The New Family Structures Study

06.10.2012, 9:50 PM

The principal investigator is Mark Regnerus at the University of Texas at Austin. From the project’s website:

The New Family Structure Study (NFSS) is a comparative project which seeks to understand how young adults (~ages 18-39) raised by same-sex  parents fare on a variety of social, emotional, and relational outcomes when compared with young adults raised in homes with their married biological parents, those raised with a step-parent, and those raised in homes with two adoptive parents. In particular, the NFSS aims to collect new data in order to evaluate whether biological relatedness and the gender of young adults’ parents are associated with important social, emotional, and relational outcomes. Moreover, because there have been no large-scale studies of young adults who have spent time in households with two parents of the same sex, the NFSS seeks to field exactly such a study. Accordingly, the NFSS would provide scholars with   an up-to-date portrait of the association between a variety of different family structure background experiences and the welfare of young adults.

The first papers, published today in Social Science Research, are reported so far in the Washington Times, Deseret News, and elsewhere.

From Cheryl Wetzstein at the Washington Times:

Two studies released Sunday may act like brakes on popular social-science assertions that gay parents are the same as – or maybe better than – married mother-father parents.

“The empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go,” University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus said in his study in Social Science Research.

Using a “gold standard” data set of nearly 3,000 randomly selected American young adults, Mr. Regnerus looked at their lives on 40 measures of social, emotional and relationship outcomes.

He found that, when compared with adults raised in married, mother-father families, adults raised by lesbian mothers had negative outcomes in 24 of 40 categories, while adults raised by gay fathers had negative outcomes in 19 categories.

Findings like these contradict claims that there are no differences between gay parenting and heterosexual, married parents, said Mr. Regnerus, who helped develop the New Family Structures Study at the University of Texas. read more


56 Responses to “The New Family Structures Study”

  1. Stephen says:

    Interesting that you should lead off with this here. The results have not yet been published, so no one has seen the data. Both of these editorials are written by people who have not read the study. Regnerus himself urges caution. There are many problems already apparent. Look here for a more informed reaction . Sample sizes are tiny and Regnerus seems to be doing quite a lot of comparing apples to elephants.

    The study was commissioned and largely funded by the Witherspoon Institute. Robert George, the ‘brain’ behind NOM, is a member of that institute and also on the board of the Deseret News.

  2. La Lubu says:

    But look at the categories—”family received welfare growing up”, “was ever touched sexually by a parent or other adult”, “was ever forced to have sex unwillfully”…..lesbian parents are much more likely to have adopted children, and to have adopted older, hard-to-adopt children who were “in the system”. Those kids didn’t end up in the system because of their fairy-tale childhoods, y’know. If at any time those children were fostered by their lesbian parents prior to adoption (again, very common scenario), then yes, they “received welfare”. All foster parents, regardless of any other factors, “receive welfare”—foster kids have a medicaid card, get food stamps and a stipend.

    I also give the side-eye to some of those negative categories, like “being unmarried”. Why is being unmarried a negative outcome, rather than a neutral one? In this economy, how is being unemployed a consequence of the sexual orientation of one’s parents? Why is identifying as anything less than 100% heterosexual considered negative? Or being in therapy? (seriously—can we get rid of the stigma against people seeking better mental health already?) Being in a same-sex romantic relationship is a negative outcome? Why is cohabiting considered a negative outcome (especially for those in a same-sex relationship—it’s not like they can get married)?

    Elizabeth, can you stop and think hard about this? You just cited a study that counts being single, or being gay (or lesbian, or bi) as “negative outcomes”. While I would agree that being un- (or under)employed and being raped are negative events, it’s really sketchy how that’s being presented here; what is available in the article doesn’t point to how the sexual orientation of one’s parents impacts the likelihood of either event (for example, do lesbian parents discourage their children from college—with the natural consequence of a greater likelihood of unemployment? Or do lesbian parents have fewer connections to people in a position of hiring and firing, and are thus less likely to be able to provide their children with a leg up?).

    Also—what controls were put in place so that only people from the same socioeconomic classes are compared? I’m a heterosexual working class woman. If you compare me to a middle-class heterosexual woman, I’m going to come out on the losing end in almost every category you can think of, simply on the basis of social class (the few categories I would come out on the winning end are totally genetic—upbringing had nothing to do with it). The further down on the SES scale, the more negative outcomes—genuine negative outcomes, rather than just being single or not being straight.

  3. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    The issue of the peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research, when it’s available, also includes responses by other leading sociologists.

    Stephen, I believe at least some journalists have received copies of the full Regnerus paper.

  4. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    Folks, Stephen’s link above goes to Box Turtle Bulletin. Take a look.

  5. Philip Cohen says:

    I’m trying to think about what the Washington Times and the Deseret News have in common…

    The study is of terrible quality, using poor measurement to address issues that are not amenable to this type of analysis. Two of the people who commented on the paper in the Journal either worked on it or were consultants for the project. The survey was also funded by the Bradley foundation. I am very glad to see that, despite a lot of hype and circulating an embargoed copy of the paper, most of the media seem to have decided to ignore this.

  6. David Blankenhorn says:

    Mr. Cohen: To me, your comment is a textbook example of how to slander something without actually discussing it.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    William Salaten has also taken a look at the research over at Slate. He has some problems with the study too.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2012/06/new_family_structures_study_is_gay_parenthood_bad_or_is_gay_marriage_good_.html

  8. Linus says:

    La Luba,

    I think the “negative categories” quote is an error on the part of the Washington Times reporter – Regnerus’ own writings seem to stress only that “differences” exist between outcomes, but not that all outcomes are negative. Obviously outcomes like sexual orientation or singleness aren’t prima-facie negative in the way lower educational attainment is, they just tell us something about the differences in trends between different family structures.

    I also think that the study did control for socio-economic and other variable factors. Regnerus critiques many earlier studies that failed to do so.

    Regnerus has also noted (during a briefing he gave to press and scholars at IAV on Thursday on this study) that the results say a lot more about family instability effecting outcomes than whether or not the young adults being surveyed had a parent who may have had a same-sex romantic relationship at somepoint in their childhood. The study looks at young adults (18-39) who grew up at a time when it was more common for children in same-sex households to be the biological children of a parent who was in a heterosexual relationship or marriage, left that relationship, and then entered a homosexual relationship at a later point. These kids would have been through the trauma of a breakup or divorce – which social science suggests affects outcomes significantly. Similarly, the other major group of kids would be those adopted by same-sex couples – who have also experienced instability along the hard road to adoption – this undoubtely affects outcomes for these kids.

    I think the major finding here is that stability matters for children – and it appears that for the sample group surveyed of those kids with parents who had same-sex romantic relationships, there was less stability for a variety of factors.

    Now, Regnerus pointed out that this sample group is comprised of adults who would have been growing up in a different time and culture. Today attitudes towards planned gay/lesbian families are much more accepting (Cam and Mitchell of Modern Family for instance), so the number of LGBT families who are adopting infants or using reproductive technology to create families is increasing (the assumption being that planned LGBT families are more stable from the get-go). Also, Gay Marriages (which did not exist during the childhoods of most of the sample) lend stability to LGBT families which may mitigate outcome results for future studies of this nature.

    It is quite possible that Regnerus’ study is a snap-shot of an already extinct society where the gay family faced obstacles which negatively effected the kids involved. I imagine if a similar survey is done in ten years, that we will see different results. However, I don’t think we should fault Regnerus for his work. His critique of earlier work is valid, and he goes out of his way to say that he doesn’t think his current results are meaningful for policy, that in reality they only tell us that we need to do more studying to better understand the issue.

  9. Linus says:

    P.S. – I think the Box Turtle Bulletin’s critiques #1-3 are all valid, and get to the heart of the study’s flaws. Their fourth critique fails to recognize Regnerus’ goal of showing that earlier studies of same-sex households made comparisons between “bio-intacts” and “LM” and “GF” which alleged there is “No difference.” His entire goal is to show that there are differences between the two groups, and as a result, it would probably be better to study same-sex households to be compared with other households that exhibit similar parterns of instability.

    Thanks for posting all the links Elizabeth.

  10. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    The online link to the full Regnerus paper:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610

  11. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    The Loren Marks paper, also in the new issue of Social Science Research:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000580

  12. JHW says:

    Mark Regnerus claims that his results are different, and better, than the results of the “no differences” studies because his sample was large and random. But this is not at all the only, or even the primary, difference. The primary differences are that Regnerus’s study is looking at *all* children of parents who report parental same-sex relationships, and living with that couple for any length of time (as the Box Turtle Bulletin piece notes, few of the children spent more than three years with the same-sex couple), and that he is comparing this diverse group not to an equally diverse group of children with straight parents, but rather to specifically to children with intact, biological parents.

    That tells us absolutely nothing about the proper policy toward same-sex parenting. It doesn’t tell us anything about same-sex adoption; it doesn’t tell us anything about the use of donor gametes or surrogacy by same-sex couples; it doesn’t tell us anything about the concern social conservatives have that a same-sex couple wouldn’t be able to provide a child with the “male” and “female” influences that are supposedly necessary. Regnerus claims that he couldn’t make a better comparison because of the limitations of a random sample. Fine. But if that’s true, if anything, it just illustrates to us that the common criticisms of the rigor of same-sex parenting studies are unrealistic in their expectations. It doesn’t interfere in any way with the extensive body of research making better comparisons and reaching consistent results about the equal quality of same-sex and different-sex parents.

  13. Jeffrey says:

    I think the major finding here is that stability matters for children – and it appears that for the sample group surveyed of those kids with parents who had same-sex romantic relationships, there was less stability for a variety of factors.

    But we’ve known that all along. So the study really just acts as an antidote to other studies from the same era and cohort set. But it does little to shed light on the current discussion of families headed by same-sex parents . The activists had always attempted to suggest that same-sex parents have outcomes as bad as single mothers or divorces. This study confirms that. The problem is that same-sex couples in 2012 may no longer look like divorced families or single moms, but instead look like adoptive families or other intact couples. This study does nothing to shine light on that question.

  14. Jeffrey says:

    during a briefing he gave to press and scholars at IAV on Thursday on this study

    Beyond sharing funders, does IAV have any relationship with the study and Regenerus.

  15. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    Nope. We hosted a short lunch meeting for reporters and others in NYC area last Thursday where Prof Regnerus talked about the study.

  16. David Lapp says:

    Social Science Research published three responses from family scholars — Paul Amato and David Eggebeen from Penn State, and Cynthia Osborne from University of Texas — to the articles by Regnerus and Marks. You can see those here, here, and here.

  17. Linus says:

    Jeffrey,

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that this study can be used to meaningfully influence current policy, or that it was trying to shine light on contemporary issues – it is at most a historical snapshot which gives us indications that instability in many different family structures have had (at times) negative outcomes for the children involved. Remove the instability from the equation (through better family planning and recognized LGBT marriages) and we will likely have totally different outcomes for LGBT families moving forward.

    Ross Douthat notes this in him NYT op-ed:

    If a similar study a generation hence shows significant convergence between children raised in married same-sex households and children in intact biological families, it would vindicate one part of the case for same-sex marriage.

    I think the real challenge for addressing contemporary issues is that (as this study highlights), sometimes we can only harvest meaningful data years after the fact, and even then finding a statistically meaningful sample is costly and difficult and present challenges for any social scientist. And, as JHW points out, this study doesn’t even begin to address parenting decisions and choices of LGBT parents, and how those might play into outcomes. There is obviously a need for further indepth study, hopefully using similar methods and random samples – hopefully that will be one of the outcomes from this study.

    I think Regnerus’s study gives us some indications of areas where both straight and gay families can focus on improving to increase the odds of positive outcomes – so this study, if anything, is helpful in giving us perspective and a baseline to measure progress as our society embraces an emerging family structure – but even then we have to recognize that a lot has changed in the last fifteen years on this issue and undoubtably will continue to change in the next fifteen.

    I’d also point out that none of the parties involved gain from any bias in the study, which is why the study was submitted to UT’s internal review board and was peer reviewed at SocialScienceResearch prior to its release (and was published alongside three reviews from respected social scientists) all to ensure that the methodology was sound. The fact that the money came from Bradley and Witherspoon is incidental, and if anything those organizations should be applauded for promoting good social science research that meets such high standards (especially when the resulting findings generally give support to arguments that these orgs might not totally support).

  18. Jeffrey says:

    The fact that the money came from Bradley and Witherspoon is incidental, and if anything those organizations should be applauded for promoting good social science research that meets such high standards (especially when the resulting findings generally give support to arguments that these orgs might not totally support).

    But let’s be honest. Witherspoon would not have paid almost $700,000 for research that showed that kids coming from SS relationships were doing just fine. They knew there was no risk of that by having a study that would produce outcomes they hoped for, at least to some extent. By picking the age group and the way the samples were created, they were able to end up paying for a study that confirmed a position they had already staked out.

  19. Mont D. Law says:

    (I don’t think anyone is arguing that this study can be used to meaningfully influence current policy, or that it was trying to shine light on contemporary issues – it is at most a historical snapshot which gives us indications that instability in many different family structures have had (at times) negative outcomes for the children involved. Remove the instability from the equation (through better family planning and recognized LGBT marriages) and we will likely have totally different outcomes for LGBT families moving forward.)

    Every opponent of marriage equality is doing just that, including the studies author who is quoted saying it in the post above.

  20. Linus says:

    Regnerus has gone on record saying that the funders were not involved in selecting the sample or shaping the survey’s structure beyond asking that it address differing family structures and related outcomes – so it becomes a question of his credibility as a scholar. Anyone involved in academia knows that the only way research gets done is through grants from outside foundations – as a scholar you work hard to ensure that your research is credible and passes muster when reviewed by your peers and independent parties…so not sure what to tell you other than that this is peer reviewed research.

    And furthermore, if the funders are making claims about family structure where no good social science research exists, it sort of behooves them to fund a study that addresses the questions they are alleging to already have the answer to. Otherwise they are just making baseless claims that deserve to be dismissed out of hand – at least now we have data to parse and debate. The fact that they have gone to the trouble of funding a study that makes every effort to eliminate bias and meet academic standards is a good faith effort on their part to carry the debate forward in a productive manner. It is all we can ask of any organization that has a social agenda.

  21. JHW says:

    One more point. A random sample of same-sex couple households with children is not the same thing as a random sample of children with lesbian or gay parents. A random sample of same-sex couple households with children would probably have a much larger proportion of children who have spent a large portion of their lives with same-sex parents–children “raised by” same-sex parents rather than merely exposed to a same-sex relationship. And while most of the same-sex parenting studies we have are not from random samples, most of them do take the “household” approach rather than the “children” approach; they look for same-sex couples raising children. This is actually one substantial advantage they have over the Regnerus study. In the Regnerus study, 77% of the people in the “lesbian mother” group spent fifteen or more years of their childhood NOT with a same-sex couple (or at least not the one involving their biological parent); likewise for 98% of the people in the “gay father” group. How does this tell us anything about same-sex parenting?

  22. Phil says:

    I agree with the author of the study that this study is irrelevant to the same-sex marriage debate. Were a person to show me a study that showed that the children of interracial parents, or the children of Jewish parents, experienced worse outcomes than their single-race or Gentile counterparts, that would have no bearing on my support for the legality of such marriages. In fact, anyone who presented such evidence to argue against the legality of such relationships would be accurately described as an ignorant bigot. (This would be true even if the research methodologies were sound.)

    Does anyone disagree with that assessment?

  23. Jeffrey says:

    As feared, the research is already being demagogued. Look at the framing of this interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/302455/mom-and-dad-make-difference-kathryn-jean-lopez#more

  24. Jeffrey says:

    Wow, that’s some takedown by Corvino.

  25. Phil says:

    Here is a quote from the above-linked Natonial Review article:

    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.

    Look at the way Regnerus phrases it: he says that his study affirms that there is a gold standard (stable, married male-female couples). And he implies, without actually saying it, that this affirmation of a gold standard refutes the “reigning academic view” that there are no substantive differences between children raised by same-sex familes and children raised by married men and women.

    But that’s not correct: affirming that stable male-female marriages are good environments in which to raise children does not mean that every other possible family structure is bad. It certainly does not mean, without further data, that stable same-sex families are worse than male-female marriages. And Regnerus explicitly did not analyze same-sex families. He analyzed children who had a parent who had a same-sex relationship, and explicitly and intentionally included children who were not raised by same-sex couples.

    Obviously, Regnerus–whose name sounds like a J.K. Rowling villain– knows what he studied. And he knows that “children in same-sex families” were not a group that he studied. But he failed to correct Kathryn Lopez’s phrasing.

    There are really only three possible interpretations of this:
    1.) Regnerus is stupid, and doesn’t understand that comparing apples to oranges does not allow you to draw valid conclusions about pineapples or peaches.
    2.) Regnerus is evil, and is intentionally twisting his data to further some agenda.
    3.) Kathryn Lopez is misquoting him, making it sound like Regnerus was being stupid or deceitful when in the actual interview he issued a reasonable, qualified statement, and did not imply that he had refuted the “reigning view.”

    Let’s take a look at the NEXT thing Regnerus said:

    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.

    Okay. There are four adjectives that he applies to the noun “families.” “Coupled” is a strange choice, since he JUST GOT DONE IMPLYING that his study results were relevant for couples, when he obviously knows that he did not study same-sex couples.

    But…”white?” That was a flaw in the previous studies? White people were overrepresented in the same-sex parents? If you have too many white people in your sample, then it makes the outcomes for the children better? I don’t see any other way to interpret his inclusion of race in his critique of other studies.

    Now, it may be that, statistically speaking, children raised by white couples fare better on some measures than children raised by minority couples. But look at the language Regnerus just used. He said his study, by comparing children raised by married male-female couples to what we now know was a group of children raised by racially diverse parents, some of whom had same-sex relationships, shows that there is a “gold standard.”

    Yes, it is true that he is contrasting the “gold standard” of parenting with regard to the sexual relationships of the other parents. But he is also contrasting it with the race of the other parents.

    If race affects parenting outcomes, and Regnerus is clearly saying that it does, how else can we interpret his use of the term “gold standard” with regard to family structures?

  26. Phil says:

    Regnerus: Methods, basically. Too much previous reliance on small and/or nonprobability samples, especially of [...]
    white,
    [...]
    educated, coupled lesbian families

    Because my last post might be a tl;dr kinda thing, I want to reiterate Regnerus’ racial focus on his criticisms of the studies that didn’t find children fared worse, as well as ask for permission to post more than three comments.

    I really find his focus on whiteness disturbing, in the context in which he delivered it.

  27. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Looks like Mr. Regerus is getting a lot of pushback on this study. It appears he employed some rather flawed methodologies, and given his funders, might have had an agenda.

    Still, why do we care if same-sex parents make good parents, or meet some “optimal” level of parenting? Why are other forms of parents (mixed race couples, poor couples, religious extremist parents, etc.) not being given this kind of treatment? What is optimal parenting? What are ideal parenting outcomes?

    I believe this is one more smear campaign against gay people, to be used against them and their ambitions to be legally married. In its rulings against marriage discrimination, the US Supreme Court did not allow states to deny marriage licenses to convicted murderers because they might logically be sub-optimal parents; instead it said they can’t be denied the fundamental right to marry (even if their incarceration left no opportunity to procreate). The US Supreme Court did not rule that “deadbeat dads”, behind in their child support, can be forbidden a marriage license, because they’re proven that they are poor parents. Instead, the court ruled that they can’t be denied the fundamental right to marry. The US Supreme Court did not rule that inter-racial couples did not rule that states can outlaw inter-racial marriages, because the potential hardship on bi-racial children in a racist society would be an unfair burden. Instead, it ruled that inter-racial couples have an unfettered right to marry.

    It looks like courts aren’t seeing this newly-minted connection between marriage and parenting skills (that appears to apply only to gay people, surprise, surprise). At least their previous decisions have shown little regard to the welfare of children when considering who many, and who may not, marry.

  28. JHW says:

    JeffreyRO5: The case for same-sex marriage is independent of the success of same-sex parenting. But same-sex marriage is not the only issue. If there were actually a rigorous social-science case to be made that same-sex parenting is a lot worse than different-sex parenting, that would probably be a good reason to favor different-sex parents over same-sex parents in adoption, all else being equal. (It would not be a reason for a categorical ban, however—just for taking it into account.)

  29. JeffreyRO5 says:

    JHW, isn’t that already the case, that adoption favors different-sex couples over same-sex couples, as one of many factors? But the split between same-sex parents, and different-sex parents, is way too broad to be useful in placing children in adoptive homes: lots of different-sex couples would fail “optimal” parenting ideals, for any number reasons, and would presumably come behind same-sex couples in many cases.

    And, of course, a study can’t be done on the merits or deficiencies of same-sex parenting until same-sex couples have the same normalized life situations that different-sex couples have: a right to marry, to be treated respectfully, to not be discriminated against in work and housing, etc. We’re light years away from that. In my readings, too many anti-gay marriage supporters’ worst fear is that homosexuality is normalized, and the stigma against gays and gay relationships evaporates. The more homosexuality is normalized, the fewer “pathologies” gay people are likely to suffer, and the fewer pathologies the anti-gays will have to use against gay people in denying them equal legal rights and dignified lives. The catch-22: we can’t treat gay people like they’re normal, because then people will treat them like they’re normal, and they won’t support treating them like they’re different or second-class, including denying them fundamental rights.

  30. Stephen says:

    What interesting comments.

    Regnerus has said that the sample of stable same-sex parents was too small to be usable. So what on earth was the point of doing this study at all? It seems reckless at best. At worst, this will be used to bolster the idea that gay men molest and ‘recruit’ children into the ‘lifestyle’: the current version of the ‘blood libel’ used against Jews for centuries, i.e. They’re After Your Kids!!!! For example, this is what all NOM’s ads come down to when attacking marriage equality; see The Gathering Storm as an example.

    And I do think it matters who commissioned it, not because I think the author is intentionally dishonest, but because we tend to associate with people who think the same. Corvino does an excellent job on exposing the assumptions underlying the study and Regnerus is on record as having a particularly unrealistic, and decidedly un gay-friendly, view of what marriage must be.

  31. Another critique, this time from the excellent David Link at Independent Gay Forum. (“Independent” seems to be their word for “conservative.”)

  32. Peter Hoh says:

    Regnerus: “my colleagues and I randomly screened over 15,000 Americans aged 18-39 and asked them if their biological mother or father ever had a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex.”

    I suppose Regnerus and his colleagues asked a similar question in order to identify the heterosexual parents.

  33. JeffreyRO5 says:

    It’s hard to see what Professor Regnerus’ hypothesis was in conducting this “study.” Given the politics now associated with the primarily legal issue associated with granting gay and lesbian citizens the same rights as straight citizens, it’s hard to imagine what was going on in his head in conducting this “research.” Knowing that political forces have come to using the statement that gays make bad parents as their latest red-herring rationale for stopping legal same-sex marriage, it’s hard to imagine Regnerus isn’t a willing participant in this smear campaign.

  34. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Having done a little bit of research on the Regnerus study, it is hard to imagine what he is trying to accomplish. It is simply not possible to compare the “outcomes” of different-sex parenting with the outcomes of same-sex parenting, until same-sex parenting enjoys the same status and respect as different-sex parenting. Otherwise, you can’t distinguish any negative outcomes social disapproval and disadvantage to same-sex couples and their children have on the children of same-sex couples.

    But if he felt he had to do this “study”, the conclusion could just as easily be: society needs to stop marginalizing same-sex couples, because doing so leads to negative outcomes for their children. It’s interesting that he instead decided that maybe same-sex parenting is sub-optimal and therefore should be discouraged. Sounds like an agenda to me!

  35. Linus says:

    JefferyRO5,

    It’s interesting that he instead decided that maybe same-sex parenting is sub-optimal and therefore should be discouraged. Sounds like an agenda to me!

    Is there an exact quote of him discouraging gay parenting or advocating for policy changes based on his findings in this study? If so, somebody post it and lets have a real discussion about it – otherwise we are putting words in his mouth, and that’s not fair to him or productive to a discussion of his findings.

    Until such a quote is found, here’s a portion of Regnerus’ conclusion in his Slate Article:

    There are limitations to this study, of course. We didn’t have as many intact lesbian and gay families as we hoped to evaluate, even though they are the face of much public deliberation about marriage equality. But it wasn’t for lack of effort.

    Let me be clear: I’m not claiming that sexual orientation is at fault here, or that I know about kids who are presently being raised by gay or lesbian parents. Their parents may be forging more stable relationships in an era that is more accepting and supportive of gay and lesbian couples. But that is not the case among the previous generation, and thus social scientists, parents, and advocates would do well from here forward to avoid simply assuming the kids are all right.

    This study arrives in the middle of a season that’s already exhibited plenty of high drama over same-sex marriage, whether it’s DOMA, the president’s evolving perspective, Prop 8 pinball, or finished and future state ballot initiatives. The political take-home message of the NFSS study is unclear, however.

  36. Phil says:

    But that is not the case among the previous generation, and thus social scientists, parents, and advocates would do well from here forward to avoid simply assuming the kids are all right.

    I think “from here forward” is a pretty strong indication that Regnerus thinks his study should, in fact, inform the debate that he has previously said his study should not be used for.

    His study also did not study gay or lesbian parents; the majority could have been bisexual, for all he knows. Has Regnerus not also stated that he wasn’t studying orientation, just same-sex behavior? If that’s the case, why is he drawing conclusions about gay and lesbian parents?

  37. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Linus, does this work for you:

    “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.”

    Even though his data actually compare continuous, intact parenting situations with turbulent, changing ones, he assigns intact parenting with different-sex parenting and relationships that dissolve with same-sex parenting.

    His obvious implication is that different-sex parents are superior to same-sex parents, even though what he’s really measuring is successful intact relationships with unsuccessful, broken ones. Why? Why not compare successful same-sex relationships to successful different-sex relationships? Why create a study that equates a successful adult relationship with being straight, and an unsuccessful one with being gay?

    “Regnerus writes that children of same-sex parents experience greater “household instability” than others, and that it could be too much of a “social gamble” to “support this new (but tiny) family form.”

    This isn’t what his data show: they show that children from fractured relationships tend to suffer problems later in life. Well, duh!

    Obviously, the answer if for society to normalize gay relationships as soon as possible, in order to create brighter futures for children.

  38. by Ana Samuel and Ana Samuel

    An unusually close collaboration. :-p

    A good post from Waking Up Now:

    Regnerus Admits He Lacks the Data to Critique Same-Sex Parenting (*so why is he doing it?)

  39. Jeffrey says:

    Actually, Karen, does the Regnerus study shed any light at all on donor kids? Isn’t that the exact problem with social science research (and this current study), extrapolating meaning from research that isn’t at all on point?

  40. Jeffrey, I thought Karen was just making a joke about the extremely similar title of the article.

    The Ana Samuel article Karen linked to is genuinely terrible, by the way; virtually every false, inappropriate and untrue conclusion that can be inferred from the New Family Structures Study, Samuel leaps to in her article. It’s a marvel of intellectual dishonesty.

  41. Jeffrey says:

    Yeah, I don’t think she was making a joke. I think she was drawing parallels. The Saumel article is awful which doesn’t reflect very positively on the research they bankrolled.

  42. Linus says:

    Phil and JeffreyRO5,

    Phil, I think a perfectly acceptable conclusion to draw from this study is that, based on the results, we need to do more statistical sampling research before either side begins making claims about “the kids being alright” in newly emerging family structures such as stable same-sex households. If I am not mistaken he is not making statements about parenting, but rather outcomes as reported by adult children of parents who had same-sex relationships (and you’re right, we don’t have any indication about parental orientation – curious, bi, gay, lesbian). In his briefing he was very clear that you cannot draw conclusions about why the differences between these kids and kids in “bio-intact” households differ because there are too many variable in play, however, his point was that differences exist (to counter “no difference” claims being made by other social scientists using unreliable data). A better understanding of why differences exist, and if stable same-sex households exhibit similar differences or would actually achieve parity with “Bio-intacts” is going to have to be shown in future research.

    JeffreyRO5, thanks for the quote (which if I am not mistaken is from the final paragraph of the SSR article), this is helpful to furthering the discussion.

    Why not compare successful same-sex relationships to successful different-sex relationships? Why create a study that equates a successful adult relationship with being straight, and an unsuccessful one with being gay?

    I think you are assuming something about this study that isn’t necessarily true – that Regnerus set out to make a faulty comparison. Regnerus has no control over what the approx. 3,000 people responding to his survey are going to say, including the respondants who have parents who’ve had some sort of same-sex relationship. This is part of the strength of his data, it is a random statistical sample. The fact that the majority of the 236 respondents in categories “LM” and “GF” (234 out of 236) experienced a fractured household during their childhood is part of the data in the same way that 919 respondents experienced bio-intact households, and 1833 respondents who could not be sorted into bio-intact, LM, or GF also experienced some sort of fragmentation.

    It should be noted that bio-intact families out-perform every other group in the study, not just households with same-sex relationships occuring. It should also be noted that it is widely accepted that one of the reasons for differences between bio-intacts and other structures is the loss of stability that comes with family-structure transitions and fragmentation – this instability is a key variable.

    You are faulting him for failing to study stable same-sex households (a group that we assume would exhibit less instability and fragmentation) – but only two such households appear in his statistically representative sample, meaning they form such a small minority of respondants that it is impossible to make any statistically representative conclusions about outcomes from that group. He can, however, look more broadly at households where the parents had some sort of same-sex relationship and note the differences between this broader group and bio-intact families. Is this an ideal comparison, no, but it still gives us meaningful data when we consider the question of claims of “no difference” that have been made over the past decade in social science. That is because the vast majority of households in the past (and presumably today) where a same-sex relationship occured (which by definition includes gay/lesbian households) are shown to have experienced some sort of fragmentation and this likely effected the outcomes of children in these households.

    “Regnerus writes that children of same-sex parents experience greater “household instability” than others, and that it could be too much of a “social gamble” to “support this new (but tiny) family form.”
    This isn’t what his data show: they show that children from fractured relationships tend to suffer problems later in life. Well, duh!

    Not knowing where you pulled this quote from it is hard to respond to it – in the Slate article he makes a similar statement, I suspect you are paraphrasing it, correct me if I’m mistaken:

    On the one hand, the instability detected in the NFSS could translate into a call for extending the relative security afforded by marriage to gay and lesbian couples. On the other hand, it may suggest that the household instability that the NFSS reveals is just too common among same-sex couples to take the social gamble of spending significant political and economic capital to esteem and support this new (but tiny) family form

    In this quote he is laying out two options of how you might interpret the data. Both are valid based on the findings – either protect and promote the best current structure, or find ways to make new stable structure work just as well.

  43. JHW says:

    Linus: You’re missing the point. This study is not about same-sex parenting. So it cannot give us any reason to be hesitant about the evidence regarding same-sex parenting. If I showed you a study comparing outcomes of children raised by divorced left-handed people to outcomes of children raised in “intact biological” families where both parents were right-handed, and it turned out (as it probably would) that the children in the first group were worse off, you would not say, “Well, clearly that shows we need more research on whether left-handedness negatively affects child outcomes.” Maybe we do need more research on same-sex parenting. But not because of this study’s results.

  44. Ralph Lewis says:

    Two points about the Witherspoon Institute article Karen linked to:

    1) It repeats the oft-heard statement that statistics show that gay relationships are less stable, relying on the 2004 study from Norway and Sweden after those countries legalized same sex marriage. Samuel ignores more recent data, which shows, for example, in the U.K., the rate of dissolution of civil partnerships was half that of marriages:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8783007/Civil-partners-less-likely-than-married-couples-to-divorce.html

    2) The potential pernicious effects of the NFSS study can be seen from Samuel switching from speaking of “parents who had same-sex relationships” when referring to the actual raw data, but “gay parenting” when summarizing the results.

    Having read these comments, I’m clearly not alone in being astonished at Regnerus’ choice to lump everyone who reported a parent having had a same-sex relationship at some point in their childhood as a LM or GF. That’s neither a definition of sexual orientation nor is biological relationship a definition of parenting. (The 2% of children who lived with their “GF” for more than 3 years is a super example of this.) This rendering of what gay parenting is was his own; it was, as Regnerus declares himself, a way to get the LM and GF categories filled, thanks to the unfortunate presence of data that could not be shaped into the study his sponsors clearly desired.

  45. JeffreyRO5 says:

    Linus,

    “I think you are assuming something about this study that isn’t necessarily true – that Regnerus set out to make a faulty comparison.”

    I don’t know if he set out to make a faulty comparison, but he ended up making one. He equated having a parent who had a same-sex relationship with causing a troubled life for children. There’s no data to support that: the trouble for children is a fractured relationship between the two parents, regardless of what caused the fracture.

    “Is this an ideal comparison, no, but it still gives us meaningful data when we consider the question of claims of “no difference” that have been made over the past decade in social science.”

    No, it doesn’t give us any meaningful data. What’s meaningful about equating being gay as being from a fractured family? In the time period studied, marriage was not available to same-sex couples and many gay and lesbian people opted for a closeted life, and married a different-sex marriage. Did a lot of these mixed-orientation marriages break up? Well, yeah!

    Of all the conclusions that Regnerus reached, why decide that the one to reach is that we should discourage same-sex relationships because they lead to troubled outcomes for any children involved. His data don’t even support that. His data more closely support the idea that society needs to permit committed legalized relationships that can stay intact, including legal same-sex marriage, so that gay people don’t form fragile mixed-orientation marriages. And so that we reduce the incidence of fractured relationships, which lead to troubled outcomes for children.

  46. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “If we are going to redefine the societal defintion of marriage for the sake of stable families for children, then it needs to be packaged with other major societal concerns/issues such as the commodification of fathers/mothers/”donor” conception and “surrogacy””

    Says who? Why? What does same-sex marriage, which may or may not involve any children, have to do with procreation issues, like surrogacy? You might mean same-sex parenting, which is not an especially useful issue to discuss, since it’s legal in all 50 states, with no particular initiatives to make it illegal. But even then, if surrogacy issues concern you, they includes straight couples every bit as much as they include gay couples.