First Look at Mark Regnerus’s Study on Children of Parents In Same-Sex Relationships

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012

Mark Regnerus. "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Families Structure Study." Social Science Research 41, no 4 (July 2012): 752-770.

A new study slated for the July issue of the journal Social Science Research claims to show significant differences in adverse outcomes among children raised by gay and lesbian parents when compared to children raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual-headed household. The study is not yet online but I have been provided an advance copy. [Update: it is now available for purchase.] It is by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas’s Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, and is titled, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.”

This study finds “numerous, consistent differences, especially between children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.” The results of this study would up-end some thirty years of established scientific research which showed that gay and lesbian parents are, on the whole, just as good as their straight counterparts. It would, at least, if the study’s methodology were designed to prove that point. But as is the case with all studies, the conclusions drawn by this study are only as good as the methodologies used to inform them.

The Study’s Sample
On that score, there is one significant strength to this study which makes it stand out. Unlike prior studies, the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is based on a national probability sampled population. This is the gold standard for all social science studies, and it’s extremely rare for a study to achieve that mark. As far as I am aware, all of the studies to date of gay and lesbian parenting use non-representative convenience samples. National probability samples, unlike convenience samples, are important because they alone can be generalized to the broader populations, to the extent that key characteristics in the design of the probability sample (demographics, etc.) match those of the general population. Convenience samples can’t do that. (For more information on convenience samples versus national probability samples, click here.)

So why don’t the other studies use national probability samples? Believe me, every researcher would much rather work with national probability samples instead of convenience samples. But virtually nobody can afford the huge cost of putting such a study together. It is a massive undertaking, and the cost of creating such a data set is just too prohibitive. Regnerus however has overcome this limitation (PDF: 74KB/12 pages) with a generous $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute and a supplemental $90,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation. With more than three quarters of a million dollars, he has the kind of funding that other researchers can only dream of.

With those vast sums in hand, Regnerus contracted with Knowledge Networks, a large research firm which has provided access to its broad, general-population probability sample to researchers for more than 350 working papers, conference presentation, published articles and books. The probability sample supplied by Knowledge Networks for this study was based on adults between the age of 18 and 39 who were asked the following questions (page 756):

“From when you were born until age 18 (or until you left home to be on your own), did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?” Response choices were “Yes, my mother had a romantic relationship with another woman,” “Yes, my father had a romantic relationship with another man,” or “no.” (Respondents were also able to select both of the first two choices.) If they selected either of the first two, they were asked about whether they had ever lived with that parent while they were in a same-sex romantic relationship. The NFSS completed full surveys with 2988 Americans between the ages of 18 and 39.

Because the number of adult children of gay or lesbian parents is so small, additional participants were recruited who could answer the first question in the affirmative using the same random methodologies used to generate the broader sample. This was done to increase the statistical power of the smaller sample while preserving the random nature of that subsample. This is a legitimate practice for examining very small populations. But for that reason, comparing the total of children raised by a parent who had had a same-sex relationship to the overall sample size would not tell us how much of the general population is being raised by such a parent. And while that was not a primary question to be answered by this study, Regnerus notes that the original raw sample showed that 1.7% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 39 report that their father or mother has had a same-sex relationship. This is in line with several other studies on same-sex households with children.

Problem #1: Identifying a Same-Sex Relationship Doesn’t Tell Us Anything About the Nature of the Relationship.
But this is where we run into the first problem with this study. Identifying a parent who has had a same-sex relationship is not the same as identifying a parent who is gay, lesbian or bisexual in a functional relationship. Regnerus acknowledges this problem so quickly that it’s likely to be overlooked (p 578):

In the results section, for maximal ease, I often make use of the acronyms IBF (child of a still-intact biological family), LM (child of a lesbian mother), and GF (child of a gay father). It is, however, very possible that the same-sex romantic relationships about which the respondents report were not framed by those respondents as indicating their own (or their parent’s own) understanding of their parent as gay or lesbian or bisexual in sexual orientation. Indeed, this is more a study of the children of parents who have had (and in some cases, are still in) same-sex relationships than it is one of children whose parents have self-identified or are ”out” as gay or lesbian or bisexual. The particular parental relationships the respondents were queried about are, however, gay or lesbian in content. [Emphasis in the original.]

What criteria does he use to judge whether those relationships are “gay or lesbian in content”? We don’t know. I can’t find any indication that the duration of the relationship played any factor in its identification. The question was very simple: “Did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?” Did a short affair count? What about a relationship that only lasted two weeks? Four months? Social conservatives who reduce gay and lesbian relationships to behaviors only would say yes to all of those, many eagerly so. Actual gay and lesbian couples in committed, long-term relationships naturally scoff at that, and rightfully so.

But already you can see where this is headed, can’t you? We will be asked to accept as legitimate the comparison of children raised by parents in those less stable and unenduring situations with stable, longtime married heterosexual parents without knowing the answers to those question. So already, Regnerus puts that comparison in starkly unequal footing.

Sorting the Sample into Subpopulations
That population was then sorted into the following categories (p 757-758):

1. IBF: Lived in intact biological family (with mother and father) from 0 to 18, and parents are still married at present (N = 919).

2. LM: R reported R’s mother had a same-sex romantic (lesbian) relationship with a woman, regardless of any other household transitions (N = 163).

3. GF: R reported R’s father had a same-sex romantic (gay) relationship with a man, regardless of any other household transitions (N = 73).

4. Adopted: R was adopted by one or two strangers at birth or before age 2 (N = 101).

5. Divorced later or had joint custody: R reported living with biological mother and father from birth to age 18, but parents are not married at present (N = 116).

6. Stepfamily: Biological parents were either never married or else divorced, and R’s primary custodial parent was married to someone else before R turned 18 (N = 394).

7. Single parent: Biological parents were either never married or else divorced, and R’s primary custodial parent did not marry (or remarry) before R turned 18 (N = 816).

8. All others: Includes all other family structure/event combinations, such as respondents with a deceased parent (N = 406).

Problem #2: Arbitrary Decisions in Dealing with Overlaps Between Categories Make the LM and GF Categories Heterogeneous While the Other Categories Remain Relatively Homogeneous.
Regnerus discusses how he dealt with the fact that these categories are not mutually exclusive (page 758):

That is, a small minority of respondents might fit more than one group. I have, however, forced their mutual exclusivity here for analytic purposes. For example, a respondent whose mother had a same-sex relationship might also qualify in Group 5 or Group 7, but in this case my analytical interest is in maximizing the sample size of Groups 2 and 3 so the respondent would be placed in Group 2 (LMs). Since Group 3 (GFs) is the smallest and most difficult to locate randomly in the population, its composition trumped that of others, even LMs. (There were 12 cases of respondents who reported both a mother and a father having a same-sex relationship; all are analyzed here as GFs, after ancillary analyses revealed comparable exposure to both their mother and father).

This quoted paragraph packs quite a wallop. Regnerus describes “small minorities” which overlap different categories, but he doesn’t characterize them except for one example — the twelve respondents who reported both a mother and a father having a same-sex relationship. He decided to lump them into the Gay Fathers (GF) category rather than the Lesbian Mothers (LM) category. That alone boosts the GF numbers by one-fifth. That’s a “small minority” in an election, but in a statistical study it’s not so small.

Regnerus’s decision to arbitrarily force his sample into non-overlapping categories results in a method is based solely on a desire to increase the size of the smaller group, a goal which has nothing to do with the study’s larger goal of comparing children of gay and lesbian parents to those of intact biological families. In fact, he makes choices which, by their very nature, run explicitly counter to that goal. With each transfer of a subject from the Divorced, Step Families, Single Parent or “All Others” categories into LM or GF, the less those LM and GF groups are designed to look like intact biological families. Especially if you consider some of the possibilities that might exist in the “All Others” category (page 757):

Fifty-eight (58) percent of those whose biological mothers had a same-sex relationship also reported that their biological mother exited the respondent’s household at some point during their youth, and just under 14% of them reported spending time in the foster care system, indicating greater-than-average household instability. [Emphasis mine.]

I understand Regnerus’s problem with having a sample of lesbian mothers and gay fathers that is too small to make statistical comparisons with the control group. But the proper solution to that problem would have been to go back to Knowledge Networks for another round of sample recruitment. Then perhaps he could have compared children of gay and lesbian parents who had been brought up in a stable environment with children of heterosexual parents in a stable environment. He could have also compared children of gay and lesbian parents in unstable environments with their heterosexual counterparts.

But instead, he undertakes a manipulation which I believe represents the fatal flaw of this study. If one wanted to intentionally create Lesbian Mothers and Gay Fathers groups which were least likely to look like an intact biological family, I can’t imagine a better way to do so than to take the steps Regnerus has taken here. He enlarged his LM and GF groups by lumping together a mishmash of overlapping characteristics into two messy samples. The other six categories are relatively homogenous for straight people, but Regnerus’s enlargement of LM and GF groups makes them deliberately heterogeneous. And now having done this, he’s about to compare two deliberately heterogeneous categories (LM and GF) to a deliberately homogeneous category. Well of course there will be differences once you do that!

Problem #3: It Doesn’t Study Children Who Grew Up In Gay- or Lesbian-Led Households.
Marriage equality opponents will trumpet this study as proof that children raised by loving, committed, married same-sex couples will have more problems than those who are raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual household. But the samples that Regnerus put together to compare to the ideal heterosexual household cannot make such a claim because it says almost nothing about committed same-sex couples who, together, decide to become parents via adoption, in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy (page 756):

While gay and lesbian Americans typically become parents today in four ways — through one partner’s previous participation in a heterosexual union, through adoption, in-vitro fertilization, or by a surrogate—the NFSS is more likely to be comprised of respondents from the first two of these arrangements than from the last two. Today’s children of gay men and lesbian women are more apt to be ”planned” (that is, by using adoption, IVF, or surrogacy) than as little as 15–20 years ago, when such children were more typically the products of heterosexual unions. The youngest NFSS respondents turned18 in 2011, while the oldest did so in 1990. Given that unintended pregnancy is impossible among gay men and a rarity among lesbian couples, it stands to reason that gay and lesbian parents today are far more selective about parenting than the heterosexual population, among whom unintended pregnancies remain very common, around 50% of total (Finer and Henshaw, 2006). The share of all same-sex parenting arrangements that is planned, however, remains unknown. Although the NFSS did not directly ask those respondents whose parent has had a same-sex romantic relationship about the manner of their own birth, a failed heterosexual union is clearly the modal method: just under half of such respondents reported that their biological parents were once married. This distinguishes the NFSS from numerous studies that have been entirely concerned with ”planned” gay and lesbian families, like the NLLFS.

What Regnerus sees as a strength, I see as a gross weakness in the context of current debates over same-sex marriage. Those debates center on whether committed, loving same-sex relationships are worthy of recognition, and one component of that debate has been what effects, if any, loving, same-sex relationships have on children. But to have a legitimate comparison, you’d have to look at children whose experience in that same-sex family was, for all intents and purposes, in place for their entire or almost entire childhoods. After all, that is the experience of children from intact biological heterosexual families.

But in this study, only 57% said they had lived with their mother and her partner for at least four months before the age of 18, and only 23% reported living with their father and his partner for the same length of time. Only 23% of LM children and 2% of GF children reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more. And when looking at the outcomes of those children, we are being led to believe that those outcomes are in some way related to the short amounts of time that those children spent with their gay or lesbian parents while in a same-sex relationship, and not the fifteen-plus years the vast majority of them spent outside of that dynamic. The illogic behind this comparison is mind-boggling.

The Results
So, we’ve been talking about the results of the study — that children of parents who have had a same-sex relationship have greater struggles than those who grow up in intact biological families — without actually seeing those results. It’s time now to look at them. The first table of results, Table 2, shows the average responses given by these now-adult children to several yes/no questions, including:

  • Are you currently married? Cohabiting?
  • Did your family receive welfare growing up?
  • Are you currently employed?
  • Have you recently thought about suicide?
  • Do you identify entirely as heterosexual?
  • Have y0u had an affair while married/cohabiting?
  • Have you ever been touched sexually by a parent/adult?
  • Have you ever been force to have sex against your will?

Table 2: Mean scores on select dichotomous outcome variables. (Click to enlarge.)

Anti-gay extremists are likely to latch onto the last two questions for evidence that children of gay and lesbian parents are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse at the hands of those parents. But notice the open-ended nature of the questions: they don’t ask who did the abuse, but only whether the abuse occurred. As Regnerus explains (page 763):

It is entirely plausible, however, that sexual victimization could have been at the hands of the LM respondents’ biological father, prompting the mother to leave the union and—at some point in the future—commence a same-sex relationship. Ancillary (unweighted) analyses of the NFSS, which asked respondents how old they were when the first incident occurred (and can be compared to the household structure calendar, which documents who lived in their household each year up until age 18) reveal this possibility, up to a point: 33% of those LM respondents who said they had been sexually victimized by a parent or adult caregiver reported that they were also living with their biological father in the year that the first incident occurred. Another 29% of victimized LMs reported never having lived with their biological father at all. Just under 34% of LM respondents who said they had at some point lived with their mother’s same-sex partner reported a first-time incident at an age that was equal to or higher than when they first lived with their mother’s partner. Approximately 13% of victimized LMs reported living with a foster parent the year when the first incident occurred. In other words, there is no obvious trend to the timing of first victimization and when the respondent may have lived with their biological father or their mother’s same-sex partner, nor are we suggesting by whom the respondent was most likely victimized.

Wanna bet the Family “Research” Council ignores that?

Moving on to Table 3, we see the mean scores to several continuous outcome variables, which include:

  • Educational attainment.
  • Family of origin safety/security
  • Closeness to biological mother/father
  • Physical health, overall happiness, depression
  • Attachment, impulsivity measures
  • Current relationship quality measures

Table 3: Mean scores on select continuous outcome variables. (Click to enlarge)

And finally, Table 4 shows the mean scores to several event-count outcome variables, which include:

  • Frequency of marijuana/alcohol/tobacco use
  • Frequency of watching TV
  • Frequency of arrests, pleading guilty to non-minor offenses
  • Number of female/male sex partners

Table 4: Mean scores on select event-count outcome variables. (Click to enlarge.)

A cursory look at all of this data reveals what we already know: children who have experienced divorce, single-parenthood, step-parenthood, and other family structures other than a long-term stable family experience all kinds of problems, regardless of whether their parents are gay or straight. And you know what? Regnerus himself says so, but with very different words:

(Page 763): Although my attention has been primarily directed at the inter-group differences between IBFs, LMs, and GFs, it is worth noting that LMs are hardly alone in displaying numerous differences with IBFs. Respondents who lived in stepfamilies or single-parent families displayed nine simple differences in Table 2. Besides GFs, adopted respondents displayed the fewest simple differences (three).

(Page 763-4): As in Table 2, respondents who reported living in stepfamilies or in single-parent households also exhibit numerous simple statistical differences from IBFs—on nine and 10 out of 14 outcomes, respectively—most of which remain significant in the regression models. On only four of 14 outcomes do adopted respondents appear distinctive (three of which remain significant after introducing controls).

By the time he gets to discussing Table 4, Regnerus is no longer interested in making the broader observation, saying instead (page 764):

Although I have paid much less attention to most of the other groups whose estimates also appear in Tables 2–4, it is worth noting how seldom the estimates of young-adult children who were adopted by strangers (before age 2) differ statistically from the children of still-intact biological families. They display the fewest simple significant differences– seven — across the 40 outcomes evaluated here. Given that such adoptions are typically the result of considerable self-selection, it should not surprise that they display fewer differences with IBFs.

It’s worth noting his comment about adoptive parents being intentional parents. By his own admission, that is an emerging model of parenthood for gay and lesbian parents in committed long-term relationships going forward. And that point leads us directly to…

Problem #4: This Study Makes The Wrong Comparison.
When you look at the data, the study’s real findings become obvious. Children of parents who have had a same-sex relationship — a group that includes very large numbers of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and “other” family structures — have developmental outcomes which are remarkably similar to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and “other” family structures overall when compared to intact, non-adoptive heterosexual families. Regnerus designed his study to show this result by constructing samples which mimicked these characteristics. By constructing his LM and GF samples the way he did, the only legitimate comparison he could make would be to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and “other” family structures. But that’s not the comparison he made. He focused the study on making the wrong comparison, and then concluded that children of gay and lesbian parents have more negative outcomes than children of straight parents in intact households.

But his conclusion is as illegitimate as his comparison, and his comparison is as illegitimate as his samples. Instead of making an apples to apples comparison, he compared apples to elephants and concluded that there was a difference. To which anyone with a minimal understanding of design of experiments would answer, Duh!

But when you make the right comparison — compare children of divorced gay parents to children of divorced straight parents, compare children of single gay parents to children of single straight parents, compare children of long-term committed gay parents to children of long-term straight parents — there is nothing in this study to suggest that children of gay parents are at any disadvantage whatsoever to children of straight parents. And when you make the right comparison, the study goes much further toward confirming that conclusion than the one Regnerus arrives at.

The Study’s Caveats
Alongside the study’s explosive claims, Regnerus does provide several important caveats. I want to note them and make sure they are publicly available, since anti-gay groups are likely to make claims about this study that Regnerus doesn’t make.

(Page 755): There are several things the NFSS is not. The NFSS is not a longitudinal study, and therefore cannot attempt to broach questions of causation. It is a cross-sectional study, and collected data from respondents at only one point in time, when they were between the ages of 18 and 39. It does not evaluate the offspring of gay marriages, since the vast majority of its respondents came of age prior to the legalization of gay marriage in several states. This study cannot answer political questions about same-sex relationships and their legal legitimacy.

(Page 766): As scholars of same-sex parenting aptly note, same-sex couples have and will continue to raise children. American courts are finding arguments against gay marriage decreasingly persuasive (Rosenfeld, 2007). This study is intended to neither undermine nor affirm any legal rights concerning such.

(Page 766): Although the findings reported herein may be explicable in part by a variety of forces uniquely problematic for child development in lesbian and gay families—including a lack of social support for parents, stress exposure resulting from persistent stigma, and modest or absent legal security for their parental and romantic relationship statuses—the empirical claim that no notable differences exist must go.

On that last point, let me say that I would have to agree. To claim that there are no notable differences in childhood outcomes due to family stability or structure would be ludicrous. And I don’t think it’s possible to legitimately claim that there are no differences between gay- and lesbian-led families and their straight counterparts. There are bound to be differences. But thirty years of research has failed to find major adverse differences where appropriate comparisons were made. The data in this study appears to reinforce that fact rather than refute it — when appropriate comparisons are made. But with this nationally representative sample, we’re still waiting for those appropriate comparisons.

A Final Note
I made a brief mention of the huge amount of money that was spent on this study, a sum that comes to $785,000. The lion’s share came from the Witherspoon Institute, a think tank in Princeton, New Jersey (and not affiliated with Princeton University). Members of the Institute include Robert P. George, who drafted the Manhattan Declaration and whose recent paper in The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy on same-sex marriage was critiqued at length by BTB’s Rob Tisinai. The Withersoon Institute reportedly has close associations with such organizations as the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the secretive Catholic order Opus Dei. George also sits on the board of directors for the Bradley Foundation, which also provided funds for this study. The Bradley Foundation is considered one of the country’s largest and most influential right-wing foundations, although its contribution to this study is “only” $90,000.

I mention this because it is important, but I don’t want to over play its importance. All sorts of studies are funded by all sorts of institutions which support a variety of causes. Those sources can come from conservative, anti-gay organizations, or (as is the case with many studies which are favorable to LGBT issues) they can come from pro-gay sources such as the Williams Institute or other organizations. The source of funding can indicate a potential conflict of interest, but the true value of a study rests on the methodology of the study itself. If the methodology is sound, then the study’s conclusions are sound regardless of where the money comes from or who’s doing it. But where the methodology fails, the broken link affects the entire chain. While there are many grounds in which to attack this study, the only legitimate way to critique it is to examine the methodology, as I have done here.

A Final, Final Note
I only received this study yesterday morning, which means that my examination was the result of only one day’s work on a Saturday. So consider this examination a preliminary one. I look forward to seeing what you learn in the comments or via email for a possible future update.

David Roberts

June 10th, 2012

I have to agree, this study couldn’t have been designed more badly if information on children in stable, long-term, committed gay and lesbian families was actually the goal. It seems to be crafted to highlight the worst conditions — broken homes, perhaps where one or both parents have an affair, or where one comes out late in life,etc. All that money and another train wreck of a study. I really don’t understand.

I try not to make assumptions from funding — it’s too easy and often wrong — but sometimes you have to at least wonder. I have no problem with the facts, even if they are not what I would like — the truth is the truth. But I really wonder if Regnerus realizes the damage caused by bad research such as this.


June 10th, 2012

Oh brother: here comes the NOM-spin. Set shields to maximum BS-deflection!


June 10th, 2012

This is what they always always do, they never compare children from intact gay families, where the children were adopted at birth or with a sperm donor or egg donor and have the same parents, to in tact biological families.

This is the sh*ts. Another sh*tty study designed to compare apples to oranges and scream, “The Children, the children, protect the children”

I hate them, I really do.

mark miner

June 10th, 2012

But already you can see where this is headed, can’t you? We will be asked to accept as legitimate the comparison of children raised by parents in those less stable and unenduring situations with stable, longtime married heterosexual parents without knowing the answers to those question. So already, Regnerus puts that comparison in starkly unequal footing.

There are ARMIES of TRUE SCOTSMAN out there, just waiting to be contacted, faithful, functional homosexual partners who are raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. Just like there are ARMIES of former homosexuals out there, who have completely left the homosexual lifestyle behind and are happy heterosexual moms and dads. If only sociology could be done on our ideological constructs, instead of on real people, things would be so much easier… ;)
—Mark Miner


June 10th, 2012

I was surprised that children raised by LM and GF had worse outcomes than parents of single parents. The study shows that children of LM and GF had worse outcomes than children of any other family structure, not just children from the stable structure of being raised by their married biological mother and father.

That fact undermines your criticisms.


June 10th, 2012

This is our message-

Gays should marry gays and straight should marry straights. This is Dr Theodra Sirota’s research all over again when Dr. Fitzgibbons tried to misrepresent her research and say look how bad gay parents(s) are. It was never 2 gay parents in the first place, it was parents in a mixed orientation marriage.

That has to be what this is, Mixed Orientation Marriages, since based on the age of these respondents NO legal Same Sex Marriage existed.


Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012


I think if you had combined the straight categories of single parents, divorced parents, etc., into a single category, the outcomes from that combined category would have shown worse outcomes than the Single Parent category alone. With the gay categories, that, in effect, is what Regnerus has done. He is comparing a broadly combined category with single heterogeneous categories and finding differences.

Remember, these LM and GF categories aren’t just LM and GF categories, and they don’t just describe LM and GF family structures. They are a missmash of all kinds of structures, but they are being compared to other family structures which are homogenous. That is the error.

If you want to compare LM and GF families to single parents, then you would have to look only at LM and GF families which originated from single lesbian or gay parents and not include LM and GF families who underwent divorce, foster care, etc.


June 10th, 2012

Mark Regnerus is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and also a faculty research associate of the university’s Population Research Center. His research explores family, sexual behavior, and religion. He will also be contributing to CSPRI’s The Catholic Conversation blog.

Mark and his family became Catholic in 2011. Raised a Dutch Calvinist, and a pastor’s son, he completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) last Easter.

Speaking of his kids and highlighting his new Catholic identity, Mark joked that his three children put him just at the edge of Catholic respectability. He suggested that two might have left him suspect and merely one child would surely have left him deficient as a Catholic. More seriously, Mark alluded to the fact that his academic interest in family formation trends and processes had arisen while still an evangelical and his recent entrance into the Catholic Church has shaped his own thinking about fertility and family life. While only a brief exchange, his comments highlighted potential intersections between Mark’s personal engagement with his Catholicism and his research on sexual behavior. It also hinted at future contributions that his academic research could potentially make to the larger Catholic Church.
University of Notre Dame
Instituite for Church Life
Dec 30, 2011

Richard Rush

June 10th, 2012

I’m thinking this sentence should read: “Marriage equality proponents opponents will trumpet this study as proof that children raised by loving, committed, married same-sex couples will have more problems than those who are raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual household.”

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012

Fixed the typo. Thanks


June 10th, 2012

Mark Miner, and their are ARMIES of former “former homosexuals” who are leaving behind damaged, devastated, distraught ex-husbands/ex-wives and children because they just couldn’t live a lie anymore.

I wonder how long it will be before Dr. Regnarus pulls an Dr. Spitzer and begs forgiveness for this bogus and extremely harmful piece of pseudo-science.


June 10th, 2012

This is an excellent analysis. But I am skeptical of one point. I find it dubious that $750,000 is such a vast sum that it is beyond the reach of all but a few lucky researchers. Granted, the costs of doing this kind of research may shut out many, but I find it hard to believe that grants of this size are so difficult to obtain from the federal govt., from foundations or from well-off universities that it would prevent a valid gay family study to be conducted at any point over the past 20-30 years.

We often criticize groups like NARTH for failing to do proper studies, decade after decade. Yet it seems to me that, after many decades, we have failed to do studies based on probability sampled populations. We can rail at this bogus study, but it would be more effective to conduct a valid study comparing apples to apples.

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012


It is a very large sum for social science research. There’s lots of money for medical research, which has the promise of either lowering health care costs, opening new profitable lines of treatment, or creating new patents from which future royalties can be earned. The government also spends a great deal of money in medical research as well, for different reasons.

But social science research doesn’t attract nearly that kind of funding, whether from private foundations or from the government. Especially from the government, because such research can be the source of political controversy.

I do agree however that we do need a study that can truly compare apples to apples using a national probability study.


June 10th, 2012

Why didn’t he make proper categories for the sub-populations? That could easily have solved the problem

1.) Parent had same-sex relationship in the past, but is now straight married
2.) I was raised from birth in a same-sex household
3.) Parent came out later in life and I now live in a same-sex household

That would have been much more useful and the distinction between 2 and 3 is interesting to look at in of itself

I agree with StraightGrandmother. Anyone who has such ludicrous biography can’t possibly be unbiased

Ritch Savin-Williams

June 10th, 2012

Thanks Jim for posting this and doing the heavy lifting on such short notice!

In addition to your excellent points, here are a couple that trouble me:

(1) the impact factor of the journal is rather low (1.57) and the article was accepted almost as soon as it was submitted–which makes me wonder about peer review.

(2) The “hit” rate on number of LGBs seems quite low to me (selectivity concerns).

(3) All non-heterosexuals are lumped together (for “simplicity” reasons) (mostly straights, bisexuals, gays/lesbians)as if they are in some unstated way similar.

Priya Lynn

June 10th, 2012

Jim said “Only 23% of LM children and 2% of GF children reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more.”.

I think I know what you were trying to say here, but its ambiguous I believe because you missed an apostrophe on the first “parents” which changes the meaning quite a bit. Should the sentence have been:

“Only 23% of LM children and 2% of GF children reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more.”?

I can’t believe you did all that analysis in one day, I’m really impressed. If you could give us a paragraph or two summarizing the flaws in this study it would really help in future arguments with anti-gays who will bring it up. As it is I don’t feel I can give a good summary of all the information you’ve included here.

Priya Lynn

June 10th, 2012

Okay, I’ve reread that sentence I quoted a few times and now I think I get it and it was correct the first time.


June 10th, 2012

I think someone in Milwaukee needs to go in person and talk with the Leadership of the Bradley Foundation. Last year the Bradley foundation gave a $40,000 (might have been 59 I can’t remember which one) grant to the Family Research Council for a special Marriage project. I bet that funded the DVD/cd that the FRC put out.


June 10th, 2012

Would it be okay to conduct a world-wide study instead of confining it to one country? That could probably solve the ‘lack of subjects’ problems… of course it would have its own caveats, but that would certainly fare better than this study!


June 10th, 2012

sorry for double posting, but isn’t it strange that there isn’t any mentioning of the regions these people live in? Perhaps at more conservative states there would be lesser recognition/more stigmatization of gay and lesbian families, leading to a host of problems that would make children of gay families more likely to agree with the questions.

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012

The study says that because it is a national random survey, it includes people in rural and conservative areas. The author claims to have controlled for stigma, although the way he goes about it is not very rigorous at all. That may be the subject of a future post.


June 10th, 2012

This is outrageous. You have to compare like with like. This is comparing apples and oranges.

Here are the like and like comparisons:

Intact biological families with intact same-sex families that have raised children using IVF or surrogacy.

Adopted children of heterosexual couples and adopted children of same-sex couples.

You compare those two things, and you compare them separately, because they’re different.

What you don’t do is compare intact biological families against all this riff-raff that this study is bringing in. This guy needs to lose his license just like Paul Cameron did.


June 10th, 2012

I was going to make a comment like, “Did they ask children raised by In Tact Biological Families if either one of their parents ever had a sexual affair”

But then I stopped and realized that it doesn’t matter, I do think that mixed orientation marriages, and especially those that have infidelity in them ARE hard on children. So we should discourage people from entering into Mixed Orientation Marriages.

This research has no bearing at ALL on a loving couple, gay or lesbian, creating their families through adoption or with assistance of a donor sperm or egg, and the outcomes for their children. I think the Bradley Foundation wasted a quarter Million. If you look at the Bradley Foundations financial records of who they donate to they have been a big donor to this Whitherspoon organization. Every year I make it a point to go read the Bradely Foundations financial disclosures to see who they are sending anti gay money to.

Gregory Peterson

June 10th, 2012

I think that you’ll want to get the whole ‘Social Science Research’ issue.

Gay and Lesbian Parenting: The State of the Science

Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American psychological association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting
Original Research Article
Pages 735-751
Loren Marks

How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study
Original Research Article
Pages 752-770
Mark Regnerus


The well-being of children with gay and lesbian parents
Original Research Article
Pages 771-774
Paul R. Amato

What can we learn from studies of children raised by gay or lesbian parents?
Original Research Article
Pages 775-778
David J. Eggebeen

Further comments on the papers by Marks and Regnerus
Original Research Article
Pages 779-783
Cynthia Osborne


“We see what we seek”: A rejoinder to the responses of Amato, Eggebeen, and Osborne
Original Research Article
Pages 784-785
Loren Marks

Response to Paul Amato, David Eggebeen, and Cynthia Osborne
Original Research Article
Pages 786-787
Mark Regnerus

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2012


Coincidentally I am already at the University of Arizona library getting those articles right now (along with making photocopies of historical items for future Agendas).

Gregory Peterson

June 10th, 2012

Osbourne’s summery of the Marks study.

Marks (2012) carefully critiques the American Psychological Association’s Brief on Lesbian and Gay Parenting, and asserts
that the brief’s claims of ‘‘no differences’’ between children of same-sex parents and other family arrangements are not fully
supported by the extant research. The author addresses seven questions that outline standards for research on the children
of gay and lesbian parents. Studies that fall short of these research standards cannot make generalizable conclusions about
this population.

Neon Genesis

June 10th, 2012

Some curious info from Wikipedia about what kind of organizations the Bradley Foundation donates funds to: “These are a few of the many donations that have been granted by the Foundation.

Over $10 million

Alliance Defense Fund
American Enterprise Institute
Heritage Foundation, for support to the Domestic Studies Policy Program and Bradley Resident Fellows Program.Project on Federalism and the states: $853,125[8]

Gregory Peterson

June 10th, 2012

Osbourne’s conclusion (I hope this falls within fair use guidelines)

Regnerus (2012) provides convincing evidence that various young adult outcomes are associated with having a parent
who had a same-sex relationship. The findings contradict the ‘‘no differences’’ claim of the American Psychological Association’s
Brief on Lesbian and Gay Parenting, and the study is one of the first studies to employ a larger sample and more rigorous
analytic techniques. Whether same-sex parenting causes the observed differences is, however, quite another matter.
We lack theory to tell us exactly why gay and lesbian parenting would produce negative child outcomes. For all we know, the
effect derives entirely from the stigma attached to such relationships and to the legal prohibitions that prevent same-sex
couples from entering and maintaining ‘‘normal’’ marital relationships.
Moreover, research being done today on young adults who experienced same-sex parenting in childhood cannot speak to
what will eventually happen to today’s children in same-sex households. Same-sex parenting relationships are, as Regnerus
shows, quite diverse and include many family forms. Today’s children of same-sex parents may be more likely to be planned
and deliberate, as social stigma declines and fertility options increase; these children’s outcomes may be more akin to children
of married, biological parents. Grouping all children of same-sex relationships into one group provides limited and
potentially misleading information on ‘‘differences.’’
Policy makers who may feel obligated to act on these findings would do well to note, for example, that some researchers
have found a strong negative impact of being raised in very large families on various child outcomes (see Desai, 1995, for a
review). But no one has ever suggested (outside of China) that large families should therefore be illegal. Given the sensitive
political and cultural environment surrounding same-sex relationships, preliminary findings of ‘‘differences’’ such as those
reported by Regnerus should not be used to support punitive legislation aimed at limiting the family formation and fertility
choices of gays and lesbians. Advocates who wish to create mischief with these studies will surely do so, no matter how cautious
and circumspect their authors have been. Asking everyone to be as careful in their causal conclusions as Marks and
Regnerus have been is no doubt wishful thinking.

Gregory Peterson

June 10th, 2012

Thanks so much for your very impressive preliminary analysis and I look forward to more from you on these studies.

Neon Genesis

June 10th, 2012

Some more curious info: The President of the Witherspoon Institute is also a board member of NOM. Surprise, surprise. Can we say “fundamentalist Christian bias?” “Another NOM Board Member, Luis Tellez is president of the Witherspoon Institute also located in Princeton, NJ. Robby George serves as a senor fellow at Witherspoon”


June 10th, 2012

Greg P. Who is this Osborn you are referring to?
Also you can go right to the Bradley Foundation and look up the full records right there. They have all their donations (well all they are showing us) on the internet.


June 10th, 2012

I wish somebody would go to that Desert News, the main newspaper in Salt Lake City and make a comment that these are Mixed Orientation Marriages, these are not 2 gays having kids. Apparently it is better if gays marry gays and straights marry straights as Mixed Orientation marriages where one spouse is gay and the other spouse straight appear to cause problems for children.

I can’t get on, it won’t let me register. They ran a big editorial today on this. Make sure and explain what a mixed orientation marriage is. Sorry for stating the obvious but I am mad as a wet hen right now and just frustrated.

Timothy Kincaid

June 10th, 2012

One observation:

This doesn’t exactly shock me. Because it illustrates something that is important but doesn’t seem to be mentioned. (or, if so, I missed it).

We wouldn’t be shocked by a poll that said that children of immigrants did less well than non-immigrants. Whether immigrating into a new country, new neighborhood, or new social class, it’s hard on kids. New cultures, new rules. And parents often lack the knowledge or basis from which to make society seem cohesive.

Children of gay parents are immigrants. They are in families with a different culture and different practices.

But like an immigrant group, once established and assimilated the difference become celebrated cultural tradition. With time gay families will as well.

So let’s not fret that not every report is glowing. They shouldn’t be at this point.


June 10th, 2012

As you can see by the name, the Deseret News is a Mormon propaganda rag. Of course they jump on anything anti-gay they find. And I’m not saying that out of prejudice, but because that’s what they have done so in the past


June 10th, 2012

I appreciate the analysis, especially given the short amount of time you had to do it.

One note on your reading of his comparison categories:

“By constructing his LM and GF samples the way he did, the only legitimate comparison he could make would be to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and “other” family structures. But that’s not the comparison he made.”

I understand your point that he did not compare children of divorced lesbian mothers with children of divorced heterosexual parents. However, he did compare all his categories to LMs. That seems to be the meaning of his “^” in the Tables. In other words, he compared Divorced opposite-sex parents to LMs (although not necessarily to just divorced LMs, a fair point that you bring up).


June 10th, 2012

Timothy, I believe the worry, besides the apparent shoddy study methods, is that anti-marriage groups will seize on the survey and use it in court to argue that there is evidence that same-sex couples hurt children and thus they should be denied marriage and adoption rights.


June 10th, 2012

Well I paid my $31.50 and bought the report. Then I sent him an e-mail and asked for the following data-

You can’t just force all the Children of Parents who had a same sex relationship into one bucket. it is not representative of what that respondent grew up in for a home life. I want to know the following:

1a) How many LM had biological parents who were married and stayed married
1b) How many GF had biological parents who were married and stayed married

2a) How many LM had biological parents who were married and then divorced
2b) How many GF had biological parents who were married and then divorced

3a) How many LM had biological parents who were never married?
3b) Did the custodial parent have a same sex fling?
3c) Did the non custodial parent have a same sex fling?

4a) How many GF had biological parents who were never married
4b) Did the custodial parent have a same sex fling?
4c) Did the non custodial parent have a same sex fling?

5a) How many LM lived in a step family
5b) How many GF lived in a step family

I can tell you based on other research I have read that

-people aged 18 to 39
-who had at least one parent who had a same sex relationship

Predominately lived in a home where the parents had a Mixed Orientation Marriage, a Mixed Orientation Marriage being one parent straight and the other parent gay. And most Mixed Orientation Marriages ended in divorce.

The way you threw all respondents who had who had at least parent have one same sex relationship into two buckets makes it impossible to compare them to the other families. THEIR family structure matters.

It mattered to you that you separated out the other the respondents who never had a parent who had a same sex relationship into separate family buckets. If family structure did not matter to you for the respondents who never had a parent have a same sex relationship, then why not throw all of them into one big bucket?

I want to compare for example- how respondents with LM who lived in step families compares to respondents who did not have an LM and lived in a step family.

The way you threw them all into 2 buckets of LM or GF makes this direct comparison impossible. I paid $31.50 for your report and feel that I have wasted my money. The way you report the data does not make any sense. If you can just kindly pull out the numbers to my questions above and e-mail it to me in plain old unfancy e-mail I will be satisfied.

IMHO you would have been better off doing each of these family structures as a separate reports, then compare the two groups across the different family structures. You would have issued a lot more reports, been more accurate and made more money. All that is going to happen now is that you will get royally pounded by the gays for spending 3/4 million dollars on a report that is statistically useless. You are young, you have your professional reputation to protect, this is not good work. It can be, if you fill in the blanks, but as it is now, it is worthless. And I tell you this only to help you not to hurt you.

Let’s see if he sends me the data. I am not asking that many questions, it should not be hard for him to run these queries.


June 10th, 2012

This is an interesting article on the study.


June 10th, 2012

why did you want to learn about lesbian mother’s parents? The phrasing makes me think that you are trying to ask the grandparents of the children in question.

There are also questions about the age of the child when the biological parents divorced, seeing that IBFs does not have a divorce and because divorce will have a negative impact on the children, except for really young ones.

So for example, the questions can be like this:

Did your GF/LM get into a same sex relationship before you were age 2(or whatever appropriate number)?

Did your GF/LM have more than 1 same sex relationship during the period of age 2 – 18?

Did any of your parents(IBF) have more than 1 same sex relationship during the period of age 2 – 18?

That would be possible to get rid of the effects of divorce or unstable relationships between GF/LM and IBFs.

There are also other problems in the phrasings used.

‘Family of origin’ means the biological parents, how is it possible for adopted children to have any significant contact with their biological parents to be eligible for this question? Same could also apply to single parents.

‘Closeness to biological father/mother’ really? For adopted children? for single parent children? Stepchildren? really?

Who knows where he’s plucking his data from?


June 10th, 2012

Re: National Review article

“By definition, any child raised by two members of the same sex is going to be missing at least one of their biological parents and will probably have experienced some instability in moving from the biological dyad to whatever arrangement replaced it.”

Fail. This is again only true for children who were born in a mixed-orientation marriage that then split up. Which is exactly the kind of setup the study was designed to produce.

It may of course be worthwhile goal to study the effects of such a change on children, but then you have compare it to straight marriage that was divorced and not to some mythological “ideal family”

Jonathan Justice

June 10th, 2012

I’m with the Grandmother on this.

The sniff test says ‘foul stinky stuff’ because of the Bradley Foundation. Their role in the infamous The Bell Curve, ‘Black people are on average stupider than White people on average,’ book of a couple of decades ago follows the lying with statistics track discussed above pretty closely. There is also a distinct flavor of pre-cooked process wherein the proposal that got the grants was very likely favored for precisely that design.

As is all too usually the case, this tendentious performance manages to defame even those it appears to be intended to promote; Intact Biological Families, such as for instance, some of my relatives. As it happens, heterosexuals have a notable record for messing up their relationships without any assistance from the rest of us. A properly constructed study would have included categories for some of those hijinks. It is, after all, possible that intentionally created and carefully maintained heterosexual families might be doing almost as well as intentionally created and maintained gay and lesbian families, despite the handicaps of starting earlier and the way that presumptions of normalcy that can lead folks to neglect to examine the specifics of their own situations.

All this research costs money, and the Right knows it. A big part of the reason that the money it takes is not available in the publicly funded research realm is that, besides their distaste for ‘socialist’ research funding, outside of say the Defense Department, rightists since at least the Nixon Administration’s pornography study have been afraid of what properly constructed and funded research in the area of human sexuality would find and what that would do their ability to deny what the rest of us already know. Mr. George and the Bradley Foundation should get a certain credit for being so edgy as to exploit the very funding problem their allies have created.

One question remains: What can thoughtful people learn from the data assembled? You have made a good start, but further reflection for me goes to the question of how big the differences are. As in the case of The(Two)Bell Curve(s)of academic infamy, it is very likely that there is considerable overlap in the outcomes for the studied populations. In light of that, how important are the differences? While the sample looks thin to me, it does not appear that the author is claiming that no child of a gay or lesbian couple ever achieves high functioning adulthood. As painful as our knowledge of how bad a given child can go is, the big piece of information in the background is that children are born to succeed and do remarkably well at it, despite the horrors our culture delivers to their doorsteps all too frequently.


June 10th, 2012

Ian, “why did you want to learn about lesbian mother’s parents? The phrasing makes me think that you are trying to ask the grandparents of the children in question.”

SGM- yeah now that I re-read that again you are right. The questions IS asking about the grandparents. Oh well hopefully he will respond and I’ll get to clarify that point. It should only take him a few queries to give me this data.

And since I forgot to copy the head of his department, I forwarded my sent mail and asked him to review my request in my e-mail below to Regnerus. I also asked the department head if he reads the research before it’s published. He must because any social sciences department that lands 3/4 million in research funding I am sure the dept. head must have read it before it is published.

My money is on that these were predominately all mixed orientation marriages that ended in divorce. And when you compare them to the kids with hetro parents who were divorced it is not going to look much different.

Another example is there is no catagory for Adopted kids whose parents divorce. The way I read the data is they only report on adopted kids whose parents never divorced.
This is a really, to quote my father who only had one vice in life, he liked to curse when really mad, as my father would say this is a piss poor study.
You have the birth of the arrival of a baby. Was this child adopted, born to unmarried parents, etc.
Then you have life events.
My gay father has a same sex affair
BUT WAIT, the kids with straight parents were never asked if any of their parents had an affair?

You would want to compare
1)kids who grew up in a non divorced home that had at least one gay parent who had a gay affair
compared to
2) kids who grew up in a non divoced home to straight parents and one of the parents had an opposit sex affair.

Parents infidelity is very very hard on kids i saw this with a close friend. What do no straight parents have affairs??????

Why did the researcher not even bother to ask about straight parents who had an extra marital affair???

I bet this is going to turn out to be about Mixed Orientation Marriages. I bet that is where most of the data is going to show up. I could be wrong but that is my bet.

I bet kids who grow up with a single mom, the comparison between the one with a lesbian mom and the other with a straight mom is not going to be that much. The real divergence is going to be in Mixed Orientation Marriages. Which is why I am guessing they do not report these details.


June 10th, 2012

I just glanced at it but here is the questionnaire


June 10th, 2012

What a surprise- a fundamentalist Christian writes an academic article that condemns gay people. What a fricken surprise. Be very curious to know which academics reviewed the article and what their comments were.


June 10th, 2012

On the questionnaire, there is no way for a person to answer about their father if they were born to a lesbian mother via a sperm donor. So all the questions about fathers, “I never lived with my father” is the only way these children could answer. So it would like unstable but in actuality there was not father.

Go through the questions and in your mind pretend you are a child of a single lesbian mother who used a sperm donor to conceive. A lot of the answers will be skewed because they do not allot for this conception method.

Also I wonder why they did not put the question in there about if you are mainly a student? That seems like a question I would have included in my results but it is missing in the report.


June 10th, 2012

Culture war factors of religion are no where considered. Those chidren having their parents marriages end and same sex relationships begin in accepting social settings are completely different from those occurring in culture wars settings ( 1 understanding, the other condemning), and completely different from both parents being condemning. Results for children’s outcomes, in my understanding, have been reflective on the relationship skills and health of the committed parents relationships. The study at hand selects for those kids of culture war time period, whose families are disrupting due to late coming out, likely due to internalized homophobia during a period these children have been media fed the same poisonous stories of gays that have gay teen suicide in epidemic numbers. Where is this spoken to. To compare more evenly, divorcing hetero families with divorcing hetero/gay families would be one step and without the factor of social support/ religious is leaving a factor out that likely would be in, if the question of how are these kids doing was really the intent of this study. Bias is clear at the outset by this omission. IMO

Helen in Ireland

June 11th, 2012

June 10th, 2012 | LINK

Greg P. Who is this Osborn you are referring to?’

Straight Grandmother, Greg listed the contents of the issue of the journal that this study appears in. Towards the end of the list, Osbourne appears in ‘REJOINDERS’, which seems to be an immediate review of the study to provide balance in the case. I find is heartening that the study has been immediately challenged as basically ‘worthless’!

Patrick Hogan

June 11th, 2012

Ugh. I was hoping to back out the original data (at least for the dichotomous questions) and re-bin it to compare the LM and GF categories to a more similarly situated heterosexual-only category than IBF (e.g., a combined pool of all hetero-only categories or, even better, a combined pool of all hetero-only categories except IBF), but the authors appear to have allowed respondents to skip questions — without the percent of each group responding to each question, I can’t think of a way to back out enough information to re-bin the data in a meaningful way. Does the published study contain the raw numbers — or even just the variances of the responses of each group to each question?

I’m inclined to argue that the study has no relation to gay and lesbian parents — a total of one respondent was raised by his/her father and his partner for more than three years, only 37 respondents were raised by their mothers and their mothers’ partners for more than three years and (according to the NRO article) there were zero participants raised by two men and only two by two women for the majority of their childhood).

Simply put: not only does the study not compare children of same sex couples to children of similarly situated opposite sex couples, it only looked at two participants raised by same sex parents for their entire childhood.

It’s also interesting to note that, unless further guidance than what’s listed in the list of survey questions was given, it’s up to the respondent to determine what constitutes a “romantic relationship”. How loosely the respondent defines “romantic relationship” could play a big impact — the study may be lumping people like Tom Cruise’s kids (or even Larry Craig’s) into the GF group, if the respondents considered (or thought the study considered) any sexual relationship to be romantic in nature. It’s a relatively minor issue compared to the major problems Mr. Burroway highlighted, but it’s worth keeping in mind.


June 11th, 2012

Dr. Regnerus replied to my e-mail.

I will do my best to get answers to most if not all of your questions, hopefully in the next few days. However, there is not data on “flings,” only the presence or absence of relationships, and whether the respondent lived with the parent and their same-sex partner, and at what age (plumbing the calendar data is time-consuming work, however.)

I believe the article should be publicly available for free on Monday, from the publisher’s website. That is my understanding. I’m sorry you paid for it. I could’ve sent you a copy upon request.

People of good will (and some without) have and will continue to have lots of comments on measurement decisions, etc. Is understandable. Your comments are well-taken. A key priority, however, was always sample size. Curb it too much by slicing groups (wisely, even) into different categories and statistical power drops precipitously. With a much larger sample size, I would’ve done that. Was a judgment call with which some disagree. I maxed what Knowledge Networks could do with their panel, and no research firm out there is in a position to generate a larger N. Perhaps I could’ve left it in the field for another year, but that is quite awhile, and wouldn’t have doubled the sample size of LMs or GFs.

The study was reviewed the regular way, with multiple blind reviews to which I was required to respond.

I added some commentary about the study background, context, at the place where I blog once a week:

You can cut, paste, and post whatever you wish…


June 11th, 2012

No one has brought up the most important and salient point about the findings of this article – they tell you nothing about the ability of a specific family, of any structure, to raise a happy, well-adjusted kid. We have known for years that children of single parents have worse outcomes than those of “intact biological families.” Has there ever been any serious attempt to change public policies to limit the legal recognition or civil rights of single parents? Of course not – because we can all name single parents who did wonderful jobs. We don’t assume that being in a certain category or certain family structure automatically means you will have a bad outcome vis-a-vis child rearing.

The appropriate initial response when the anti-gay right brings up any of their “research” should be to ask “and what does that have to do with me?” We don’t recognize civil rights based on statistically valid samples, we recognize civil rights on an individual basis.


June 11th, 2012

One more note – sorry about the double post – but check out the numbers for the question about families ever receiving welfare. That tells you all you need to know. Poverty is highly correlated with bad outcomes, and the two groups with the highest poverty levels are the LMs and GFs. We can compare poverty levels among LGBT households based on the 2010 census to see how representative the sample really is.


June 11th, 2012

From my reading of it, the study’s “main focus” is a comparison of stable heterosexual marriages with marriages that comprised of an opposite-sex pair where one of the partners had engaged in same-sex sexual activity outside of that marriage. All the respondents who fell under LM or GF were, by definition, from a home interrupted by an extra-marital affair.

Surely then the results (if they are representative) should be heralded against forced opposite-sex unions and the so-called ‘therapies’ which promote that those attracted to the same sex should partake in ‘heterosexual’ unions? Since those are the prerequisites which lead to the circumstances dealt with in the article.

The article quite clearly has nothing to say about long-term, committed, same-sex partners in a marriage (or marriage-like circumstance) who have planned to have children. It would, of course, be interesting to compare these results with children who have come from families interrupted by a heterosexual affair.

I would like to bestow Dr Regnerus the benefit of the doubt even though, without doubt, his research will be used to the detriment of couples he did not, in actuality, address.


June 11th, 2012

I would rather he release the raw data(of course, without the names), there is SO much more data that can be extracted from the survey.

Jay Jonson

June 11th, 2012

Given the funding and the ideological bent of the investigator, it seems pretty clear that this study has about as much integrity as the studies financed by tobacco companies that assured us that smoking had no deleterious effect on one’s health. Thanks for your incredible work in responding to the publication so quickly.


June 11th, 2012

I would study very carefully the questions asked, and check up on where they got the samples from if I were you. Here in the UK we have had a couple of very odd, completely flawed polls, counterintuitive to all other results, funded by a Vatican pressure group, on the issue of equal marriage. Many know how bogus they are, but a section of the press seizes on them as if they are true.

I suspect this study in the US has been done with one eye on the coming election, and the other on the Supreme Court. But also with a view to creating doubt, which plays into the hands of prejudice.

If they wanted a more credible result they should have employed a researcher who was from a neutral background.


June 11th, 2012

That’s a weak an unconvincing excuse. By his own admission (quoted above), he sorted the sample population into several groups. They were just bad groups that bias the results

Priya Lynn

June 11th, 2012

Lots of great analysis in these comments as well. Particular thanks to Patrick Hogan and Q_Q who did a particularly good job of clarifying key points for me.


June 11th, 2012

Let’s move the conversation over to the newest topic on this-

Where I posted a comment that Dr. Regnerus asked me to post. He sent me another e-mail and asked me to post it.

Mommie Dammit

June 11th, 2012

Not to sound thoroughly cynical, but “follow the money.”

1. University of Texas – an institute known for its conservative culture and educational program.

2. Mark Regnerus – a self-avowed “fundamentalist” Christian.

3. Witherspoon Institute – an examination of their Web site shows them to be a “conservative” (read: “right wing”) think-tank that funds studies and literature to promote their agenda.

4. Bradley Foundation – again, a conservative foundation based in Milwaukee, WI.

Add it up, people. Even my 3rd grade math smells a steaming pile of b.s. here.


June 12th, 2012

“Problem #1: Identifying a Same-Sex Relationship Doesn’t Tell Us Anything About the Nature of the Relationship.”

The study doesn’t claim to, and the author quotes Dr. Regnerus stating this.

“Problem #2: Arbitrary Decisions in Dealing with Overlaps Between Categories Make the LM and GF Categories Heterogeneous While the Other Categories Remain Relatively Homogeneous.”

This would explain why the children of homosexual parents would be more like the category of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and “other” family structures, but it doesn’t explain why the children of homosexual parents have worse outcomes than children in those categories.

“Problem #3: It Doesn’t Study Children Who Grew Up In Gay- or Lesbian-Led Households.”

Out of 15,000 adults, it studies the outcomes of all the adults who claimed to have at least one homosexual parent. I don’t know that it is a problem that it doesn’t study something different. It doesn’t claim to study something different.

“Problem #4: This Study Makes The Wrong Comparison. When you look at the data, the study’s real findings become obvious. Children of parents who have had a same-sex relationship — a group that includes very large numbers of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and ‘other’ family structures — have developmental outcomes which are remarkably similar to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and ‘other’ family structures overall when compared to intact, non-adoptive heterosexual families.”

Again, this supposes that the children of homosexual parents had the same outcomes of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and “other” family structures, but they had worse outcomes.

Gregory McGuirk

June 12th, 2012

Thanks for your excellent work. I am a Psychology student in Canberra Australia – I will be following up this next week after my exams are done and I have some time to read. I recently did a paper on all the published material about lesbian parenting and so this one is an interesting new arrival. I’ll get back to you if I hear glean anything new from it.
All the best Greg

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2012


“Problem #2: Arbitrary Decisions in Dealing with Overlaps Between Categories Make the LM and GF Categories Heterogeneous While the Other Categories Remain Relatively Homogeneous.”

This would explain why the children of homosexual parents would be more like the category of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and “other” family structures, but it doesn’t explain why the children of homosexual parents have worse outcomes than children in those categories.

You are making the same fundamental error that Regnerus makes.

You are again comparing a category of hodgepodges with four other homogeneous categories.

If the other unstable categories were combined into ONE heterosexual category and compared with a single homosexual (unstable) category, then you would have a valid comparison.

The fact that you made the same complaint earlier in this thread and ignored my response suggests you are either not paying attention or you’d just rather not recognize the importance of comparing apples to apples. Unless you recognize that fundamental error, then you’re going to remain in the weeds on the others as well.


June 12th, 2012

So, why is the Social Science Review publishing it? It appears to be a peer-reviewed journal. They have standards like any other peer-reviewed journal. While it seems clear that this is shoddy research at best (and I am saying this based only on my quick read of this article, not the journal publication itself), how did the review process miss all of that? And why not go directly to the Journal and protest to them, rather than waste time on a researcher who has a clear bias and agenda? It’s their job to make sure what they publish is good science.


June 12th, 2012

Explained in this article


June 20th, 2012

I think I am going to post this on all the Regnerus topics on Box Turtle. Let’s say we all work together and make a terrific website where we collect all this information on the Regnerus’ Study.

We crowd source this and everybody helps. I think what is missing is a lot of comments on the research by other Sociologists. We can all take a State and then call all the Universities in that State and speak to Sociologists there and ask them to provide their feedback on the research.

Other people can work on collecting up all the direct quotes from Regnerus.

Oh and shouldn’t we collect up all the places the data is being misreported? I saw for example a quote something like, “Well this study proves that pedophilia is rampant with gays”

And what about a website? Should we buy a domain name or should we use Blogger or Word press or something? If we hosted this separately how much would that cost us in bandwidth if a lot of people visited? Does anybody have idea on this?

Let’s set this up and organize this so it will be real easy for lawyers from our side to have a good reference point to jump off from.

What else? Do you like this idea? Who will help? I don’t mind if this is a part of Box Turtle and they are getting recognition for this. But I do think to do this right it is to big for the few guys at Box Turtle we need a lot more helping hands than just those guys. Whadda think?


June 21st, 2012

Excellent revision, Jim.

The study does not compare the outcomes of heterosexual biological parents with outcomes of functional homoparental families (two mothers or two fathers). If you compare functional families with disfunctional one, it is probably that the results were worse.


June 28th, 2012

“Straightgrandmother” has clearly identified herself as a bigot, it is as simple as that.


June 28th, 2012

And how did you arrive at that conclusion, George? StraightGrandmother has merely pointed out the fact, which has been confirmed by several others, that Dr. Regnerus’s study was deeply flawed and designed to be prejudicial.

In fact the same criticism’s of Dr. Regnerus’s study have been made by three of his colleagues, all of whom have greater expertise in statistical analysis. See:


June 28th, 2012

Thank you Christopher. Yes let’s look at the opening paragraph of that article Christopher links to-
Written by
Debra Umberson
Sociology professor, University of Texas at Austin; Editor, Journal of Health and Social Behavior

“Mark Regnerus claims to have produced the first rigorous scientific evidence showing that same sex families harm children. As a family sociologist at the University of Texas, I am disturbed by his irresponsible and reckless representation of social science research, and furious that he is besmirching my university to lend credibility to his “findings.”(continue reading article)

In fact I sent a very nice e-mail to all these Professors and would ask everyone here to do that same thing.

Professors Umberson, Cavanagh, Glass, and Raley

(e-mail addresses comma separated),,,

Please take just a minute of your time and e-mail these Professors for making a public statement on just how good the Regnerus research is (not).

Alan A Katz

March 23rd, 2014

I know that this comment is very late in the game, but it’s also germane.

Regnerus defended his bogus study in Federal Court last week, and the Judge (much to his credit) debunked his study, in its entirety, for the very same reasons you wrote here. He acknowledged that the one thing the study did NOT address was what Regnerus claimed it did: bad outcomes for children in families raised by gay or lesbian parents. The judge recognized that the only thing that Regnerus proved was that children of families suffering instability had worse outcomes than children raised by stable families – and that this is not news.

He further questioned Dr. Regnerus’ ethics. Of course, in the intervening time between your article and the Michigan Marriage Equality case, Regnerus’ emails have been made public, and not only did he ask what outcome his funders “expected”, but hired one of Witherspoon’s most anti-gay executives as his “primary research assistant”.

To quote Judge Friedman:

‘The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.”’

Even worse:

“While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.”

Congratulations, everything you wrote here (and more) has been validated by a Federal Court trial. Regnerus is toast. He has done a terrible disservice to both science and to LGBT families.

He was also rebuked, publicly, by his own department at UT-Austin. I am amazed that he is still employed there, and will not be surprised when his contract is not renewed.


November 16th, 2014

Does the author provide critical appraisals of same-sex parenting research? I can’t seem to find any. How many married same-sex parenting studies financed by homosexual activists use random sampling again? Hmmmmm Will Jim Burroway provide some critical appraisals of this type of research or does he only look at qualitative research that confirms the obvious?


November 17th, 2014

Here’s a critical appraisal of some same-sex parenting studies.

So it’s known:

“Both authors of this paper are openly gay and advocates of same-sex marriage, a fact that readers should weigh as they see fit.”

It’s a bit dated (2005), but it’s a helpful piece of writing that still applies to some later studies as well (which use convenience samples rather than random samples).

Ben in oakland

November 17th, 2014

Funny you should ask that here. You could do a very short google search and come up with a wealth f answers to the question.

but of course, you won’t because…

“How many married same-sex parenting studies financed by homosexual activists use random sampling again?”

Priya Lynn

November 17th, 2014

LV350000 most studies on same sex parents aren’t financed by gays or lesbians. Unlike the Regnerus “study” they are generally done by non-partisan mental health professionals and financed through a variety of non-partisan means.

The Regnerus “study” shows precisely why few, if any, of these studies use random sampling – random sampling doesn’t find enough same sex parents to allow for generalization to the larger gay and lesbian parent population. It would take millions upon millions of dollars to do a large enough random sample of parents that it would include a reasonable number of same sex parents.

Richard Rush

November 17th, 2014

LV35000, we gay people must surely be the most unique in the entire human family. Why else would we be the only people subjected to parenting studies with the objective being to disqualify us for marriage?

There are multitudes of straight people plagued by dysfunction, abuse, poverty, lack of education, mental illness, unwanted children, religious fanaticism, multiple failed marriages, alcohol/drug addiction, and/or criminal records, but one thing they don’t need to be concerned about is being denied a marriage license as a result of a parenting study.

Meanwhile, imprisoned mass murderer, Charles Manson (80-years-old), was granted a marriage license on Nov. 7 to marry a 26-year-old woman . . .

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