Surprise! Same-sex couples produce happier kids, media say

Ordinarily, quality journalism benefits from solid information, concrete evidence and a healthy dose of skepticism.

But certainly, major news organizations can be forgiven when they err on the side of a higher ideal, right?

In this week’s example, that higher ideal would be acceptance of same-sex parents.

At this point in history, producing a baby apparently — and regrettably, it seems — still requires a father and a mother. But on the bright side, a “major study” has come up with this encouraging news:

Children of same-sex couples are happier and healthier than peers, research shows

That was the headline in the Washington Post. 

The breathless top of the Post story:

Children of same-sex couples fare better when it comes to physical health and social well-being than children in the general population, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“It’s often suggested that children with same-sex parents have poorer outcomes because they’re missing a parent of a particular sex. But research my colleagues and I published in the journal BMC Public Health shows this isn’t the case,” lead researcher Simon Crouch wrote on the Conversation.

Crouch and his team surveyed 315 same-sex parents with a total of 500 children across Australia. About 80 percent of the kids had female parents and about 18 percent had male parents, the study states.

Children from same-sex families scored about 6 percent higher on general health and family cohesion, even when controlling for socio-demographic factors such as parents’ education and household income, Crouch wrote. However, on most health measures, including emotional behavior and physical functioning, there was no difference compared with children from the general population.

Crouch suggested the greater social cohesion among same-sex families comes from an equal distribution of work. He said same-sex couples are likely to share responsibilities more equally than heterosexual ones.

“It is liberating for parents to take on roles that suit their skills rather than defaulting to gender stereotypes, where mum is the primary care giver and dad the primary breadwinner,” he said.

The Boston Globe chose a similar headline, but one without any clunky attribution to a study or research (kudos, Globe!):

Children of Same-Sex Couples are Healthier Than Their Peers

And from the New York Post:

Study shows children of same-sex couples are happier

But before we all get too excited about this research, the Post did include a quick, obligatory note of caution:

But Benjamin Siegel, professor of pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, said there are limits with such research. He told BU Today last year that none of the studies has been a randomized, controlled trial and that all studies on same-sex parenting are small since there aren’t as many same-sex parents.

There are limits, huh? Well, not if you read the Globe story, which manages to avoid such irritating naysaying. But yeah, the Post, too, included a little bit of critical commentary. To the New York paper’s credit, though, it did so in a way that let readers know exactly how wrong the skeptics are:

The results, while in line with previous surveys, still set off a firestorm.

“I wasn’t surprised that these parents who volunteered for the study all thought their children were doing well,” Family Voice Australia research officer Rosyln Phillips told ABC Radio Australia. “You’ve got to look beyond studies like these to what happens when the child reaches adulthood, and that’s the only time with independent assessment you can really say what’s gone on with the parenting.”

Conservatives, meanwhile, put out blog posts such as this one that dared to question the study:

The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families has been getting copious positive press coverage. Unfortunately, it has some serious methodological weaknesses — it studies only the lives and experiences of the LGBT elite.

Bah, humbug, Mr. Critic.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.


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