July 16, 2012

Children of lesbians fare worse than children of heterosexual parents

From a related article in Slate by the author:
The rapid pace at which the overall academic discourse surrounding gay and lesbian parents’ comparative competence has swung—from the wide acknowledgement of challenges to “no differences” to more capable than mom and pop families—is notable, and frankly a bit suspect. Scientific truths are seldom reversed in a decade. By comparison, studies of adoption—a common method by which many same-sex couples (but even more heterosexual ones) become parents—have repeatedly and consistently revealed important and wide-ranging differences, on average, between adopted children and biological ones. The differences have been so pervasive and consistent that adoption experts now emphasize that “acknowledgement of difference” is critical for both parents and clinicians when working with adopted children and teens. This ought to give social scientists studying gay-parenting outcomes pause—rather than lockstep unanimity. After all, many children of gay and lesbian couples are adopted. 
... 
The basic results call into question simplistic notions of “no differences,” at least with the generation that is out of the house. On 25 of 40 different outcomes evaluated, the children of women who’ve had same-sex relationships fare quite differently than those in stable, biologically-intact mom-and-pop families, displaying numbers more comparable to those from heterosexual stepfamilies and single parents. Even after including controls for age, race, gender, and things like being bullied as a youth, or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they live, such respondents were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things. Why such dramatic differences? I can only speculate, since the data are not poised to pinpoint causes. One notable theme among the adult children of same-sex parents, however, is household instability, and plenty of it. The children of fathers who have had same-sex relationships fare a bit better, but they seldom reported living with their father for very long, and never with his partner for more than three years.

...

So why did this study come up with such different results than previous work in the field? And why should one study alter so much previous sentiment? Basically, better methods. When it comes to assessing how children of gay parents are faring, the careful methods and random sampling approach found in demography has not often been employed by scholars studying this issue, due in part—to be sure—to the challenges in locating and surveying small minorities randomly. In its place, the scholarly community has often been treated to small, nonrandom “convenience” studies of mostly white, well-educated lesbian parents, including plenty of data-collection efforts in which participants knew that they were contributing to important studies with potentially substantial political consequences, elevating the probability of something akin to the “Hawthorne Effect.” This is hardly an optimal environment for collecting unbiased data (and to their credit, many of the researchers admitted these challenges). I’m not claiming that all the previous research on this subject is bunk. But small or nonrandom studies shouldn’t be the gold standard for research, all the more so when we’re dealing with a topic so weighted with public interest and significance.


Social Science Research Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 752–770

How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study

Mark Regnerus

The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is a social-science data-collection project that fielded a survey to a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18–39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements. In this debut article of the NFSS, I compare how the young-adult children of a parent who has had a same-sex romantic relationship fare on 40 different social, emotional, and relational outcome variables when compared with six other family-of-origin types. The results reveal numerous, consistent differences, especially between the children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents. The results are typically robust in multivariate contexts as well, suggesting far greater diversity in lesbian-parent household experiences than convenience-sample studies of lesbian families have revealed. The NFSS proves to be an illuminating, versatile dataset that can assist family scholars in understanding the long reach of family structure and transitions.

Link

23 comments:

Annie Mouse said...

This is a very different fish from other studies, it is comparing children of parents who have had homosexual relationships to all other parents.

Basically it is comparing parents who have had homosexual affairs and family disruption to parents as a whole. I would expect similar results if they had compared parents who had heterosexual affairs to parents as a whole. Family instability and conflict is not good for kids, no matter what the sexual inclination.

matt said...

Annie Mouse ...
Exactly, chose 173 cases of family disruption, a higher percentage of adoption, an expected disparity in income, against a pseudo random control group, and what results do you expect?
One thing about Dienekes' ventures into sociology is seeing how biased other studies, arguments and comments are may help see how biased genetic studies, arguments and comments are.

princenuadha said...

"The children of fathers who have had same-sex relationships fare a bit better, but they seldom reported living with their father for very long, and never with his partner for more than three years.
...
The results reveal numerous, consistent differences, especially between the children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents."

Part of this difference could be due to the amount of paternal influence. It is already obvious that paternal influence is important in heterosexual parental families, so I won't even bother delving into that. What might surprise many people is that children raised by single fathers fair much better than children raised by single mothers. Of course it could be the result of selection bias, ie courtrooms favoring mothers, but it could be reflective of paternity in general.

When we look at the romantic relationships formed between two women, as compared to two men, we find that lesbians have higher rates of domestic violence (than both gay and straight) and higher rates of divorce (consistent with women initiating more divorces in straight relationships). Obviously these differences could be causing the different outcomes for children raised by gays compared to lesbians. But what's more is that we might be seeing a different quality in paternity and maternity.

Many of us have been taught that women are naturally more virtuous, better at maintaining relationships, and more important to children's development. However, the facts do not support these notions.

Support: divorce rates

- lesbians initiate divorce more frequently than gays.

domestic violence rates pdf warning

- lesbians 55%, gays 40%

dan said...

"This is a very different fish from other studies, it is comparing children of parents who have had homosexual relationships to all other parents."

From the paper:
"Yet when compared with other young adults who experienced household transitions and who witnessed parents forming new romantic relationships—for example, stepfamilies—the children of lesbian mothers looked (statistically) significantly different just under 25% of the time (and typically in suboptimal directions)."

dan said...

"Exactly, chose 173 cases of family disruption, a higher percentage of adoption, an expected disparity in income, against a pseudo random control group, and what results do you expect?"

Except socio-economic status and many other factors were controlled for by the researchers.

andrew said...

One of the big factors is that as mentioned, adoption accounts for a huge proportion of same sex parent children pools and the hetrosexual and same sex couple adoption pools are quite dissimilar.

ch said...

This paper has come under fire for a number of reasons, many of which are nicely outlined at the Family Inequality blog, where more than 200 researchers have crafted a joint letter to Social Science Research.

http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/200-researchers-respond-to-regnerus-paper/

matt said...

Dan said "Except socio-economic status and many other factors were controlled for by the researchers."

In your fantasies, the paper said the offspring were compared to a small random selection of other people. There were only 173 self identified people raised by "lesbians".

I could guess the first order difference is adoption. But then it might be the sample bias itself.
Most well adjusted people might lie to the so called researchers.

Higher problems with adopted children should be well known in the U.S. where the U.S. is the dumping ground of abused and uncared for children both from in the U.S. and from the whole world.

Just because the author wrote about the problems in previous reports of no differences or superior same sex parenting, it does not follow that his study has no problems.

Dienekes said...

This paper has come under fire for a number of reasons, many of which are nicely outlined at the Family Inequality blog, where more than 200 researchers have crafted a joint letter to Social Science Research.

http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/200-researchers-respond-to-regnerus-paper/


The critique amounts to:

1. Why did the paper get reviewed so fast?

2. Why didn't it get reviewed by scholars who've written on LGBT parenting before (=the people who have been perpetuating the story that this paper rejects, and who would've likely shot it down and kept it from being published)

3. They claim that the author didn't distinguish between family structure and family instability.

Actually, all that was proven by the paper is that the children of people who had one homosexual relationship fare worse off than the people of heterosexuals. It is of course always _possible_ that there is some subset of homosexuals (e.g., high IQ ones, or those in long-term committed relationships, etc.) who might fare better than the population average, but that is really a bad reason to critique a paper, because it is always possible that some subset of a particular group might deviate from the norm.

For example, the female height average is lower than the male height average, but the height average of female players is higher than that of the male population.

So, the _possibility_ that there may exist some subset of homosexuals whose children fare as well as those of heterosexuals in no way invalidates the _fact_ that on average they do not.

Also, even if such a subset exists, it has to be smaller than is the case in heterosexuals, because if both (a) family instability was the same in the two populations, and (b) the children raised by people irrespective of their sexual orientation fared the same, then the total averages would also be the same: they're not.

Finally, the uproar surrounding this particular paper is clearly the result of someone having the audacity of reaching a politically incorrect conclusion, because as we all know, there are a few hot-button issues (e.g., gender differences/sexual orientation differences/racial differences) where positive conclusions receive an inordinate amount of scrutiny, whereas negative ones are accepted without much critical thought and quickly transformed into weapons of political propaganda.

ch said...

I thought the uproar over the paper was due to how homosexuality was defined and that answers to this question led people to be classified as gay or lesbian.

Anthony said...

The data to compare "lesbian mother" and "gay father" families to other "disrupted" families is right there in the paper - there are categories for kids raised in a stepfamily, by a single parent, and by parents who divorced after the kid turned 18 (which is probably a good proxy for comparing stable vs unstable families, while holding the number of parents constant). What I find most interesting is that the differences in outcomes between "gay father" and "step family" and "single parent" aren't that large, while all three of those groups do better than "lesbian mother" on many measures.

The paper seems to hold up the social-conservative claim that fathers matter, even if the father is not ideal, but doesn't support the typical greater disgust that social conservatives have for male homosexuals than for female homosexuals.

matt said...

The data is supposed to be available later this year. I suggest a simple additional study, but based on the race of the children and parents.

The author states the study " cannot attempt to broach questions of causation"

One causation question would be what outcomes are caused by actions of the parents, and what outcomes are caused by others' actions. It may turn out that this study measures the effects of discrimination as opposed to the effects of parenting.

In the U.S. the rich give money they otherwise would pay large taxes on to "non-profit" organizations that then promote their political, economic, societal and religious viewpoints. One comment on this study has been the source of funding.

Annie Mouse said...

"Fifty-eight (58) percent of those whose biological mothers had a same-sex relationship also reported that their biological mother exited the respondent’s household at some point during their youth, and just under 14% of them reported spending time in the foster care system, indicating greater-than-average household instability. "

Only "(23%) said they had spent at least 3 years living in the same household with a romantic partner of their mother’s"

This LM group is not a stereotypical group of kids raised by two moms. These are kids with highly disrupted families who have spent a lot of time in foster care. I wonder how many of the moms of these kids were former prostitutes (associated with lesbianism).

For the GF group only 2% lived with their father and his partner for at least 3 years.

I was startled by how similar the single parent and stepfamily results were. Clearly remarrying does not help.

Jprezy87 said...

Holy s*$t...Rick Santorum was right! Gay marriage will destroy the moral fabric of society!! Lol just kiddin..VERY interesting study though Dienekes...and quite the opposite of what I expected...

Unknown said...

Dienekes said: "So, the _possibility_ that there may exist some subset of homosexuals whose children fare as well as those of heterosexuals in no way invalidates the _fact_ that on average they do not."

You've made the mistake of thinking that this report is comparing the children of homosexual couples with those of heterosexual couples. It's not, despite the provocative title. To quote the author, it's "about outcome differences between young adults raised in households in which a parent had a same-sex relationship and those raised by their own parents in intact families. It’s not about sexual orientation..." (from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2012/06/q-a-with-mark-regnerus-about-the-background-of-his-new-study/)

The vast majority of the "gay" or "lesbian" parents in the study weren't in gay or lesbian relationships... he couldn't get a statistically significant sample of genuine gay/lesbian parents, so he widened the defination of "homosexual parents" to include heterosexual couples where one partner had a homosexual "fling" to bolster the numbers.

eg "My team of consultants elected to go with the screener questions (including the one about same-sex relationships) that we did, anticipating–accurately, too–that there would be no way of generating ample sample size if we narrowed the criteria (for who counts as a lesbian parent) to the sort that critics are calling for. We figured that, with the household roster/calendar offering the opportunity to identify who you lived with, we’d comfortably get enough cases wherein the respondent reported living with mom and her partner for many consecutive years. But few did." (from the authors emails in http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/11/45557#comment-125929)... presumably few did because most people don't go and live with the "other man/woman" when one of their parents cheat.

The critics of this research are rightly worried that homophobes will do exactly what you have done - use the research as proof that gay parents aren't as good as straight ones when the research proves no such thing.

Dienekes said...

The vast majority of the "gay" or "lesbian" parents in the study weren't in gay or lesbian relationships... he couldn't get a statistically significant sample of genuine gay/lesbian parents, so he widened the defination of "homosexual parents" to include heterosexual couples where one partner had a homosexual "fling" to bolster the numbers.

Heterosexuals don't have "homosexual flings". People who have homosexual relationships can be classified as either homosexual or bisexual, and fall under the broader LGBT category that is often used for this type of research.

The research has clearly shown that there are differences between the children of people who have engaged in homosexual behavior and the children of people who have not.

As for people who are in genuine long-term lesbian/gay relationships and are also parent, these are an extremely tiny group, a very small group compared to the group of homosexual parents. So, one has to ask why social scientists have been so eager to jump on the "no differences" bandwagon, when there are really NO adequate samples to draw that conclusion, and what samples there are (of all people who have engaged in homosexuality) point to the exact opposite conclusion.

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/06/gay_parents_are_they_really_no_different_.2.html

"In fact, less than 2 percent of all respondents who said their mother had a same-sex relationship reported living with their mother and her partner for all 18 years of their childhood."

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/features/2012/gay_parents_study/gay_parents_study_mark_regnerus_and_william_saletan_debate_new_research_.html

"So why did I group together LMs who raised kids in a coupled relationship with those who may have only been in shorter-term same-sex relationships? Remember, we started with 15,058 random contacts. We had only two cases in which mom and her partner were together for 18 years. We’ve got only six cases where mom and her partner were reported to have stayed together for 10 or more years, and 18 cases for five years."

The critics of this research are rightly worried that homophobes will do exactly what you have done - use the research as proof that gay parents aren't as good as straight ones when the research proves no such thing.

The research has clearly shown that having a dad and a mom as you are growing up is the best family arrangement. That does not mean that children brought up by divorced parents, or single parents, or homosexual parents can't turn up to be awesome people, but on average they fare worse than the traditional mom-and-pop family structure.

Tobus said...

"Heterosexuals don't have "homosexual flings". People who have homosexual relationships can be classified as either homosexual or bisexual, and fall under the broader LGBT category that is often used for this type of research."

I disagree (we're talking about "heterosexual couples" not "heterosexuals" - as this research clearly shows, people in heterosexual relationships can and do have homosexual flings), but it's irrelevant. The point is that the research does not represent homosexual couples, its "gay father/lesbian mother" data is really 80% children from heterosexual couples where one partner either cheats with a same-sex partner or gets together with a same-sex partner after a divorce, and 20% children who never lived with their biological father (assumed "planned" lesbian parenting).

"The research has clearly shown that there are differences between the children of people who have engaged in homosexual behavior and the children of people who have not."

Um.. no it hasn't. It has clearly shown that there are differences between the children of people who are still living together and the children of people who have have separated. It's very clear from the report that there is no significant difference between the children in broken families where there was a known homosexual relationship and the children in broken families where there was no homosexual relationship. The difference between the children of people in successful heterosexual relationships and the children of people in successful homosexual relationships was not investigated. The effect caused by one partner having homosexual experiences before entering a successful heterosexual relationships was not investigated either. The report does not contain a clear comparison between "the children of people who have engaged in homosexual behavior and the children of people who have not" and so cannot clearly show any differences there might be.

"The research has clearly shown that having a dad and a mom as you are growing up is the best family arrangement.

Again, no it hasn't. It has clearly shown that having parents who stay together as you are growing up is the best family arrangement. There is no comparison between the children of heterosexual couples who stayed together ("having a dad and a mom as you are growing up") and those of homosexual couples who stayed together (having a dad and a dad as you are growing up or having a mum and a mum as you are growing up). The comparisons that are there - between failed relationships with a homosexual component and failed relationships with no homosexual component show no difference. So, author's conclusions aside, while the data show that children of divorced or separated parents (homosexual or otherwise) "fare worse than the traditional mom-and-pop family structure", the data simply isn't there to show that this applies to children with a homosexual parent.

Dienekes said...

It has clearly shown that having parents who stay together as you are growing up is the best family arrangement. There is no comparison between the children of heterosexual couples who stayed together ("having a dad and a mom as you are growing up") and those of homosexual couples who stayed together (having a dad and a dad as you are growing up or having a mum and a mum as you are growing up).

Most homosexuals don't stay together. Is that really difficult to understand? There were only two cases of lesbians living together for 18 years (from birth to adulthood).

That is about two orders of magnitude lower than the incidence of lesbianism in the general population. If there are a lot of stable long-term relationships of lesbians then you'd need a sample of millions to identify enough such cases.

It really doesn't matter whether the problems of children of homosexual parents is due to homosexuals not being able to form stable long-term relationships as much as heterosexuals can, or to some other flaw.

apostateimpressions said...

"The research has clearly shown that there are differences between the children of people who have engaged in homosexual behavior and the children of people who have not."

Presumably not all parents with homosexual attractions will engage in such behaviour: so the differences in parental competence between heterosexuals and others may be greater than was revealed by the study.

Annie Mouse said...

The point is that this paper has failed completely to do what it set out to do, as there was not enough data to allow comparing like with like. And it has been deceptive in its presentation of the results it actually got.

The data on gay parenting is not data on gay parenting at all. Possibly NONE of these fathers raised the kids as a gay custodial parent. Certainly the vast majority of the fathers didnt. This is mostly parenting by the mother when gay dad moves out. Labelling GF data the effect of gay fathering is a very, very deceptive.

The author says he could not find any actual lesbian parents!! Yet here we have data that pretends to be data for lesbian parents. Less that a quarter of the mothers were custodial for 3 years. Lesbians are relatively rare, rarer than gay men, yet somehow how there is more data for lesbians than gays? IMO the LM group is heavily distorted by that the inclusion of a larger group of essentially heterosexual women who seek solace with women after prostitution. Most of these women have drug and mental health issues as well as severe relationship problems. They are notoriously bad parents for reasons that predate their functional lesbianism. These LM kids are mostly kids raised by the state, and in very disfunctional homes, mostly without their mother. Labelling LM data the effect of lesbian mothering is a very, very deceptive.

Shame really as the actual data is interesting The adopted kids did surprisingly well for example.

GailT said...

"Heterosexuals don't have "homosexual flings". People who have homosexual relationships can be classified as either homosexual or bisexual, and fall under the broader LGBT category that is often used for this type of research."

The statement above is more evidence that you know nothing actual about homosexuality or even about human sexuality in general.

There is a clear anti-gay prejudice in previous posts on your blog, consistent with your misinterpretation of this badly designed study.

Dienekes, you have a really amazing, informative blog that I greatly value. It's really a shame to see continued posts here with an anti-gay bias. Of course this is your blog and your right to post whatever nonsense you like. But I can no longer participate here.

Anonymous said...

GailT, I'm completely agree with you.

I think Dianekes is a person who has clearly homophobic thoughts, and this fact makes me question the credibility of his other studies. Personally, after reading his posts regarding homosexuality, even I regret having sent my autosomal DNA to collaborate on the Dodecad Project. :-(

apostateimpressions said...

Someone call the thought police! Gays are surprised and profoundly shocked that they might not be as well disposed to parenthood as heterosexuals. I cant imagine why though, this is the real world not some PC fantasy. Do they get the bit about that they are precisely the people who deviate from the normal sexuality that normally expresses itself in parenthood to such an extent that they shack up with some one of the same sex instead? Unbelievable. And then they expect everyone to pretend that they are as well disposed to parenthood? Come off it. parenthood is mainly instinctive, its not a job or a hobby or a "right". And the instincts of homosexuals obviously dont tend in that direction, which is why they didnt get married and breed a family to raise.

(Yes I know that the study concerns sexual deviants within marriage but the point is general.)