People on both sides of the same-sex adoption debate have extremely passionate views on the matter. While those who stand opposed to gay adoptions charge that the institution could negatively impact children, individuals in support claim that there is virtually no difference between the kids who come from straight and gay homes. Now, a new study published in the journal “Social Science Research” tackles this very ideal, finding that there are, indeed, major differences worth noting.
These purported discrepancies exist in the areas of social, emotional and relationship measures, Deseret News reports. The study, which is bound to be controversial, found lower reported income levels, poorer mental and physical health and more problematic romantic relationships, among adults who came from same-sex homes. Among 40 measures, there were 25 differences observed among this cohort when compared to kids who were raised in heterosexual households. Deseret continues:
The research does not address why the differences exist. It doesn’t predict if changing attitudes that are more accepting of same-sex relationships will mean that children growing up today with same-sex parents will one day fare better in similar analysis. It doesn’t address stigma or whether the difference is not the sexual preference of the parents but rather how stable the home life was, lead investigator Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at University of Texas Austin’s Population Research Center, told the Deseret News.
“Nor does the study tell us that same-sex parents are necessarily bad parents,” he said in a written statement. “Rather, family forms that are associated with instability or non-biological parents tend to pose risks for children as they age into adulthood.”
His study does challenge long-held assertions that there are no outcome differences between children raised in intact biological families and those with same-sex parents.
In assembling his study, Regnerus used data from the New Family Structure Study (NFSS) to examine adults aged 18 to 39 who were raised in gay households. He compared these results to those found among individuals living with biological parents, co-habiting adults, single-parents, step-parents or adoptive parents, among others. Now, it is important to note that, among the 3,000 adults for which data was available, only 175 said they came from lesbian homes; 73 said they came from homes where their father was engaged in a same-sex relationship.
These numbers represent relatively small samples and, thus, could easily be questioned as inadequate by those opposed to the results. Regnerus, himself, maintains that the lesbian households were more reliable in terms of exploring the situation, because more data was available for them. In the end, lesbian mothers compare most favorably to step-families and single parents — not to intact families comprised of biological mothers and fathers.
Regnerus is careful not to conclude that same-sex parenting accounts for the outcome differences. Rather, his data merely showcases a comparison between the structures. There may be numerous intervening factors that create these issues among children from same-sex homes — issues that have nothing to do with the nature of gay relationships and parenting. Deseret continues:
He eliminated socioeconomics, age, politics, gender, geography, race and bullying as explanations for the gaps he found between family structure types.
Is it the stigma the parents felt? He doesn’t know. “We didn’t talk to parents, and I can’t measure stigma.” Single-parent and step-families have, much like same-sex parents, “a higher degree of instability” compared to intact biological families, he said. It’s probably not just having a man and woman, either, since step-families have those and the kids don’t fare as well.
Beyond the controversy surrounding whether the notion that children from these cohorts are similar in adulthood, Loren Marks, a professor at Louisiana State University, has some critiques for past studies that have been done on the matter. In a separate analysis in “Social Science Research,” he claims that past studies about same-sex parenthood are biased and unreliable. Deseret continues:
He lists seven concerns with the science, including the fact that “well-educated, relatively wealthy lesbian couples have been repeatedly compared to single-parent heterosexual families instead of two-parent marriage-based families.” Single-parent families typically have poorer child outcomes across several measures, so it’s easier to look better against them, he said.
It is important to note that this research differs greatly from past studies that have found no notable differences between children from same-sex households and kids from heterosexual families. You can read more about these studies as well as refutations from those who disagree with the findings over at Deseret News.