Does New Research Prove Kids Do Better with Gay Parents?

A new study from the University of Melbourne in Australia on how kids from same-sex homes fare is getting a good deal of press. Perhaps you’ve seen the news stories and wondered if this changes the nature of the debate over the importance of the family.

It does not.

This new study gives the same kind of findings we’ve seen before, coming from the same kinds of studies with the same kinds of serious short-comings and method problems. You can read about the weaknesses of those previous studies here, here and here.

But, despite all the fanfare it is receiving, this study tells us nothing about how kids in same-sex homes thrive compared to children being raised by their married mother and father. It doesn’t even address the issue, which is the primary issue in this debate. I explain this and the other major problems with this study in four major points.

1) The authors of the study plainly admit its significant methodology problems, which are the same problems with other such studies with similar findings.

a)    It uses a very small (500 children) non-representative sample.

b)    It is a convenience sample, meaning they used the most convenient sample collection available, by advertising in gay communities/publications/etc. and interested people signed up to participate in the study.

c)    The parents participating in the study knew they were signing up for and participating in a major study on the well-being of same-sex families.

d)    The information was collected via self-reports from the parent on the well-being of their child.

 The authors fail to appreciate that these same-sex parents – knowing they were participating in a significant study on same-sex families that would have very important political and social implications – have strong reason to be more positive in their self-reporting in significant ways on their child’s health relative to the comparison sample group of heterosexual parents whose data came from general, non-partisan public health surveys. This is not a small point.

2) This study compared kids from two-mom and two-dad homes (only 18% were from dad/dad homes) with kids from heterosexual homes. There is no explanation whatsoever of which kinds of homes these comparison group kids were from, which again is a big problem with nearly every such study because different forms of heterosexual homes can be drastically different in terms of child well-being outcomes. Are they all married mother/father families? They were not.  But how many were? How many were from cohabiting, single, divorced or remarried step homes? The authors do not say and never address this question as important which is an incredible and embarrassing oversight.

Given this, the study’s conclusion is useless, as it essentially finds that kids growing up in same-sex homes look like kids that grow up in some kinds of heterosexual homes. This simply is not news.

But how do they compare to children growing up with their own married mothers and fathers? This study has no way of telling us one way or the other, and it didn’t even try, rendering it practically useless on this point because there is no major voice arguing that same-sex parents do worse than children than any of the various kinds of heterosexual homes. Nearly everyone making the case holds that they will not do as well as children growing up with their own married mother and father. The study disproves a thesis that no one is making, ignoring the actual ball that is in play.

3) The study contains drastic and important differences in their heterosexual and same-sex parenting samples, which fall significantly in favor of more positive same-sex family outcomes.

 a)    The same-sex parented kids’ population sample is a highly selective, non-representative sample of only 500 children.

 b)    The comparison population of kids from hetero-homes came from two very different studies with randomly selected samples of 5,335 and 5,025 children each.

c)    The same-sex population sample had parents with dramatically higher incomes and education status than the general population.

      1. Income: 406 out of the 500 same-sex parented homes had annual household incomes from 60,000 to 250,000 dollars or higher compared to the average 64,000 annual household income of the more representative heterosexual sample group.
      2. Education: At least 384 homes in the 500 same-sex children sample had four-year college degrees or greater, 232 with postgraduate degrees. The same numbers for the general population are not even comparable.

d)    The study does not specify age at first parenthood, but if similar to other such studies, same-sex parents generally have their first child in their early- to mid-thirties.

 Each of these factors mean that the measurements for the kids from same-sex homes have characteristics that strongly favor more positive well-being outcomes compared to the heterosexual-family comparison sample, i.e. more selective, smaller sampling, dramatically higher household income and parental education status, as well as later age, maturity and life-stability at age of having their first child. These are far from anything close to equal measurements and comparisons.

4) Finally, the study curiously contends that children do better in same-sex homes but they are also more likely to suffer serious harm from social stigma regarding their family. While the authors don’t make this connection, nor do any of the mainstream journalists reporting on the study, it would appear that if this apparent debilitating stigma were erased, these kids would be the new super kids, doing markedly better than all other kids right? “Treat us badly and we still do better than you!”

So which is it? Are same-sex homes triumphantly superior or victims? It’s hard to sustain being both. But holding to both is politically expedient, so…

And it would follow from these studies and the widespread and uncritical political trumpeting of they receive that it might actually be stunting children’s health and happiness by letting them be raised by their own mothers and fathers. When I bring this point up to my debate partners, they always answer, “Oh, now no one is saying that!” But they don’t need to because logic leads us directly there. But these last two points are just but two examples of the dramatic over-reach these folks routinely make and which will likely be a major reason for their eventual downfall in the marketplace of ideas.

But rest easy. Nature’s purpose and design in ideally giving every child her own mother and father as parents has not been challenged by any serious studies to date, including this one. And it is unlikely any serious study ever will.

No politically manufactured form of family has ever rivaled or replaced the natural form of family of mother, father and child.

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Irreplaceable, the Movie

irreplaceable-the-movieIt’s all the rage.

Focus on the Family is releasing a full-length documentary in theaters across the country and throughout Canada for one evening only: May 6th. I have the honor of having worked closely with the production of the film and serving as its co-author with my buddy Leon Wirth.

It is an important film, a documentary, which looks at the nature and health of the family in the world today.

What is family and why does it exist? Why does it deserve our attention? Does its changes of late make a difference for good or bad?

There are a number of media interviews and reviews on the film where you can learn more about it. Here are few of the best…

1) A commentary from Breakpoint’s Eric Metaxas, who appears in the film.

2) FOF Prez Jim Daly appeared on Huckabee and discussed the controversy the documentary is drawing because it holds – get this – that children need mothers and fathers.

3) An interview with myself in the Colorado Catholic Herald, giving a bit of depth on what the film addresses and why.

4) An interview with the films producer, Jim Mhoon, in Denver’s alternative weekly, Westword.

5) An 2 minute interview on CitizenLink radio on how the film addresses the importance of children being raised by their own or adopted mother and father.

6)  A round table discussion on a podcast with the team at Boundless on the documentary.

We hope you make plans, call the sitter, and go watch this valuable film on May 6th at a theater near you.

As one reviewer put it: “It would be irresponsible to miss Irreplaceable.” word.

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The Unhappy Injustice of Happy Meal Toys

One of the wackiest centers of public discussion today is the issue of gender. Examples of the silliness abound: Parents advocating for so-called “gender-free” bathrooms for their non-binary elementary aged children, letting their children choose their own gender when they’re ready, to allowing young children to undergo gender-reassignment so their bodies can come into line with who they “feel” themselves to truly be. The wackiness exists because the whole gender studies theory its based on is pure ideology divorced from any semblance of objective reality or human experience. Sadly it gets more silly by the day. Take the issue of McDonald’s Happy Meals.

A high school junior wrote an essay about her five-year battle with McDonald’s to have them stop asking parents whether they want a boy or girl happy meal toy for their child. Slate judged the essay worthy of their blog space. At age 11, she became so outraged at this sexist practice that she finally went right to the top, writing the CEO of McDonald’s explaining that this matter was as wrong as asking a prospective employee if they wanted a “man’s job” or a “woman’s job.”

The CEO’s answer was unsatisfying to her (Go figure.) so she embarked on a study of each of the other McDonald’s in her area (more than a dozen she tells us) to see if this transgression was normal business practice for the food-chain or only present at her local Mickey Ds. She found the chain was universally filthy with the problem and filed a formal complaint with Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. The Commission summarily dismissed her complaint as “absurd”. (Go figure again.) But Ronald McDonald underestimates the tenacity of this modern day Rosa Parks. “But I still couldn’t let it go” she explains and she hasn’t. Her campaign marches on, hence Slate helping her alert the world of the problem.

Now the proper response to such a story should be “She’s a high-school student. At least she has conviction and is fighting for her ideals. Let her be.” I tend to agree… if that were all there is to the story. It is not.

Not only has she obviously done this with her parent’s assistance, she’s done so with the very proud and cooperative support of her father who is no off the rack wackadoo. He’s a distinguished Professor at Yale Law School and a popular blogger at Freakonomics.com. His daughter’s fight for justice is a joint pursuit between them as he proudly tells us in his Freakonomics blog. In fact, they have co-written a serious academic paper detailing their crusade and the grave injustices discovered there. This is clearly serious business for these privileged New Haven burg dwellers.

I’m just glad some children will never be subjected to such indignities at the hands of the folks under the Golden Arches.

hungry-children

 

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What Does it Mean to be a Boy or a Girl?

Brother & SisterWhat does it mean for a child to be a boy or a girl and how do we raise them to be such in a healthy way? This whole gender issue is huge and curiously so controversial in our culture today. But regardless, the question remains: How do we help our little boys and girls grow up to be good healthy men and women? What does that even mean?

I address this topic in a radio interview I did last week on my recent book Secure Daughters/Confident Sons with the nice folks over at Faith Radio in the Midwest area. It gives a good overview of the book and can be heard on their podcast here. (Scroll down to see the link for the podcast.)

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Jumping Out of a Perfectly Good Plane at 13k Feet

Here’s the video my high-school / skate buddy Jim Woods made of his kindness in taking me on my first skydive with he and his Navy Seal colleagues on a beautiful day over San Diego. It was as thrilling as it was scary and as scary as it was thrilling! The approach to the wide-open side of a plane, wind blowing in, drawing closer to the door, tilting your body outside of the plane as you get in place, the actual leap and the first 3 seconds your feet leave stability is the most unnatural feeling in the world. It goes against everything you know to be right!

Jim had to give me the final nudge. I yelled “NO!” but he thought I said “GO!” so we did! (That was his joke!) As you can see, our initial direction is pretty much head-first down.

But I would recommend it to any and everyone.

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Headlines: Cohabitation Doesn’t Cause Divorce. True?

A number of us who follow such things have been getting lots of questions about the news stories over the last two weeks reporting that research now proves that living together before marriage doesn’t cause divorce. A sampling of these stories are here, here and here. The headlines are stark and definitive: New Research Says Cohabitation Doesn’t Lead to Higher Likelihood of Divorce.

The reason this seems to be such big news is that a boat-load of published research over the past few decades by mainstream scholars has consistently shown that living together before marriage corresponds with a couple’s elevated risk of divorce. And dramatically so. This finding has been so significant and consistent that it’s earned itself a name among sociologists: the cohabitation effect. And the debate in the field has not been whether it exists, but why it exists. I give a thorough overview of this research in my recent book, The Ring Makes All the Difference.

So what do we make of this new study that supposedly proves that all this other research is wrong? A good place to start is to read the study, which would have been a good idea for the journalists who reported on it. The author of this article says unequivocally that her study proves “that cohabitation doesn’t cause divorce and probably never did.”

Before addressing the study itself, it is important appreciate a problem that the newspapers made in their reporting as well as this author in her quote above. In reading a great majority of all the published studies over the decades on the relationship between cohabitation and divorce, I don’t know of one that asserts that cohabitation causes divorce. The cohabitation effect asserts that premarital cohabitation seems to be associated with weaker, less healthy and shorter-lasting relationship both before and after marriage. As stated above, there has been little contest on whether the cohabitation effect is real and this study doesn’t challenge that fact. The big question among scholars is why; what is the linkage in this association? The author of this article, having done her Ph.D. dissertation in this field, knows the theory does not assume causation.

Her study does take an interesting and important approach to this topic in that it examines how age at cohabitation and later marriage impact the cohabitation effect as we know that couples who get married in their mid-twenties tend to have happier, more successful marriages. So it could be assumed that cohabiting couples who do marry at later ages would have lower likelihood of divorce than those cohabitors who married younger. And this is largely what she found. But note how it’s explained in her abstract:

“Analyses…revealed that age at coresidence [moving in together] explained a substantial portion of the higher marital dissolution rate of premarital cohabitors.”

She also begins her explanation in the conclusion of her article similarly,

“The findings discussed in this article indicated that the previously found association between premarital cohabitation and divorce in earlier decades can in part be attributed to the age at which premarital cohabitors began residing. These findings also suggest that the measurement of age has a considerable effect on the observed relationship between cohabitation and divorce.” (p. 366)

So what is she saying? That when you adjust for age at cohabiting and subsequent marriage, we find the risk of divorce is reduced. It is an interesting finding and not altogether surprising. And it clearly admits and affirms the cohabitation effect. But what it does NOT say – anywhere in the study, implied or outright – is that cohabitation doesn’t cause divorce and probably never did” as stated in the author’s press release from which most journalists based their stories.

And what else must be appreciated is that in most sciences, one new study – or even a small handful – does not overthrow the larger body of data that exists on a particular point. But this is precisely how most journalists played it: Newest study owns the field. A contrary finding must be replicated by many more studies over a longer period of time as we have in the literature leading to the truism of the cohabitation effect. As time goes on and more research is done regarding age at cohabitation, we might find that this study is onto something.

But not today. There is no research that even hints at the conclusion that cohabitors as a whole do not face a greater likelihood of relational instability and divorce once they do marry.

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He Is So Freakin’ Cool…

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