Exposing the Schlock Social Science on Gay Parenting—Part 2

by Ed Whelan

The second article that the academic journal Social Science Research has just published is University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus’s “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.”

Unlike the small convenience-sample studies that have generated the unreliable research that has wrongly been taken seriously (see my Part 1 post), the New Family Structures Study is a data-collection project based on a large random sample of young adults, and it studies a broad range of developmental outcomes. Regnerus’s paper “compare[s] 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.” (P. 752.)

Regnerus’s findings contradict the “conventional wisdom … that there are very few differences of note in the child outcomes of gay and lesbian parents” as compared to heterosexual parents. (P. 753.) In his words, “the empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go.” (P. 766.)

In 24 of the 40 outcome measurements, there are statistically significant differences (even after controlling for various factors) between, on the one hand, children who were raised in an intact biological family and whose parents remain married and, on the other, children whose mother had a same-sex romantic relationship. (P. 764; see Tables 2, 3, and 4 on pp. 761-762.) In terms of outcomes positively associated with child development, these differences uniformly cut in favor of the children raised in an intact biological family:

For example, the now-adult child of a mother who has had a same-sex romantic relationship is statistically more likely to be less educated; to be currently cohabiting, on public assistance, unemployed or not fully employed; to have had an affair while married or cohabiting; to have been touched sexually as a child by a parent or other adult; to have been forced to have sex; to suffer from depression; to have been arrested and to have pled guilty to a non-minor offense; and to use marijuana frequently. That child is statistically less likely to identify as entirely heterosexual and to enjoy good health.

The adult children of men who have had same-sex relationships fare worse on 19 of the 40 outcomes (and better on none) than children in intact biological families. (P. 764; see Tables 2, 3, and 4 on pp. 761-762.)

As Regnerus sums it up, his study “clearly reveals that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults—on multiple counts and across a variety of domains—when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”

I hasten to add that I don’t regard Regnerus’s study as authoritatively and definitively settling much of anything. (Nor, I think, does Regnerus.) But, as I will explain in my Part 3 post, I do believe that it has significant implications for the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage, in part in further discrediting the junk social science that so many proponents of same-sex marriage propagate (and that courts have relied on), and in part in drawing attention to the massive potential negative consequences of redefining marriage in a manner that severs it from its core purposes of responsible procreation and child-rearing.