Part 2: More Info about the Study on Adult Children of Parents who have Same-Sex Relationships

Part 2 in a series on the New Family Structures Study I conducted.

Just a few links, as well as the answer to some common criticisms of the study…

The study itself is free and publicly available, beginning today, at this site, together with another study on the matter by Loren Marks (LSU professor), and three comments on the studies, including one by Paul Amato, Penn State sociologist and current president of the National Council on Family Relations.

My short summary piece on the study is up at Slate.com, here, as is William Saletan’s take.

In response to a common criticism about the fact that there are few respondents who reported growing up in stably-coupled lesbian families, I had this to say:

“One of the key methodological criticisms circulating is that–basically–in a population-based sample, I haven’t really evaluated how the adult children of stably-intact coupled self-identified lesbians have fared. Right? Right. And I’m telling you that it cannot be feasibly accomplished. It is a methodological (practical) impossibility at present, for reasons I describe: they really didn’t exist in numbers that could be amply obtained *randomly*. It may well be a flaw–a limitation, I think–but it is unavoidable. We maxxed Knowledge Networks’ ability, and no firm is positioned to do better. It would have cost untold millions of dollars, and still may not generate the number of cases needed for statistical analyses. If randomness wasn’t the key priority, then we could’ve done it. And we’d have had a nonrandom sample that was no better than anything before it. So, while critics are taking potshots, they should remember that there’s a (low) ceiling to what’s possible here. My team of consultants elected to go with the screener questions (including the one about same-sex relationships) that we did, anticipating–accurately, too–that there would be no way of generating ample sample size if we narrowed the criteria (for who counts as a lesbian parent) to the sort that critics are calling for. We figured that, with the household roster/calendar offering the opportunity to identify who you lived with, we’d comfortably get enough cases wherein the respondent reported living with mom and her partner for many consecutive years. But few did.”

  • BobN

    Inability to find a legitimate random sample doesn’t seem to have impeded your ability to reach conclusions.

    What a surprise to find your blog on the “evangelical channel”. I guess you have a get-out-responsibilities card when it comes to bearing false witness. Handy that.

  • Michael

    Dr. Regnerus,
    I recognize that there are limitations to what data is available, and that those limitations should not keep research from being done, but the limitations of this current study are so extensive that they require much more consideration on your part. In your article on Slate.com, you compare your study to previous work that has been done comparing stable same-sex households to stable heterosexual households, and you claim that your study is better. But in no possible way can your work (in the current study) say anything about stable same-sex households. You are not measuring this variable, so you cannot speak to it. And because you are not following stable same-sex households, I feel that it is extremely disingenuous to suggest that your study examines the differences between same-sex and heterosexual households.

  • Jay Egenes

    This is a tremendous resource. Thanks for doing this work. You’ve identified several areas in which children who had a gay or lesbian parent have significantly different (and I think we’d agree, worse) outcomes than those with two straight parents who stayed together.
    At least some (maybe all?) of those outcomes are potentially the result of family instability. The answer may be in actually reading the study, but here’s my question: If you take out the sexual orientation question, and simply view this in terms of a parent having a relationship with someone other than the child’s other parent, so that the parents didn’t stay together, do the results change? Put another way, are the negative outcomes associated with same-sex relationships or behavior, or are the negative outcomes associated with unstable family situations? Or can’t we tell?

  • Kevin Carlson

    Thank you for making my life as a gay man even harder. Rest assured the anti-gay groups are already using this study to say children should not be raised by same sex couples. Things are hard enough as it is – thanks for making them worse.

  • Matt

    As a research psychologist who studies antigay prejudice, I first want to say that I think it is critical for assumptions to be challenged empirically. That is why we do science. You have made an impressive contribution to the field of parenting with the sample you obtained. That said, I agree with Michael and Jay above. I do not question the data or your findings, only the conclusions people are drawing from them. As you carefully note in your article, widespread assumptions and policy decisions are beyond the reach of these data. I hope that more researchers become fearless and further unpack these effects to better understanding the mechanisms driving them. Is it instability per se, or something about how the children reacted to the same-sex relationships, or something else entirely.

  • http://gruntledcenter.blogspot.com/ Gruntled

    I thank you and the publisher for making the study and the criticisms freely available. I know how unusual that is.

    I was struck, as you noted, by how different the lesbian vs. gay men results were. My first thought was that father absence makes a big difference to kids. But, as you note, gay parents are so rare that maybe even this relatively large sample is still too small to be sure we are seeing a real difference. Do you have a hunch on this matter?

  • kenneth

    It was partisan and religiously oriented hackery and “science for pay” from the get go. The funding sources are part of a coalition of institutes and think tanks which exist for no other reason than to push anti-gay (or as they favor, “pro family”) public policies. This coalition of interconnected groups includes the Witherspoon Institute, NOM, Opus Dei. Groups like this don’t pay people to do science. They pay people to help dress up their political positions in the credibility of science. They would not, in this or any other universe, shell out three quarters of a million dollars to any project which ran a real risk of undercutting their position.

    The effort has the baseline credibility of national sampling, but great care was taken to avoid apples-to-apples comparisons and populations. Instead, the methodology puts up a set of offspring of parents who had any or all forms of same sex involvement against a population of very traditional hetero family structures. The pretension is made that we are looking at matched sets separated by only the sexuality of the parents involved. It is nothing of the kind. It is a set of gay parent households which intentionally includes a large proportion of family instability matched against a population of stable households which happened to be headed by straight parents.

    It’s science custom made for the pseudoscientific patrons who bought it. The scientist gets to retain credibility by acknowledging limitations in fine print. The partisan hacks get to play it up as a “national study” that proves gay partnerships are bad for kids.

    Real science leaves its experiments open to the possibility that its paradigms might be challenged. Science that sets out to prove an inviolable predetermined answer is not worthy of the name.

  • http://www.brewright.com Bradley Wright

    Some of the comments are getting rather uncivil, so I am going to lock this comment thread. BW

  • Sister Edith

    Thank you for making the study available and not behind a pay wall. Open access is pretty uncommon