A new study in the US to be printed in the journal Social Science Research, claims to show significant differences in the outcome of children raised by gay and lesbian parents when compared to children raised by biological, straight and married parents.
The study by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas’s Department of Sociology and Population Research Center is titled, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.”
The study’s findings, which showed a negative outcome for children with gay parents, was widely publicised in the media when it was released online Monday.
However, the study by Regnerus has come under fire from several groups today for introducing sexual orientation into what is seen as a comparison between children in unstable parenting environments to those in environments with stable, married parents.
Commentators have pointed out that gay couples are now able to marry and create more stable environments in many US states and that many of the children in the study would have experienced the break-up of their family when their parent realised they were gay, which could readily account for the negative outcomes experienced in later life.
Marriage equality opponents have already picked up Regnerus’s study as proof that children raised by loving, committed, same-sex couples will have more problems than those who are raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual household. However, as Jim Burroway of boxturtlebulletin.com points out, the samples of people put together by Regnerus cannot cast comment on committed same-sex couples who, together, decide to become parents via adoption, in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy. The study looked at a sample of people aged 18-39, which means most grew up in a period of time when same-sex relationships were more heavily stigmatized, therefore the respondents were more likely to have been products of a “failed heterosexual union” or parents who were not even married to begin with.
The funding for the study also came from the Witherspoon Institute and Bradley Foundation, two conservative groups which can be linked to anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage. The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the anti-gay groups Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and such ultra-conservative Catholic groups as Opus Dei reported Gay Star News.
Gay rights campaign Freedom to Marry said the paper was “fundamentally flawed and intentionally misleading. It doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring. Most of the children examined in the paper were not being raised by parents in a committed same-sex relationship—whereas the other children in the study were being raised in two-parent homes with straight parents.
“Given its fundamental flaws and ideological agenda, it’s not surprising that the paper doesn’t match the 30 years of solid scientific research on gay and lesbian parents and families. That research has been reviewed by child welfare organizations like the Child Welfare League of America, the National Adoption Center, the National Association of Social Workers and others whose only priority is the health and welfare of children and that research has led them to strongly support adoption by lesbian and gay parents.”
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow of the British Surrogacy Centre said in response to the study’s findings: “More research is needed on this subject, of course. Remember same sex parenting is a relatively new area of research. In the past ten years the numbers of parents of the same sex has grown 10 fold, and we know from our dealings at the BSC with Prof Golombrok from the University of Cambridge that this area of research is growing and more funding is becoming available. In my experience as a social worker [in the UK], working in this field for many years, I would argue that children brought up in a same sex relationship are just as stable [as their straight counterparts].