenience samples would have shown this by now”

    Gay parents “tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents,” said Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts.

    New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz found no differences between children raised in homes with two heterosexual parents and children raised with lesbian

    1. parents. “There’s no doubt whatsoever from the research that children with two lesbian parents are growing up to be just as well-adjusted and successful” as children with a male and a female parent,” Stacey said.

      Children of gay parents also reported feeling less stymied by gender stereotypes than they would have been if raised in straight households. That’s likely because gays and lesbians tend to have more egalitarian relationships than straight couples, according to Prof Goldberg of Clark University writing in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

      If same-sex marriage does disadvantage kids in any way, it has nothing to do with their parent’s gender and everything to do with society’s reaction toward the families, said Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell.

  32. Jock S. Trap 12 Jun 2012, 10:11am

    What absolute tripe.

    Will these people stop at nothing.

    My son certainly grow up into a wonderful level headed human being and now is at Uni to become a human rights lawyer. I suspect that’s considered a negative to the religious extremist though what with him having his own mind and using it to better humanity.

  33. Str8Grandmother 12 Jun 2012, 11:29am

    I questioned Dr. Regnerus about why he did not separate out the Respondents who were raised in a straight up lesbian home or a straight up gay home and his answer is that he could not find any, of the few he did find, he just threw them in the pot with the Respondents who were raised in a MIXED ORIENTATION MARRIAGE (MOM), or a 9MIXED ORIENTATION SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP). A MOM is where one spouse is gay and one spouse is straight. Principally a marriage of gays who are in the closet and/or in denial of their homosexuality, so they marry straight. That is who responded to this survey, people who had parents in a MOM. And Dr. Regnerus confirms that he found only a few Respondents who were raised in a straight up lesbian or straight up gay home. U can read my full e-mail exchange with Dr. Regnerus here
    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/11/45557

    Best summary is a cartoon by Rob Tisinai
    http://wakingupnow.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/quit-damning5.png

  34. Well, what did you expect from Texas, the homophobe capitol of the world?! These supposedly ‘reputable’ reports are funded by all the anti-gay groups in Texas! And they have lots of money to spend on such spurious ‘conclusions’.

  35. A Christian life style magazine in the US called “Lifestyle news” is using the research to give tacit support to the idea that Gay’s and Lesbian parents are more likely to abuse children. Below is a quote from their reporting on the study . . .
    .
    “One of the most remarkable findings was that 23% of those with a lesbian mother reported having been touched sexually by a parent or adult, compared to 2% of those raised in an intact biological family. The percentage was 6% among those with a gay father and 10% with a single parent. In another striking statistic, 31% of those raised by a lesbian mother, and 25% of those raised by a gay father, reported being forced to have sex against their will at some point, compared to just 8% of those raised by their biological parents.”

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/gold-standard-studys-striking-findings-children-of-heterosexual-parents-hap?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a2e2272077-LifeSiteNews_com_Intl_Headlines_06_11_2012&utm_medium=email
    . . . . .

    The UK religious pressure group “Anglican Mainstream” is also promoting the above news article on its website.

    http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/

    1. Anglican Mainstream – that home to David Skinner who believes that Christians have a duty to use arms to suppress gay people … such a bevvy of morality – not!

      1. In a nutshell . . . succintly put, so speak

  36. Thanks for posting so many links to critiques to this badly flawed study. See also this article at glbtq.com, which calls the study “pseudo scholarship”: http://www.glbtq.com/blogs/more_bad_faith_pseudo_scholarship.html

  37. I really hate research like this as well, it is just pointless because there are too many factors that skew the results – take this study, the kids grew up in the bloody 1980’s-90’s for one thing! It was only taken off the mental illness list 15 years prior.
    All this does is put pressure on my partner and I and will fill us with guilt if she becomes anything but a 100% happy and healthy child, which is pretty much impossible!

    1. If children of black parents were more depressed because they received more discrimination at school, we would say “tackle discrimination” not “stop blacks having children”, but that wouldn’t mean research showing children of black parents were depressed was bad research.

      This study isn’t pointless because it shows there is a real problem that needs fixing and suggests a large number of social causes that have nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the parents and that can be tackled. For example, if instability is the real problem, it can be argued that this paper is actually pro same sex marriage as that provides a more stable environment.

      Sure, other people will try and misuse the results, but the problem is not with the science or the scientists, it’s with the bigots. Likewise (and forgive me if this sounds harsh), if you take this research as criticism of your parenting, that’s you (and the society you live in), and not the science.

  38. We don’t get to discount properly conducted results of scientific research just because we don’t like them. I see nothing here to suggest the researcher in question has been anything but professional in her treatment of the subject and she herself points out that that instability is likely to be the underlying cause.

    Having more information is always good. Doing research is morally neutral, it’s what we do with it that counts. Of course, the anti-gay factions will hold this up as evidence against gat marriage, and we will point out that, as instability is the route cause and marriage promotes stability it is, in fact, data in favour. The world will keep spinning and nothing much will change.

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