Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Overview: Three Responses to Mark Regnerus’s Study of Children of Parents In Same-Sex Relationships

Jim Burroway

June 11th, 2012

For those of you returning from the weekend, you may have missed the release of a new study published in the July issue of the journal Social Science Research. That study claims to show “numerous, consistent differences, especially between children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.” If true, these results would up-end some thirty years of established scientific research which had previously shown that gay and lesbian parents are, on the whole, just as good parents as their straight counterparts. The study received one-sided coverage in the Deseret News and the Washington Times.

If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend you read my analysis of Mark Regnerus’s study, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study” (Social Science Review 41, no. 4 (July 2012): 752-770.)

Later yesterday morning, I learned that the July 2012 issue of Social Science Review also includes three commentaries on Regnerus’s paper and a rejoinder by Regnerus. That same issue also published a related paper by Loren Marks reviewing and identifying several weaknesses of the past thirty years of social science research about gay parents. I probably won’t be able to review Marks’s paper until later in the week. The three commentaries also remarked on Marks’s paper, but I will concentrate this overview on their observations about the Regnerus paper.

Commentary #1: Paul R. Amato, of Penn State’s Department of Sociology. Amato, like the other two commenters who we will review shortly, commended the Regnerus paper for its strongest feature: the use of a large, national probability sample. As I said yesterday, this is an extraordinarily rare achievement in social science research, and it is why Regnerus’s paper is so important. Amato reviewed Regnerus’s data and for the most part verified Regnerus’s finding that Regnerus’s sample of children of Lesbian Mothers (with all of the issues surrounding the construction of that sample I noted yesterday), did indeed depart from the Intact Biological Family sample.

Amato used a different statistical method to come to that conclusion, a method known as “effect size.” A very brief description is in order. Effect size is, according to this paper, “a simple way of quantifying the difference between two groups that has many advantages over the use of tests of statistical significance alone.” Traditional statistical tests, like those Rengnerus used, identify the statistical significance of two measures, meaning that they measure whether the similarity or difference between two measures can be explained by random chance — sort of like two numbers that fall within the same margin of error. If they can’t, then they are said to be statistically significant. Effect size, on the other hand, estimates the strength of an apparent relationship between two populations based on the standard deviation of results of the control population. This is important because if the control population has a high degree of variability, then even a large differences in the averages between the two groups might not mean anything since there would still be a large overlap.

I know that’s not enough of an explanation to make you (or me) an expert on statistical significance and effect size. But the important thing to keep in mind is that in social science and medical research, it is increasingly recognized that both calculations should be performed. Traditionally, only statistical significance is calculated (as Regnerus did in his paper) and many authors today still only rely on statistical significance tests to evaluate their data. But some journals are beginning to require effect size calculations alongside statistical significance measures, and statistical software packages are beginning to include effect size in their libraries. But calculating effect size has not yet become a standard standard practice.

So, getting back to Amato’s paper, he ran some effect size calculations and, as I said, he confirmed Regnerus’s finding that children growing up in lesbian households (as aggregated in Regnerus’s sample with all of its problems — and I want to keep reiterating that) differed from children growing up in intact biological families with “a moderately large effect size.” However:

The choice of comparison group makes a difference, however. Comparisons of offspring with lesbian mothers and offspring from heterosexual stepfamilies revealed a mean effect size of only .15. When children with divorced or continuously single mothers served as the comparison group, the mean effect size was only .19. I would describe these effect sizes as weak.

What is the most appropriate comparison group? This is a difficult question, given the heterogeneity of gay and lesbian families with children. Consider lesbian couples who have children through sperm donation, or gay couples who have children through surrogacy. Is it reasonable to compare these children with the children of continuously married heterosexual parents? Or should children in the heterosexual comparison group be limited to those born via sperm donation or surrogacy? What about lesbian mothers or gay fathers with children from former marriages or unions? Should these children be compared with those of heterosexual parents who are married, cohabiting, remarried, divorced, or never married? The fact that same-sex marriage is now allowed in several states adds another level of complexity to the problem. Perhaps in future studies, married same-sex parents should be matched with married heterosexual parents.

Which pretty much echoed my concerns yesterday.

Commentary #2: David J. Eggebeen of Penn State’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Eggebeen echoed many of Amato’s sentiments. First, he praised the sophistication of Regnerus’s raw data set, which represents a significant advance over previous studies. However:

Nevertheless these data are far from ideal. A larger sample does not translate into a sufficiently large sample. Given some of the complexity of the family lives detailed above, a sample of 163 young adults who report a lesbian mother and 73 who report a gay father are frustratingly inadequate for doing anything but broad comparisons across family characteristics.

Eggebeen also cautions against jumping to quick conclusions about what the data means:

Finding a significant number of negative correlates of well-being for children with gay or lesbian parents, even if they are derived from simple models, invites thinking about some possible mechanisms. It is hard to imagine explanations that point to the quality of parenting per se. Parents, regardless of sexual orientation, are equally motivated to provide the best care possible for their children. It is reasonable, however, to posit that gay and lesbian parents and their children face challenges that may make parenting more difficult.

He concludes that Regnerus’s study has the potential to address the shortcomings of previous studies, but with an important caveat:

The analyses in the Regnerus paper are provocative but far from conclusive. These very preliminary findings should not detract from the real importance of this paper, the description of a new data set that offers significant advantages. Whether the New Family Structures Study has the possibility of unsettling previously settled questions depends in equal parts on richness of the information collected, as well as the willingness of scholars to make use these data.

Regnerus’s larger data set and variable list will become publicly available in the fall so that other researchers to perform their own sets of calculations and comparisons.

Commentary #3: Cynthia Osborne, of the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs. Osborne, like the others, also noted the heterogeneity (i.e. the large in-group differences) of the Lesbian Mother and Gay Fathers groups:

To increase the sample size of children who experienced a same-sex parent, Regnerus included respondents in either the LM or GF comparison groups if they reported that their parent ever had a same-sex relationship. Although this decision has a lot of merit, it makes comparisons across groups somewhat of a challenge. Because the LM group is comprised of young adults who experienced multiple family forms and transitions, it is impossible to isolate the effects of living with a lesbian mother from experiencing divorce, remarriage, or living with a single parent.

She also questioned the decision of what to use as an outcome variable verses a control variable. For the straight populations, the control variables included divorce parents, step-parents, adopted parents, single parents, etc. Among the outcome variables were questions about sexual molestation, forced sex, and whether the family received welfare. She wondered what the data might look like of those were used as control variables rather than outcome variables, since each of them can have a strong effect on childhood outcomes. But while there are all sorts of comparisons that might be made, assigning a cause for the outcome cannot be done based on the data at hand:

Importantly, one cannot clearly link having a lesbian mother (or gay father) with any of these outcomes. As stated earlier, the group is comprised of young adults who experienced multiple family structures, not only a same-sex parent household (indeed, some of the respondents never lived with the mother’s same-sex partner). It is quite possible, for example, that many or most of the negative outcomes result from the divorce of the young adult’s biological parents that preceded the mother’s same-sex relationship. …

…The concern for Regnerus is not Type II errors (saying something is NOT significant when it is), but the possible attribution of differences to living in a same-sex household rather than to experiencing multiple family structures in childhood, one of which happened to be a same-sex parenting relationship.

Osborne emphasized that researchers in this particular field — those who focus on children of same-sex parents — bear a particular responsibility for how their research is presented to the public:

The focus on children of same-sex parents seems, then, to be driven more by the sensitive political and social issues surrounding same-sex relationships than by evidence that this family structure is increasing rapidly or, for that matter, harmful to children. Because the topic is so politicized, scholars must pay even more careful attention to the presentation and interpretation of their findings. Although scholars are trained to use great care to disentangle the causal versus selection effects of family structure and child well-being, we understand that true causation can never be determined because we cannot randomly assign children to various family structures. Consumers of research on children of same-sex relationships, by contrast, may not always have the same training or be so careful in their interpretations. The results of scholarly studies are often scrutinized by pundits and legislators to support their pre-existing ideas of differences or ‘‘no differences’’ across groups.

…Regnerus (2012) finds substantial differences across groups and uses great care to note that his descriptive analysis does not imply causation and that the LM respondents may have lived in many different family structures. Still, the rigor of the study may lead some advocates to claim that growing up with a same-sex parent causes harm and should, therefore, be illegal.

I think we can bank on Osborne’s concern coming true. I’m willing to lay odds that we will see it coming true today.

Mark Regnerus’s Rejoinder. Regnerus’s response was brief. His first comment was to reiterate Amato’s and Osborne’s concerns about the political rammifications of the study:

I recognize, with Paul and Cynthia, that organizations may utilize these findings to press a political program. And I concur with them that that is not what data come prepared to do. Paul offers wise words of caution against it, as did I in the body of the text. Implying causation here—to parental sexual orientation or anything else, for that matter—is a bridge too far.

Regnerus acknowledged that “the sample size of respondents whose parents report a same-sex relationship is substantial but not large enough to explore some of the more fine-grained distinctions that may well be present.” He also said that he is already planning to use the detailed dataset in future studies, and invited other researchers to mine the data when it becomes publicly available in the fall. Finally, he ends with this paragraph defending his emphasis on biologically intact heterosexual families:

As each of the three explicitly or indirectly notes, family instability—whatever the sources—is often a top culprit in predicting dysfunction in the lives of children, and the data analyses in my article likewise point in this direction. In fact, the most significant story in this study is arguably not about the differences among young–adult children whose parents who have had same-sex relationships and those whose parents are married biological mothers and fathers, but between the latter and nearly everyone else. Contexts of instability—whether in gay or straight households—appear suboptimal for children’s healthy long-term development. While much is made in the scholarly literature about ‘‘resilient’’ youth—those who thrive despite the odds against them and in lieu of an optimal family context—resilience is, on average and perhaps by definition, not normal. Moreover, even resilient children would likely prefer to have engaging parents who are not simply in their lives but in their households. Adults of good will, and most family scholars, typically agree on this. Whether some relationship arrangements are more systematically prone to disorganization than others is an important and empirically-testable question.

Comments

POST COMMENT | COMMENT RSS 2.0

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

I received an e-mail response back from Dr. Regnerus-

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: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2012/06/q-a-with-mark-regnerus-about-the-background-of-his-new-study/.

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

He says in the fall that he will put the whole data set out to the public, while at first this “sounds” good, stop and think about that for a minute.

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

From Dr. Regnerus’s blog-

What is evident in the data, however, is above-average instability among households in which mom or dad had a same-sex relationship. For example, among the former only two respondents total said they lived with their mother and her partner nonstop from birth to age 18. Two more said they did so for 15 years, and two more for 13 years. To be sure, these 10 fared better on more outcomes than did their less-stable peers. They’re just uncommon, and too small a group to detect statistically-significant differences, for sure.

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Mark Regnerus asked me to please post this comment that he jsut e-mailed me-
By the way, one of the key methodological criticisms circulating is that–basically–in a population-based sample, I haven’t really evaluated how the adult children of stably-intact coupled self-identified lesbians have fared. Right? Right. And I’m telling you that it cannot be feasibly accomplished. It is a methodological (practical) impossibility at present, for reasons I describe: they really didn’t exist in numbers that could be amply obtained *randomly*. It may well be a flaw–limitation, I think–but it is unavoidable. We maxxed Knowledge Networks’ ability, and no firm is positioned to do better. It would have cost untold millions of dollars, and still may not generate the number of cases needed for statistical analyses. If randomness wasn’t the key priority, then we could’ve done it. And we’d have had a nonrandom sample that was no better than anything before it. So, while critics are taking potshots, they should remember that there’s a (low) ceiling to what’s possible here. My team of consultants elected to go with the screener questions (including the one about same-sex relationships) that we did, anticipating–accurately, too–that there would be no way of generating ample sample size if we narrowed the criteria (for who counts as a lesbian parent) to the sort that critics are calling for. We figured that, with the household roster/calendar offering the opportunity to identify who you lived with, we’d comfortably get enough cases wherein the respondent reported living with mom and her partner for many consecutive years. But few did.

Steve
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

He is just a religiously biased moron paid by religiously biased morons. So what? That still doesn’t explain the bad comparisons he makes with is existing data.

And of course he always knew how the study was going to be used. “Be careful with drawing conclusions *WINK* *WINK*”

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

I contend that Dr.Regnerus Statement validates what I said right away. This study is about children who were raised in Mixed Orientation Marriages.

Priya Lynn
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

I agree StraightGrandmother.

Timothy Kincaid
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

“…those whose parents are married biological mothers and fathers, but between the latter and nearly everyone else.”

Except that he did NOT show that. He left out comparison to married mothers and mothers, a group that might have been worth looking at. By including them with unmarried and divorced lesbians – along with heterosexual women who had a fling, mothers who spent time in prison, and any other women who may have had some reason for a brief same sex romance of whatever nature – he eliminated any meaningful information about the group most likely to be impacted by this study.

Eric
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

I was about to make the same point as Timothy Kincaid, so I’ll make a different one. In excusing himself for not comparing like with like (i.e. stable heterosexual homes/marriages, with stable gay homes/marriages) the researcher claims there is insufficient data to do this, thereby leaving it an open question and a matter of doubt (that can be exploited to the detriment of such households). However there have been studies that have shown that the children of such gay households do as well, and in some cases better, than in straight households. Didn’t the prop 8 proponents’ own expert testify to this in evidence? Does this researcher dispute these studies and conclusions?

Clearly there must be a reasonable suspicion that this study has a particular political agenda behind it, and a lot of money. Nothing about it should be taken for granted, even the Knowledge Networks aspects. Please check everything, including financing.

Regan DuCasse
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Along with SG’s excellent observation (right on girl!) that this is about mixed orientation marriages. Since this study is also about the ADULT children of gay parents from periods when social stigma, and disruption of the family through divorce or abandonment, would have much more impact. It’s important that this study should have noted the socio/political climate and the successes or failures of couples in whether they had general support or not.
Mixed orientation requires a large degree of some form of deception. If not between the couple, than their extended family and other social networks.
This kind of stress will filter down to the children, but this would be true in hetero couple situations with marital conflicts.

It seems to be damn near impossible for certain people to do an HONEST comparison of SIMILARLY situated couples, gay and het.
The social impact of systemic discrimination on gay lives permeates many situations. That includes what’s at the foundation to make people enter into mixed orientation marriages to begin with.

This study is still using children as a means of looking for pejorative results for political use.
This result is focusing on homosexuality as the negative impact on young lives, rather than the prejudice on the lives of the parents SINCE they were children.
Since the research and it’s scope was very limited to begin with, it would take more expansive and complex questions and interests in asking the right ones and organizing any research to that end.

I’m pretty much over all this research and study of gay people and requiring they submit to all this scrutiny like lab specimens in order to decide their civil and human rights.

It should be enough, for the courts, for politicians, clergy and any other interested parties that homosexuality does not render a person ANTI SOCIAL, incompetent or incapable of self reliance, tax paying and other common responsibility.
I don’t even quote studies or research and sometimes I’m highly suspicious of anyone who is anti equality for doing so.
All that has to be done is to actually get to know a high number of gay people (something that wouldn’t require funding or charts), and the most important answers are right there.

Considering what my job is, I’d rather someone would put the time in on the impact of violence on children. How casually and efficiently very young people can kill, even someone in their own family seriously begs more scrutiny.

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Alright, now I am getting more e-mails from Dr.Regnerus I think it would make more sense if I also showed what I e-mailed him. In other words show the back and forth, and the e-mails in full, not just the parts I picked out for brevity. Maybe Jim will pull out these e-mail and make an article? I don’t know if it is worth it or not, just an idea.
Give me a few minutes and I will post them in full.
SGM

Muscat
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

A really obvious point that seems to be missing or at least not clearly spelled out from the criticisms here and elsewhere (although, I think, heavily implied in StraightGrandmother’s comments/criticism) is that we are not talking about a study that is comparing same-sex parents today (or in what I would call recent history, GLBTQ-wise). This study isn’t telling much of a story about married/quasi-married same-sex couples who adopt or have surrogate children.

Rather, this study _at best_ tells us something about same-sex parents whose children were born between 1972 to 1993 (~70% born 1988 or before). People forget how much society – including the GLBTQ community itself – has changed in regards to GLBTQ issues/relationships since even the early 90s. And of course as many criticisms have pointed out, many of the people included in this category probably aren’t even best understood as gay or lesbian parents.

Muscat
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Regan – you sort of ninja’ed me so glad to see someone else making the same point. :)

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

E- Mail Exchange Number 1
Dear Dr. Regnerus,

I am reading your research report called “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships”

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.

Thank You!
~SGM

Dear Ms. _______,

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: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2012/06/q-a-with-mark-regnerus-about-the-background-of-his-new-study/.

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

Sincerely yours,

Mark Regnerus

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

E-Mail Excahnge Number 2
SGM to Regnerus
Thank you!
I re-read my request and I realize that I worded it badly.
In these questions below it looks like I am asking about the grandparents, that is the way it is worded. The questions should read,

How many respondents of LM had biological parents who were married and stayed married? For example in this question-

1a) How many LM had biological parents who were married and stayed married
Also I read the questionnaire questions and saw that it would be very difficult for a person who was conceived with a sperm or egg donor to answer the questions. The questions about living with your father for example. Well these people don’t have a father. Living without a father may be interpreted as unstable when actually that family was a stable family. Such as, 80% do not live with their fathers. That statement indicates nothing about a mother and her child who was conceived with a sperm donor. Likewise for the gay fathers who used surrogates.

I am glad you mentioned “flings” There is something much much different about a home environment where the parents are in a Mixed Orientation Marriage and one spouse has an extra marital affair with someone of their same sex. The troubling part is the extra marital affair not just the fact that it was with a person of the same sex.

This situation is much different than a sole lesbian who establishes a same sex relationship. See the difference between an extra marital fling and a normal two person relationship? This question is what I am talking about –

S7. 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?

Thank you for getting back to me so quickly I really look forward to seeing the data.

Sincerely,
~SGM

Dr. Regnerous to SGM

Please post…

By the way, one of the key methodological criticisms circulating is that–basically–in a population-based sample, I haven’t really evaluated how the adult children of stably-intact coupled self-identified lesbians have fared. Right? Right. And I’m telling you that it cannot be feasibly accomplished. It is a methodological (practical) impossibility at present, for reasons I describe: they really didn’t exist in numbers that could be amply obtained *randomly*. It may well be a flaw–limitation, I think–but it is unavoidable. We maxxed Knowledge Networks’ ability, and no firm is positioned to do better. It would have cost untold millions of dollars, and still may not generate the number of cases needed for statistical analyses. If randomness wasn’t the key priority, then we could’ve done it. And we’d have had a nonrandom sample that was no better than anything before it. So, while critics are taking potshots, they should remember that there’s a (low) ceiling to what’s possible here. My team of consultants elected to go with the screener questions (including the one about same-sex relationships) that we did, anticipating–accurately, too–that there would be no way of generating ample sample size if we narrowed the criteria (for who counts as a lesbian parent) to the sort that critics are calling for. We figured that, with the household roster/calendar offering the opportunity to identify who you lived with, we’d comfortably get enough cases wherein the respondent reported living with mom and her partner for many consecutive years. But few did.

Ergo, in contrast to some impressions, I didn’t construct the study to tell the sort of story I wanted.

I hope that people read the three comments that were also published with the study. They voice confidence in the data, while asserting ample concerns about its use.

Sincerely yours,

Mark

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

E-Mail Excahnge Number 3
You are right, I criticize the report because you didn’t “evaluate how the adult children of stably-intact coupled self-identified lesbians have fared. Right? Right.” Except I would also add gay fathers who used a surrogate.

From the My Daddy’s Name is Donor-
The survey research firm Abt SRBI of New York
City found 39 children born to sperm donors with lesbian mothers within a million. I can’t tell from your report how many you found. Maybe it is there and I am just missing it.

IF your gay/lesbian population primarily produced children in a Mixed Orientation marriage then I feel you should have clearly said that. Because then your research is showing what I believe to be true, Mixed Orientation Marriages are very hard on children. We know that only 1/3 of Mixed Orientation Marriages attempt to stay together after disclosure and of that 1/3 only half manage to stay together for 3 years or more (and it goes really down hill after 7 years).

IF you would have framed these adults as being the product of a Mixed Orientation Marriages I think you could have gotten applause all around. Everybody would have been happy to have this great research of yours. But, by failing to indicate anything at all about the respondents family situation growing up, you are being roundly attacked and I think rightly.

Think how much differently your report would read if you started off saying, 98% of the respondents were raised to parents in a Mixed Orientation Marriage. Now the gays would have been happy, because they are not fighting for the right to have a Mixed Orientation Marriage, they already have that right. They would have looked at your study and been vindicated that it really IS better for Children for gays to marry gays and straights to marry straights.

Do you know the Number One political Video that was viewed on You Tube last year? Zac Wahls of Iowa, defending his 2 Lesbians Mothers in the Iowa State House. Do you know what the first or second response is on Google if you google “2 Lesbians”? Zac Wahls. The gay community already knows that they are raising great children and doing a good job at it with their same sex spouse. They know it because it is their life, and the lives of people they know. But you do not (and you say you cannot) show any of their data at all.

You took a very small number of them and diluted them into a population of people who were raised in the horror of a Mixed Orientation Marriage. You painted them with a wide brush stroke. And you knew you were doing it because you deliberatly did NOT talk anything about the family structures of the respondents who had a gay or lesbian parent. You were not up front saying, “99.5% of the respondents with a gay or lesbian parent were raised in a home where the parents had a Mixed Orientation Marriage” Just that simple sentence would have made everything right.

And no age group delineation. The 18 year olds were born in 1993, the 39 year olds in 1972. Because of the changes in the general public’s changes in attitudes towards sexual minorities from 1972 to 2011, the 39 year olds probably have worse outcomes than the 18 year olds. That would be my hypothesis.

This is why you are being attacked, and rightly so.
Because of that one missing sentence clearly stating the Mixed Orientation Status you are being attacked instead of being praised.

~SGM

Dr. Regnerus to SGM
Well, it was quite unlikely that I would be praised in the scholarly community. Nor did I expect to be. Trust me, I’m not surprised by the antagonism, but nor does it feel like a badge of honor to me.

The Daddy donor study, with which I am familiar, is not a population-based random sample. It’s an opt-in sample. I even inquired about this study with Abt SRBI and it was apparent that they couldn’t handle it like KN could. They didn’t randomly survey 1,000,000 people. Only the Census–or some precious few deep-pocketed federal studies–contacts that many. The research team discussed an opt-in sample supplement to boost N, and advised against it because the probability of respondents’ inclusion could not be ascertained. Been there, discussed that, elected not to go there in order to preserve the quality of the sample.

I don’t go into orientation of parents in this study. That is a deeper well, and in the cohort that I’m studying, I don’t presume that either they or their parents would confidently call their parent gay or lesbian (or something else). Ergo, we made it about behavior–and not discreet behavior but something their child would be aware of.

Moreover, plenty of scholars, like Lisa Diamond, assert that women’s sexuality is more fluid than men’s. (I make no claim or assertion either way.) If she’s right, your claim about mixed-orientation marriages seems more fixed, especially for women, than it need be in social and marital reality. But I elected NOT to make this about orientation or self-identity. You suggest more ominous motivation, but I assure you that was not true.

Your accusations are getting more heated, and I’m afraid unless we can correspond civilly, I may have to call a conclusion to this.

Again, please post.

Mark

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

I sent him another e-mail, I’ll wait a bit to see if he responds. If so I’ll post.

Palmer
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

SGM,

Thank you very much. You’ve ably and succinctly shown the major flaw of this “study”. I have absolutely no head for plowing through this kind of goobledegook.

But my biggest question is, what is the nature of the “harm” done? Are the children, more violent, neurotic, psycho-sexual? What?

Jews have a higher percentage of neuroses than the general population, while the children of white supremacists tend to violence. Neither is desirable, but one is less harmful to society.

Is this addressed by this report?

Regan DuCasse
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Excellent, Palmer!

The word ‘harm’ is so specious and without specifics, and again, in comparison to WHAT…that it does beg the serious question.

Pretty much all of that see that word used over and over again in the political debate. As an assertion it’s going to happen, but to what degree and in what way, no one is obligated to say.

The way the anti gay say it, gay parents are equivalent to parents who betray, assault or develop pathology like addiction.
Without admitting that heterosexuals have these issues without their orientation being blamed for it.
And that hets are free to screw up as many children and marriages as they want to without any limit to how many to have in a lifetime.

So, the scrutiny of gay parents and THEIR children, on it’s face is unfair if these mitigations aren’t entered into the study equally or fairly, if at all.
If even the most exemplary gay parents receive less rights and personal choice than the most reprobate het, then there isn’t much point in any studies at all.
As it’s pointed out already, the entire of the het population isn’t judged or denied equal treatment based on a minority of them that are anti social.
So it’s equally unfair to do so to the whole population of gay people as well.

Kathryn Howie
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

While reading this story the overwhelming impression I got was –
Jeez, they have created an own goal here.

Given the obvious right religious bias of the donors and commisionees of this “study” it is to be expected they came to the conclusions they did – “religious gay hating group funds study that portrays gays in bad light – duh!”.

But what they have done, actually shows it is that lack of stable gay relationships that gives worse outcomes – and what is needed is gay marriage and stable supported gay famalies.

This flawed “study” underlines the need for marriage equality.

Ian
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Well if he said its impossible to conduct the study on equal grounds, then why conduct the study at all? especially if one is not able to get the data needed to reach their conclusions or is of relevance to their objective, its… um… pointless.

Ian
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

I would still like the data for LM and GF to be classified into different regions(progressive to conservative) and hopefully we’ll have enough data to make some sense of it.

Kathryn

its a flawed study, it poisons any argument that uses it to propel an idea, either by showing how the person using this study has not read the study or that is trying to lie.

Darina
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you for your analysis, Jim.

And SGM, thank you for all your work, sister in arms.

The mere wording in terms of “behaivour” is already a red flag for me.

Muscat
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

If this is about behavior and not orientation or self-identity, why did he opt to use the loaded terms “lesbian” and “gay” to describe the parents rather than something like the commonly used WSW and MSM?

Muscat
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Passing along a good article on this topic: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2012/06/new_family_structures_study_is_gay_parenthood_bad_or_is_gay_marriage_good_.html

homer
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

What a surprise. Fundamentalist Christian professor writes article saying gays make bad parents. I’m sure he will make lots of money from this.

StraightGrandmother
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

Muscat Thanks, I entered a comment on each of the Slate articles. What gripes me about his research report and again he repeates it on Slate is that he does not make it very clear that his study is about Mixed Orientation Marriages. He doesn’t even get into that until page 2 of the Slate article and the way he words it is not really all that clear. Why not early up in his writing does he not clearly say, “the Respondents were born as a result of a heterosexual coupling and then one of the parents had a gay affair.” That would be so nice and easy for people to understand.

Alec
June 11th, 2012 | LINK

It has become apparent to me, reading Mr. Regnerus’ disingenuous responses to criticisms of his study, that he is a bad faith actor and should be called out as the religious right’s new Paul Cameron, particularly since that one has clearly gone off the deep end and there’s an opening for someone to make anti-gay bigotry “scientifically sound” again.

Let’s review:

1) He uses a very broad definition of homosexuality. It includes, in theory, inconsequential flings as well as same-sex couples in long term relationships. Yet the author mysteriously uses the descriptor “gay and lesbian” to describe this study. Do we seriously believe that someone working in the social sciences, who writes on sexual behavior all the time, is unfamiliar with the designation MSM? This is eerily similar to Cameron’s insistence on describing male sex offenders whose victims are male as “gay,” even if they have male child victims but adult female sexual partners. It reeks of an agenda.

2) The man is on patheos on an evangelical blog trumpeting his study. His study was funded by right wing organizations. He has said he did not even seek funding from more traditional sources because he felt that they were biased for political reasons.

3) He refuses to indicate his own personal positions on any LGBT issues, but has described himself as “Catholic.” We have every reason to be suspicious of someone who dances around the issue of gay rights, but writes a study on gay parenting that is funded by anti-gay organizations because the *author* of the study deemed traditional sources of academic funding to be biased and did not even bother to pursue them.

4) He has everything in line to become the darling of NOM and all of the other anti-gay hate groups posing as “pro-traditional marriage” outlets, and has clearly set himself up for the faux victimhood so common to the evangelical/conservative Catholic set.

5) He concedes the major methodological flaw of his study (comparing broken homes with one gay parent, essentially, to stable married heterosexual households), but insists that it is OK because you cannot do a valid comparison because the sample sizes are too small. Well if you cannot do a valid comparison, what’s the value of the study? And why do an invalid comparison? I think the answer is self-evident, in light of all of the above considerations.

Imagine if I did this study on interracial unions, and I only used families where, say, a white or black parent left their spouses of the same race for spouses of another race, after the children from the first union were born. I also include cases where one parent just had an interracial fling or two. No one would take my attempts to compare those unions with stable monoracial unions seriously. Now add on that my study was funded by segregationists, I belong to a church that teaches interracial unions are morally disordered and a grave evil, and I decide to do the study because I think that the “conventional paradigm” should be shaken up, ’cause I’m a social science wannabe conservative rebel! How many people would buy my claim to objectivity?

This guy is the new Paul Cameron, and he should be treated as such.

Steve
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

He doesn’t dance around the gay-rights issue if you look at his entire work. He is anti-gay and has previously written op-eds against gay people:

http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/1-nom-founder-and-mormon-church-behind-first-applause-of-new-anti-gay-parenting-study/politics/2012/06/10/41097

The NYT one is not virulently anti-gay, but in both timing and content it’s obvious that it’s really about same-sex marriage

b
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

I think there’s a real lack of anthropological and historical perspective in these sociological studies. The nuclear family unit is a recent western invention, and it’s pretty fragile; children are reliant on a romantic couple staying happy and/or staying together for a lifetime for their sense of stability, because that is how we define and organize family and marriage. And of course that doesn’t happen most of the time. That might be more to do with the pressures of poverty in a society beset with inequality than the innate nature of the nuclear family, of course; but it is worth considering that this argument about the relative merits of gay, straight, coupled and single parenting completely overlooks how other extended family formations might be better for children than the elusive perfect couple.

Steve
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

It’s also interesting to note that some Scandinavian countries have some of the highest rates of cohabiting couples raising children. And yet they also have among the highest rates of human development and social peace/happiness.

They simply aren’t under the same social and economical pressure to get married. The extensive social security nets means people don’t have to get married for health insurance and the like. At the same time cohabitation is socially accepted and I doubt it’s noticeably worse for the children there. That doesn’t mean that committed couples don’t eventually marry. They eventually do. But they tend to wait longer.

It’s why you can’t extrapolate some of the social research done in the US on the rest of the world. Especially when it comes to families.

Stephen
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Very interesting post and comments.

This ‘study’ will now be seen as proof of the most damaging anti-gay fable, that we abuse and ‘recruit’ children. I’m with Ian: if you don’t have the numbers why do it at all? This would seem reckless at best.

Ben in Oakland
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

If I have time later, I have some ideas I want to explore. But they lead me to the question/conclusion:

There seems to be enough reason present to call this thing a hit piece of political propaganda.

Can an ethics complaint be filed?

Bernie
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Just now reading all the articles, Jim, excellent analysis on this.

SGM, you are a freakin juggernaut, Bravo.

Ben,”There seems to be enough reason present to call this thing a hit piece of political propaganda.”…BINGO!!! It’s all in the timing folks.

Ben In Oakland
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Before i forget, SGM:

super-duper bravissimo.

StraightGrandmother
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Ben in Oakland and Bernie, de nada…
You know that gesture after a person fires a handgun they lift the barrel up to their lips and blow. Yeah well I am kinda doing that right now.

No F*ing WAY that data about the horror of the results of MIXED ORIENTAION MARRIAGES and MIXED ORIENTATION SEXUAL UNIONS are going to be laid on the head of the loving and terrific gay and lesbian couples I am privileged to know.

This is actually REALLY IMPORTANT that we get out to the public who this research really studied. I encourage everyone to hit the internet, go to Google, then Google News, then Search on “Gay Study Regenerus” and comment the hell out of every article. Copy and paste his admission that he could not find straight up gay couples who had children to study. EVERYBODY HAS TO DO THIS. EVERYBODY HIT THE INTERNET AND COMMENT THE HELL OUT OF THIS RESEARCH. We are NOT LYING, WE ARE TELLING THE TRUTH, all you have to do is tell the truth and give a link back to BTB where people can read Regenrus’s own words, that this is about children who were raised in a MIXED ORIENTATION MARRIAGE (a gay marries a straight and then cheats) or a MIXED ORIENTATION SEXUAL UNION, who surprisingly enough cheats with a same sex fling.

chiMaxx
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

So, SG: What you’re saying is that the actual groups looked at in this study suggest that one of the best ways to foster lasting, intact “traditional” heterosexual families is to extend marriage to same-sex couples, as this will reduce the pressure on gay and lesbian individuals to enter into heterosexual marriages that have an increased likelihood of breaking down before any children born to the marriage are off on their own.

There may not be much we can do about mixed-sex marriages breaking up due to heterosexual affairs, but we can reduce the number breaking up due to homosexual affairs by not herding those with primarily same-sex attractions into mixed-sex marriages in the first place.

Tafter
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

The problem I have with all of this is that, despite some great data collection and numerous caveats in the publication, Mark Regnerus is running around selling this study as proof of something sinister about same sex parents. Try to square his measured statements above with his quote in LiveScience:

“The study found “that the scholarly and popular consensus that there are no notable differences between the children who grew up with a mother or father in a same-sex relationship and those whose (heterosexual) mother and father were and are still married is a fiction,” study researcher Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas, told LiveScience. “

Palmer
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Ben in Oakland, your praise for SGM is right on except for one small correction. As she is a woman it should be bravissima!

Marcus
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

I think it’s unnecessary to bring up the researcher’s personal views; his work stands or falls on its own merits. It is not inherently unethical to research (or to fund research) into a subject on which one is opinionated; what matters is constructing a scientifically valid study.

In this case, the issue is not whether he wanted his research to discredit parenting by same-sex couples; it is that his research is being used to do just that despite not supporting that view.

StraightGrandmother
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Let’s move the conversation over to the next story on this
http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2012/06/12/45598

Jay Jonson
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you, Jim, for your excellent work on this issue. And thank you StraightGrandmother for your tenacity and energy in holding Regnerus’s feet to the fire.

Nayda
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

I’ve read the Marks Study and I’m thinking Mr. Burroway is hoping no one else will or they would know he’s blowing smoke.
If you’re thinking Mr. Burroway is sounding pretty good then you’d better take time to read the Marks brief yourself. It’s not that difficult to read and is very enlightening on how flawed the 2005 brief by The American Psychological Association is. Even one of experts supporting the idea that children fare as well being raised by same sex parents, admitted the 2005 study flawed. Read Marks Paper for yourself. Don’t depend on Mr. Burrows to be objective.

CapeCodder
June 12th, 2012 | LINK

“Your accusations are getting more heated, and I’m afraid unless we can correspond civilly, I may have to call a conclusion to this. ”

Wow, there was nothing in the post that came across as rude, un-civil, antagonistic or the like.

Just some very pointed questions and comments.

He should read the comments on the NOM blog, or NRO Corner or others to see what really nasty comments are like!

Mr. (non)Scientist: you are one fragile dude.

Andrew
June 13th, 2012 | LINK

Grandmother, I am in awe. Thank you for your take-charge stance. I left him a note on the site he mentioned in which I take him to task for moving ahead with what he acknowledges to be inadequate data sets in a charged political landscape where interested parties are skimming down to “we win” headlines. Pressure should be placed on the publication to withdraw this research, especially given its shortcomings, and its failure to really achieve what he set out to measure.

Reed Boyer
June 13th, 2012 | LINK

Oh, Straight Grandmother, I do love thee – both for your work here in the BTB comments section as well as over at Pink News.
I’ve no idea of your secret identity, but you may look me up on Facebook any time, since our paths seem to keep crossing and crossing and crossing (while being pretty much on the same page about most things).
Bravos and kudos all around.

StraightGrandmother
June 20th, 2012 | LINK

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?

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.