It appears fathers do make a difference. “Two peer-reviewed research articles in the social sciences, released June 10, 2012, challenge the claim made by same-sex parenting researchers over the last decade that parents engaged in same-sex relationships do just as well as other parents at raising children. This claim, that there are ‘no differences’ in outcomes between the two kinds of parenting, is undermined by new evidence that these papers present,” reports Ana Samuel.
The first study was done by Professor Loren Marks of the Louisiana State University’s School of Human Ecology. Professor Marks’ findings are published in Social Science Research, July 2012 edition, Volume 41, Issue 4. Professor Marks reviewed 59 American Psychological Association (APA) studies done in 2005, which found no differences between same sex couples and traditional couples. Professor Marks concludes that “not 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. Marks’s study casts significant doubt upon the older evidence on which the APA brief, and thus the ‘no differences’ paradigm, rests.” [My emphasis]
Specifically Professor Marks found:
- 26 of 59 APA studies on same-sex parenting had no heterosexual comparison groups.
- In comparison studies, single mothers were often used as the hetero comparison group.
- No comparison study had the statistical power required to detect a small effect size.
- Definitive claims were not substantiated by the 59 published studies. [My emphasis]
The second peer reviewed research article is by sociologist Mark Regnerus of the Population Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin. The Regnerus New Family Structure Study (NFSS) may be found here. NFSS is, “a comparative project which seeks to understand how young adults (~ages 18-39) raised by same-sex parents fare on a variety of social, emotional, and relational outcomes when compared with young adults raised in homes with their married biological parents, those raised with a step-parent, and those raised in homes with two adoptive parents.”
The children of lesbian mothers (see below chart) are:
- Four times more likely to have been on welfare when growing up.
- Ten times more likely to have been touched by a parent or other adult.
- Nearly four times more likely to have been “forced to have sex unwilfully”.
- Over three times more likely to be unemployed.
- Twice as likely to be recently or currently in therapy.
- Nearly four times more likely to be on public assistance.
First, it compares the outcomes of children who reported having a mother who had a same-sex relationship with another woman (LM for short) or a father who had a same-sex relationship with another man (GF for short) with the outcomes of children who reported coming from an intact biological family (IBF for short). Most gay parenting research compares gay and lesbian parenting to single, divorced, and step-parent parenting, or conversely compares a select, and often socio-economically privileged, population of gay parents to a broad, representative sample of the general population.
Second, the NFSS focuses on the responses of young-adult children. Other current studies on gay parenting focus on what is going on inside the households of lesbian and gay parents at present, while the children are still under their parent’s care. Moreover, these studies most typically interview the parents for their point of view about what it is like to be parenting as a gay man or lesbian woman.3 This research does not tell us how the children turn out as adults. Indeed, no study has explored that question until now. The NFSS interviewed the sons and daughters of parents who had a same-sex relationship after they had grown up and matured into young adults (ages 18–39), and most of them had already moved out of their parent’s home. These children spoke for themselves about their experiences at home when they were younger and were able to report on how they are doing now as young adults.
Third, the NFSS drew from a large, random sample of the U.S. population of young adults ages 18–39. This third point is a significant strength of the NFSS because, to date, there is only one other gay parenting study that draws from a large, random sample, that of Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University, who relies upon 2010 U.S. Census data. Every other gay parenting study thus far relies upon small or non-probability samples, which do not allow for generalization and are thus inadequate for drawing conclusions about the population at large.4 For example, the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study used a “convenience” sample, and recruited respondents entirely by self-selection (from announcements posted in lesbian newspapers, women’s bookstores and lesbian events in Boston, Washington, and the San Francisco areas).5 While these types of studies are valuable for gathering information about the specific lesbians who demonstrate those kinds of behaviors (that is, who attend book stores, read newspapers, and are “out” enough to attend lesbian events) they are problematic when the goal is to generalize to the general population of lesbians, some of whom may not have the social, economic, or behavioral patterns of the former group. Any claims about the general population that are based on a group that does not represent it will be defective, because the sample will be less diverse than what a truly representative sample would reveal.