I haven’t read all of the commentary on the Mark Regnerus study of the adult children whose parents have same-sex relationships, but based on what I have read, and after having read the study itself and thought about it for a few days, I’d like to offfer three general propositions about the study, and see if you think they are on target or not.
1. The study provides preliminary but valuable information about the approximately 1.7 percent of young adults whose mother or father had a same-sex relationship.
The study it not able to address issues of causation — it cannot say that X outcome for these children is the result of the parents having a same-sex relationship — but the study nevertheless does contain a lot of fascinating, surprising (to me, anyway), often troubling, and therefore potentially important information about these young people.
2. The study provides little if any insight on the topic of family structure.
Here are some questions about family structure:
a. When you were age five, who else was living in your household?
b. Did your living arrangements ever change as the result of parental divorce?
c. Did a grandparent ever live with you when you were growing up?
Here are some questions that are NOT about family structure:
a. Did either of your parents ever drink heavily?
b. Did either of your parents ever win the lottery?
c. Did either of your parents ever have a same-sex relationship?
In general, family structure questions are questions concerning what the Census Bureau call living arrangements. Other questions are about … other things.
Therefore, comparing the results of questions about family structure with results of questions that are NOT about family structure is … confusing … especially in a study that says it’s about “new family structures.” I think that’s the heart of why this study is generating such heated commentary. Particularly confusing is the attempt to compare outcomes of children whose parents had a same-sex relationship (which is not an issue of family structure) with outcomes of children who grew up in bio two-parent married homes (which is an issue of family structure).
Tangentially, if this study can’t tell us much of anything about family structure, it CERTAINLY can tell us nothing at all about the issue of marriage, gay or otherwise.
3. What might make sense in a follow-up analysis of these data, by Regnerus or anyone else, is to compare outcomes of young adults whose parents had a same-sex relationship with outcomes of young adults whose parents did not have a same-sex relationship. Such a comparison still would tell us nothing definitive about causation, but it seems to me that such a comparison would at least be apples to apples, rather than apples to oranges. And it would be interesting. (If Regnerus has already showed this comparison in the study, and I just missed it somehow, someone please correct me.)