Scholars defend findings of difficulties among same-sex parented children

Mark Regnerus CNA US Catholic News 6 12 12 Prof. Mark Regnerus.

A group of social scientists has lamented the "sustained and sensational criticism" from news media about a study that showed  increased difficulties and negative outcomes among young adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships.

The 18 social scientists said that the research of University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus is "not without limitations" but much of the criticism he has received is "unwarranted."

They noted that sociology professor Paul Amato, chair of the family section of the American Sociological Association and president of the National Council on Family Relations, said that Regnerus' study was "better situated than virtually all previously studies" to detect differences between different family groups in the U.S. population.

"We are disappointed that many media outlets have not done their due diligence in investigating the scientific validity of prior studies, and acknowledging the superiority of Regnerus' sample to most previous research," the social scientists said June 20 in a statement posted on the website of Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion.

Regnerus' research found "statistically significant" differences in 25 of 40 outcomes between adult children who grew up with married, opposite-sex parents and those who grew up with a mother who had a same-sex relationship.

Households led by parents of either sex who engaged in same-sex relationships also showed greater household instability.

Children from same-sex female households showed more physical and mental health problems, more instability in romantic relationships, and lower average income as adults. They also showed higher levels of unemployment, smoking, need for public assistance and involvement in crime.

Regnerus published his findings in the July issue of Social Science Research. He used data from the New Family Structures Study, which measured differences in 40 social and personal indicators among 3,000 Americans ages 18 to 39 who were raised in eight different types of households.

Many prominent media outlets criticized the research as "anti-gay" and "sloppy."

However, the social scientists who defend Regnerus said he used a "large, random and representative sample" of more than 200 children raised by parents who have had same-sex relationships.

By contrast, the "vast majority" of studies on the subject before 2012 have used "small, non-representative samples" unrepresentative of children in typical same-sex families in the U.S.

Regnerus' findings of family instability are consistent with other studies of homosexual couples in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, the social scientists said.

His findings also find a "parallel" in a new paper from American Institutes for Research sociologist Daniel Potter. Potter's research on same-sex parenting and children's academic achievement, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found that children in same-sex parent families scored lower than their peers in married households with both biological parents.

Regnerus' defenders said they do not think the new studies settle the debate about "gay parenting, same-sex marriage, and the welfare of children." Backers of "same-sex marriage" could use the data as evidence same-sex relationships need legal supports for social stability, they noted.

They said Regnerus has "helped to inform the ongoing scholarly and public conversation about same-sex families in America."

The social scientists who signed the letter defending Regnerus include Christian Smith of the University of Notre Dame, Rodney Stark of Baylor University and W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.