A group of social scientists have released a defense of Mark Regnerus’ terrible study on gay parents, but that response only shows how bad the arguments in favor of the study are. Some of them, in fact, are astonishingly hypocritical. To wit:
Although Regnerus’s article in Social Science Research is not without its limitations, as social scientists, we think much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted for three reasons.
First, there are limitations with prior research on this subject that have seldom been discussed by the media. The vast majority of studies published before 2012 on this subject have relied upon small, nonrepresentative samples that do not represent children in typical gay and lesbian families in the United States.
This is true, of course, but there’s a fairly obvious reason for that — openly gay couples raising children is a relatively new phenomenon. It hasn’t been possible until very recently to build a sample group of children who were actually raised by a gay couple over a long period of time. But you certainly don’t fix that problem by using an even less representative sample and comparing applies to bowling balls.
By contrast, Regnerus relies on a large, random, and representative sample of more than 200 children raised by parents who have had same-sex relationships, comparing them to a random sample of more than 2,000 children raised in heterosexual families, to reach his conclusions.
But notice the change in wording there. They compared 200 children “raised by parents who have had same-sex relationships” to 2000 children “raised in heterosexual families” (intact and long-term stable families, at that). Those simply aren’t the same thing. They defined the first group as anyone who had a parent, whether they lived with them or not, or for any significant period of time, had any same-sex relationship at all, even if it was after the child was grown and out of the house. Calling the sample “large” and “representative” is irrelevant if the subjects are not, in fact, representative of those raised long-term in households with two gay parents (or one gay parent, if they want to compare to other families led by a single straight parent).
Second, Regnerus has been chided for comparing young adults from gay and lesbian families that experienced high levels of family instability to young adults from stable heterosexual married families. This is not an ideal comparison. (Indeed, Regnerus himself acknowledges this point in his article, and calls for additional research on a representative sample of planned gay and lesbian families; such families may be more stable but are very difficult to locate in the population at large.) But what his critics fail to appreciate is that Regnerus chose his categories on the basis of young adults’ characterizations of their own families growing up, and the young adults whose parents had same-sex romantic relationships also happened to have high levels of instability in their families of origin. This instability may well be an artifact of the social stigma and marginalization that often faced gay and lesbian couples during the time (extending back to the 1970s, in some cases) that many of these young adults came of age.
Um, they’re trying to defend this study, right? Seems to me they’re just ducking into the punch by admitting that the sample A) isn’t really representative and B) even if it was, the results may well be due to social stigma and anti-gay attitudes.
With the sharp rise in the number of families led by gay couples over the last few years, it will certainly be possible in the next decade or so to find a good sample of families headed by two gay parents in a long-term, stable relationship (married or otherwise) and compare them to the same thing. It will also be possible to split it out and compare other groups — children raised by gay and straight single parents, children adopted by gay or straight individuals or couples, and so forth. And that’s a good thing. But stop pretending that this study does that. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even come close.