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Biased same-sex study damages parenting reputation

Tyler Smith, Opinion Writer
February 13, 2013
Filed under Opinion

Children raised by same-sex parents grow up to experience inadequate lives, according to Mark Regnerus in his New Family Structures Study. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council upheld the arguments proposed by the NFSS conducted by Regnerus.

Sprigg’s article, “New Study on Homosexual Parents Tops All Previous Research,” compares children of same-sex parents to those of married biological ones. He said those with lesbian or gay parents are more prone to receiving welfare, have lower educational attainment, feel less safe in their homes, are more likely to have depression, have been arrested more often and in the case of females, have more sexual partners.

Stacie Christian, the associate coordinator of UW-Green Bay’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning organization said she doesn’t consider the journal Social Science Research, in which the NFSS was published, to be a scholarly source.

Christian said her organization only considers such articles in validity for use that are peer-reviewed and adhere to the APA format. One such issue with Regnerus’s study is it was published rather  too quickly, in contrast to most peer-reviewed articles.

According to Abbie Goldberg, Ph.D., in her article “Flawed Study of ‘Gay Parenting’: Roundup of Recent Media Coverage and Critiques,” Regnerus’s study was accepted and published within six weeks of being submitted and revised. Goldberg said the data itself was provided only 20 days before the end of its collection.

Goldberg further said a major fault of the survey was the definition of same-sex parents. UWGB associate professor Christine Smith supported this critique.

Smith said this definition, whether a parent had ever had a single sexual relationship with an individual of the same sex, isn’t sufficient. A child’s parent having dated someone of the same sex doesn’t guarantee the child was present during this time or even raised by same-sex parents.

Smith said studies such as Regnerus’s often utilize children who weren’t raised by same-sex parents as the author claims. Furthermore, Smith said the study doesn’t incorporate race, class or income. However, there are some positive aspects to Regnerus’s study.

No other study before had utilized such a large group of participants. Three thousand individuals interviewed with 175 stated their mother had experienced a same-sex relationship and 73 stated their father had been in one at some point.

Smith said such an aspect is to be applauded. However, she said the comparison between the group with same-sex parents and Regnerus’s so-called intact biological families is simply unfair.

Smith reiterated only two individuals indicated having actually grown up in a family consisting of same-sex parents, therefore leaving the other members of Regnerus’s studied group potentially as children of divorce or other unstable relationships.

“If you’re comparing children of divorce and unstable relationships with stable relationships, you’re clearly going to find lots of problems, regardless of the sexual orientation of the parent,” Smith said.

It’s not fair to base all same-sex parents and parenting styles upon one survey, especially when the survey defines same-sex parenting in terms of experiencing at least one homosexual relationship during the individual’s childhood. Smith said if Regnerus wants to compare IBFs to families with same-sex parents, he needs to utilize more stable households.

Smith said she has no issue with the NFSS being published. She feels every study is flawed to some degree due to human error and different interpretations of data. There’s a problem, though, when a study such as Regnerus’s is the only one taken into account. The collective whole needs to be considered.

When individuals, or in this case the FRC, grasp onto one study alone that affirms their beliefs, they’re only strengthening biases. Not every same-sex parentage is a product of a failed marriage and potentially unwanted.

“People who are parents, especially gay males, didn’t accidentally get pregnant,” Christian said. “This is a process. They want to be parents.”

Christian pointed out adoption for gay males is on the rise and there are screening processes in place. Still, the prejudices concerning same-sex parenting still arise and surveys like the NFSS by Regnerus, can have a lasting dire impact on a group of people.

“Not everyone has protection,” Christian said. She said people in the LGBTQ community are still getting killed and an average lifespan of a transgender individual is close to 23 due to suicide and murder. Christian said, in terms of Regnerus’s study, real surveys do help the LGBTQ community, but ones like his hurt.