The Corner

A Mom and a Dad Make a Difference

As you may have heard (see here, here), Mark Regnerus has important new research on what same-sex parenting means in the life of a child. Regnerus, a professor in the department of sociology and at the Population Research Center at University of Texas at Austin, has published some results of a New Family Structures Study, “a rare large, probability-sample-based study reveals significant and numerous differences between the adult children (ages 18–39) of intact, biological, married families and those of parents who’ve had same-sex relationships.” The clear takeaway from the research is confirmation that a married mom and dad make a positive difference in the life of a child. As Regnerus puts it in Slate, “the stable, two-parent biological married model [is] the far more common and accomplished workhorse of the American household, and still — according to the data, at least — the safest place for a kid.”

Regnerus answers some questions on the research:

Lopez: How is the life of a child raised in a same-sex household different than the life of a child raised with a mother and father? 

Regnerus: Well, in the generation that are adults now, kids raised in a same-sex household were more likely to experience instability and shifting household arrangements. For example, 14 percent of kids whose moms had a lesbian relationship reported spending more time in foster care, well above the average of 2 percent among all respondents.

#more#Lopez: How is it different than a child growing up with a single mother raising him or a single father raising her? Or a grandmother or . . .  there are all kinds of scenarios, of course? Why focus on same-sex households?

Regnerus: Yes, many scenarios are possible, and for kids whose mothers had a same-sex relationship, they were more likely to experience a variety of senarios, including living with grandparents. Why the focus on same-sex households? That was the key research question, basically. We wanted to know if the “no differences” thesis that has become almost an assumption in scholarly circles was true when put to the test of a large, nationally representative sample and a detailed survey of lots of different outcomes.

Lopez: So are young adults from step- and single-parent families much different? What is the gold standard?

Regnerus: Yes, adults who lived in step- and single-parent families exhibit a variety of differences, on average, from the gold standard of a married mom and dad (who are still together when the respondent is an adult). It calls into question, in fact, the common “wait till the kids are out of the house to divorce” mentality.

Lopez: What is the reigning academic view of children in same-sex families? How does this study depart from that view? Do you anticipate engagement from academia? 

Regnerus: No substantive differences, on things that matter. That’s been the emergent view. This study definitely affirms that there is a gold standard. Yes, I anticipate engagement from scholars, and that is fine and welcome. I think there is plenty we can agree on.

Lopez: Why are the outcomes of this study so different from the conventional academic wisdom? How is the methodology different?


Regnerus: Methods, basically. Too much previous reliance on small and/or nonprobability samples, especially of white, educated, coupled lesbian families. The reality is much more diverse than that. Demographers have known that, and the New Family Structures Study confirms that. 

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