There is a new story by Chris Johnson on the 2002 Child Trends brief which concluded, based upon then-available research, that “the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents.” Carol Emig, president of Child Trends, has repeatedly refuted use of that study in debates about same-sex marriage, pointing out, correctly, that data available in 2002 did not separate out same sex couple headed homes in ways that could meaningfully be studied or reported. (Links for quotes below are provided in Johnson’s piece.)
“The Child Trends brief in question summarizes research conducted in 2002, when same-sex parents were not identified in large national surveys,” Emig said. “Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents.”
In 2008, when my friend and boss David Blankenhorn opposed same sex marriage, and cited the Child Trends brief as one example of why we might consider how redefining marriage could impact child well-being, Emig wrote in a letter to the editor:
“In research studies, the number of gay parents, even in large national surveys, has been too small to allow for separate analyses,” Emig wrote. “What is needed is a large-scale study of a representative sample of same-sex couples. Clearly, a better understanding of the diversity, strengths, and challenges faced by varied types of families is needed to better inform debates such as this one.”
I have also referred to the Child Trends study in the past when seeking to raise concerns about redefining marriage, such as in this report.
I think Emig’s 2008 letter to the editor still represents the best thinking on this question. We need to know more. Which means we need to keep asking the question and get beyond ripping each other’s heads off when anyone dares to ask the question. Here’s a post I wrote in December on what I see as a research agenda moving forward: “When Marriage Also Means Gay Marriage—A Proposed Research Agenda Related to Family Structure and Child Well-Being.”