You have probably heard about the major new study comparing same-sex parenting with natural mom/dad parenting that is being chatted about and debated in the news this week. The study is worth your attention.
Here I offer a full overview and summary of the study’s key findings.
Conducted by Professor Mark Regnerus (reg-nair-us), a leading sociologist from UT Austin, this study makes use of the largest, nationally representative sample, asking the broadest array of survey questions of children raised at some time of their childhood in gay- or lesbian-parented homes. Nearly all of the existing studies on same-sex homes are conducted, not by mainstream scholars, but those who have long records of lesbian/gay activism. (Here is one key example.) Mark has no such record on either side of the issue. The existing studies are largely plagued by devastating methodological short-comings, rendering them incapable of reaching any reliable conclusions.
This is not true of Professor Regnerus’ study. His research methodology was reviewed pre-start by sociological and demographic peers from five different leading American universities.
There have been a few really harsh criticisms of this new study already popping up on the internet. I’ve read a number of them. They seem on point, but they miss or misconstrue some important points. None that I have seen are written by professional/academic sociologists or demographers of the family, which is significant.
All who are interested in this new study’s contribution to the current body of knowledge on this topic should appreciate that three leading sociologists reviewed the Regnerus study upon its completion and offer their critiques and comments alongside Regnerus’ study in Social Science Research. Some of their appraisals of the study are provided here.
- The most eminent and widely respected of these reviewers, Paul Amato (Penn State), remarked that “In contrast to most prior studies, the Regnerus study has adequate statistical power for most comparisons.” He adds, “the Regnerus study is better situated than virtually all previous studies to detect difference between these groups [i.e. the different family forms examined in the study].”
- Professor Cynthia Osborne, a family demographer from UT Austin, says this new study “is solid and makes a valuable contribution to the field.” She continues, “the Regnerus study is more scientifically rigorous that most of the other studies in this area” and “provides convincing evidence that various adult outcomes are associated with having a parent who had a same-sex relationship.” As such, his findings “contradict the ‘no difference’ claim of the American Psychological Association’s Brief on Lesbian and Gay Parenting.”
- Penn State’s David Eggebeen, the most critical reviewer in the group, explains that Professor Regnerus’ study does “does not prove anything” in terms of causation, but does “offer reasonable arguments for…[showing] more caution when drawing strong conclusions based on the available science…” examining same-sex parenting.
It is important to note that this present study is one study that draws different conclusions than the current literature has. It does use a larger, nationally representative sample, which the others do not. And it is not conducted by a partisan in the current same-sex marriage and parenting debate. But good scholarship requires more than just one study to establish reliable conclusions. As Professor Regnerus would agree, there is a great need for additional studies with reliable samples and rigorous methodologies – as this one – so we can all gain a fuller, stronger understanding of how children fare in same-sex homes in contrast with homes where most American children are reared: married, intact biological families.