Generally, I do not have much use for statistical studies on controversial issues. It is too easy to lie with statistics. When the government pays for such studies I just get more disgusted. Don’t we already get enough lies from politicians? Do they have to use our money to finance “research projects” that produce more lies? So when I read CROUSE: Two daddies dilemma, I took it with a grain of salt. Even though the article is about a statistical study that favors my Conservative beliefs, it is still a statistical study. That said, at least government money apparently did not pay for this study.
So why this post? I think helps to illustrate. Here is how Crouse starts her column.
A new study released earlier this month reinforces what social scientists have known for ages: Traditional families produce more stable children. According to the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), adults who grew up in a married-mom-and-dad family are better off than peers whose parents engaged in same-sex relationships.
This is hardly a surprise. Anyone familiar with the mountain of social science research relating to the well being of children knows that the familial gold standard is the traditional one: a mom and dad who marry and successfully avoid the perils of divorce. (continued here)
Do we really need a statistical study to tell us that traditional families produce the best results for children? Unfortunately, it seems some people think we do. The problem with statistical studies on social issues, however, is that the data (hence the conclusions) can be very squishy. Therefore, slate.com (see Back in the Gay) has an article attacking the New Family Structures Study (NFSS). That article focuses on the sampling technique.
To understand the study, you have to read the questionnaire that defined the sample. It began by asking each respondent, as the child of this or that kind of family arrangement, his age. If the respondent was younger than 18 or older than 39, the survey was terminated. This means the entire sample was born between 1971 and 1994, when same-sex marriage was illegal throughout the United States, and millions of homosexuals were trying to pass or function as straight spouses.
The survey went on to ask: “From when you were born until age 18 … did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?” If the respondent said yes, he was put in the “gay father” (GF) or “lesbian mother” (LM) category, regardless of subsequent answers. But if he said no, a later question about the relationship between “your biological parents” was used to classify him as the product of an “intact biological family” (IBF) or of an “adopted,” “divorced,” “stepfamily,” or “single-parent” household. In other words, broken families were excluded from the IBF category but included in the GF and LM categories. (from here)
Effectively, the author of the slate.com article, William Saletan, blames society for messing up same-sex “families.” Then he uses his interpretation to reach his desired conclusion.
What the study shows, then, is that kids from broken homes headed by gay people develop the same problems as kids from broken homes headed by straight people. But that finding isn’t meaningless. It tells us something important: We need fewer broken homes among gays, just as we do among straights. We need to study Regnerus’ sample and fix the mistakes we made 20 or 40 years ago. No more sham heterosexual marriages. No more post-parenthood self-discoveries. No more deceptions. No more affairs. And no more polarization between homosexuality and marriage. Gay parents owe their kids the same stability as straight parents. That means less talk about marriage as a right, and more about marriage as an expectation. (from here)
To end up where we started in the first place, do we really need to waste money on statistical social studies? Well, let’s put it in perspective. In Why the Liberal Intolerance for New Family Structures Study?, Jennifer Marshall (writing for The Foundry at The Heritage Foundation) observes the hostility to the NFSS from certain quarters. However, what I thought most interesting were the closing paragraphs.
Regnerus’s and Marks’s research has significantly advanced analysis of children’s outcomes in new family structures. Marks’s review of prior studies found data “drawn primarily from small conveniences samples” that cannot support generalized claims for the population at large. Meanwhile, as the Osborne and Amato statements above convey, the NFSS sets a new standard for quality of research comparing emerging family forms.
Such rigor should be welcomed—not rejected—and the new information should enhance—not preempt—debate about the important policy questions related to the institution of marriage.
Think about that. The “experts” claiming that same-sex families do not produce problems for children do not have enough data to back their conclusions.
In an earlier article at The Foundry, New Research on Children of Same-Sex Parents Suggests Differences Matter, Christine Kim and Jennifer Marshall focus more heavily on the absence of hard data. That included referencing this press release, Studies challenge established views development of children raised by gay or lesbian parents. Here is how that press release closes.
“Whether same-sex parenting causes the observed differences cannot be determined from Regnerus’ descriptive analysis,” cautions Professor Cynthia Osborne from the University of Texas at Austin. “Children of lesbian mothers might have lived in many different family structures and it is impossible to isolate the effects of living with a lesbian mother from experiencing divorce, remarriage, or living with a single parent. Or, it is quite possible, that the effect derives entirely from the stigma attached to such relationships and to the legal prohibitions that prevent same-sex couples from entering and maintaining ‘normal relationships’.”
In a final comment on Regnerus’ research, Pennsylvania State University, sociologist and professor Paul Amato points out, “If growing up with gay and lesbian parents were catastrophic for children, even studies based on small convenience samples would have shown this by now […] If differences exist between children with gay/lesbian and heterosexual parents, they are likely to be small or moderate in magnitude—perhaps comparable to those revealed in the research literature on children and divorce.”
So what comes down is that same-sex “marriages” are experimental, and the “expert” studies don’t tell us much. Supposedly, all we know is that children raised by same-sex couples will probably not suffer catastrophic damage. Gosh! You have a child? What happens if both you and your spouse die in an accident and a same-sex couple adopts your child? Aren’t these studies just the sort of reassurance you want?