“Children of Gay Parents” Author Responds To BTB Reader
June 12th, 2012
Whoever invented the term “crowd-sourcing” was onto something, and the BTB crowd is among the best. Regular commenter StraightGrandmother had an interesting email exchange which she posted in the comments section. I want to bring up those email responses here.
Her first email began: “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,” She then peppered him with several questions: How many LM/GF had biological parents who were married and stay married, how many were married then divorced, were never married, had a “fling”, etc. In other words, how many LM/GF people fit the more homogenous categories that he created for adult children of heterosexual couples. You can read her full email here. Regnerus replied:
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…
StraightGrandmother thanked him and clarified why she asked about “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?
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.
You can read an overview of those three commentaries published in Social Science Review here.
In the third email, StraightGrandmother emphasized her concerns about mixed orientation marriages being included in the LM and GF categories:
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 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).
She mentioned Zach Wahls, the young man who was raised by two mothers as the only family he ever knew and who testified about his family before an Iowa statehouse hearing to consider rescinding same-sex marriages in that state, as an example of someone who was really the product of Lesbian Mothers. StraightGrandmother castigated Regnerus for what she saw as carelessness with how he described his “lesbian mothers” category. “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. …Because of that one missing sentence clearly stating the Mixed Orientation Status you are being attacked instead of being praised.”
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.