There’ve been a few studies recently claiming that gay couples actually make better parents than straight couples.
Being the inquisitive person that I am, and being familiar with how studies are done and how they can be skewed (I participated in a few during grad school), I wanted to know more. I studied the reports. I sought the counsel of Glenn Stanton, Research Fellow for Global Family Formation at Focus on the Family. I read the debates.
Turns out, the studies are flawed to such a degree that the findings are in fact invalid.
For the purposes of this blog entry, I’ll just stick with a study by Charlotte J. Patterson entitled “Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents” which was published in 2006 by the Association for Psychological Science.
She begins her report by acknowledging that previous studies are flawed because the participants of those studies (the “sample”) were not sufficiently representative of the general population, and therefore reliable conclusions about the general population couldn’t be made.
The thing is, Patterson’s studies are flawed because she doesn’t sufficiently describe the study participants (or “sample”) that she’s selected. She compares same-sex “parents” with heterosexual parents (who are in “marriage-like relationships”), for example, but doesn’t tell us what kind of heterosexual parents are included in her study. Are they biological parents who are in fact married? Are they cohabiting college students who just happened to have a child out of wedlock? Are they step-parents? She doesn’t say, and that is significant.
In her report, Patterson concludes that “the findings suggest that parental sexual orientation is less important than the qualities of family relationships. More important to youth than the gender of their parent’s partner is the quality of daily interaction and the strength of relationships with the parents they have.”
The problem is that there’s an incredibly large, diverse and conclusive literature showing that family formation DOES matter to children, even when the adults in the home are very loving, a body which Patterson has never recognized in any of her work. This body shows that children suffer when they live apart from their own fathers, really for any amount of time, as well as when they live with single, divorced, cohabiting or remarried parents.
See these studies from Child Trends and the Center for Law and Social Policy which survey this research:
- Are Married Parents Really Better for Children?
- Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do about It?
This is the concluding problem with Patterson’s work: She says that children from same-sex homes look like kids from two-parent heterosexual homes. (She makes that stark conclusion elsewhere, but seems to not make it as boldly in this paper, but she assumes it.) The significant problem is that the various forms of heterosexual two-parent homes are very different: married biological, married non-biological, remarried with step children, cohabiting, etc. Patterson makes no effort to say WHICH heterosexual homes she is comparing her same-sex home kids to.
And that is the fatal error which should get her paper failed in any respectable graduate school program.
It shouldn’t make a difference in a truly scientific study, but it is notable that Patterson is a lesbian in a relationship with a female partner, and the couple has three children between them; that may account for her bias and activism on behalf of those practicing the homosexual lifestyle.
In the end, frankly, regardless of what the researchers tell us, we at Boundless and Focus on the Family unequivocally oppose homosexual “parenting” and adoption, and believe that such living arrangements are inherently immoral and are detrimental to the wellbeing of children.