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Posts for November, 2012

A quick and simple illustration of Mark Regnerus’ ignorance and bias

Timothy Kincaid

November 12th, 2012

In June Mark Regnerus thrust his absurd and fatally-flawed study on the world, claiming that his research clearly revealed that children did better with married parents than with parents of which one had a same-sex relationship, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?” And anti-gay activists, being little constrained by logic or ethical considerations, pretended that this study (which did not look at same-sex couples) is a scientific condemnation of same-sex couples.

All the while, Regnerus pretended to stand above the fray, never correcting the false interpretations of his study but claiming nevertheless to be the unbiased and honest statistician seeking truth.

Hogwash.

I don’t know if Regnerus is a bigot or just a self-important fool. But I do know that he knows virtually nothing about gay people and has little interest in doing so. Regnerus doesn’t study gay people, he looks for validation of his presumptions. And, just in case I needed confirmation of that fact, consider his rant objecting to the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study.

The NLLFS employs a convenience sample, recruited entirely from announcements posted “at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores, and in lesbian newspapers” in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. As the late family sociologist Steven Nock warned, the level of sample bias such an approach introduces is significant. The lesbian parents whose children are being studied are whiter (94 percent), more educated (67 percent college graduates), of higher socioeconomic status (82 percent held professional or managerial positions), and more politically motivated than lesbians who do not frequent such “events” or bookstores, or who live in cities like San Antonio or Kansas City, or in smaller towns across the country.

Regnerus does make a valid point. The NLLFS is not a statistically valid random sample. It is not demographically representational. And it’s findings are, indeed, limited (though valuable). It’s not his noting these limitations that reveals his ignorance and bias, rather the following bald assumption.

And yet all this is not actually why I think it’s time for the NLLFS to shutter its operation. No, the reason is that its sample — 78 kids growing up in activist households — is no longer a source for valid, reliable information.

Wait, what’s that description again?

78 kids growing up in activist households

Got that? To Mark Regnerus, being a lesbian that participates in a study makes one an “activist”.

Now I am sure that if this were a study of, say, children of Catholics who were recruited at Knights of Columbus events, they would just be “people of faith” or “devout Catholics”. He might note the limitations of studying Catholics who were only recruited at such events, but he would certainly not dismiss the kids as “growing up in activist households”.

It appears that Regnerus falls into the group of people who think that gay people fall into two categories: embarrassed and shame-filled individuals who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle, and ‘homosexual activists’. And if you go to ‘lesbian events’ and, especially if you participate in a study, you are an activist.

And this is a presumption that no one who actually knows anything about lesbians – or human beings – would make. It does suggest a higher level of social consciousness and a willingness to help a researcher and probably even a desire to make the world a more-informed place. And it may well even indicate a confidence that your family can hold its own. However, many people participate in research who are anything but activists.

But ignorance and bias are not holding Regnerus back, he seems to think that he need know nothing about real lesbians to wage his war on statistical lesbians. And his willingness to broadcast his ignorance and bias do not bode well for his professional future or career.

I hope Mark Regnerus is enjoying his moment in the sun. Because it doesn’t take too much discernment to see that his future is running parallel to that of Paul Cameron.

Debunking the Regnerus Study

Jim Burroway

October 1st, 2012
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Marriage is on the ballot in four states this year. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington will decide whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry, while Minnesota voters will determine whether to write discrimination into their state’s constitution. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Witherspoon Institute, and many, many other organizations are mobilizing their resources to push their anti-gay arguments.  Professor John Corvino is intimately familiar with those arguments, having just published a book with NOM’s co-founder Maggie Gallagher titled Debating Same-Sex Marriage, the only book ever endorsed both by Rick Santorum and Dan Savage. Corvino has also posted a valuable series of videos taking apart those arguements, one by one. You can see the entire series here.

BTB was the first to debunk Regnerus’s study. Our review came out just before news of the study broke in the Deseret News. Rob Tisinai’s reaction can be found herehere, and here; Timothy Kincaid’s here. Regnerus’s response to a BTB reader can be found here. You can follow everything we’ve written about the study by following this tag.

Journal Audit Finds Severe Flaws In Regnerus “Gay Parenting” Study

Jim Burroway

July 27th, 2012

The Chronicle of Higher Education has obtained a copy of a highly critical audit showing that Mark Regnerus’s widely discussed paper on gay and lesbian parenting underwent a flawed peer-reviewed process which failed to find significant methodological problems and conflicts of interest. BTB was the first to review many of those methodological problems here on the day the study first appeared in the journal Social Science Research. According to The Chronicle:

Like Regnerus, the editor of Social Science Research, James D. Wright, has been at the receiving end of an outpouring of anger over the paper. At the suggestion of another scholar, Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida, assigned a member of the journal’s editorial board—Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale—to examine how the paper was handled.

Sherkat was given access to all the reviews and correspondence connected with the paper, and was told the identities of the reviewers. According to Sherkat, Regnerus’s paper should never have been published. His assessment of it, in an interview, was concise: “It’s bullshit,” he said.

The audit criticized the paper’s identification of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers,” which was at the heart of our criticism of the report when the paper first appeared. Sherkat found the those labels for the categories of families that Regnerus created “extremely misleading.” He added: “Reviewers uniformly downplayed or ignored the fact that the study did not examine children of identifiably gay and lesbian parents, and none of the reviewers noticed that the marketing-research data were inappropriate for a top-tier social-scientific journal.” Sherkat found that that fact alone should have “disqualified it immediately” from publication.

The audit also found conflicts of interests among the reviewers and states that “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process,” according to The Chronicle. Three of the six reviewers were on record as opposing same-sex marriage and were “not without some connection to Regnerus.” Sherkat did not however find that the paper had been inappropriately expedited as I questioned. But Sherkat did question the paper’s funding — $785,000 from the conservative Whiterspoon Institute and Bradly Foundation — and the study’s timing auspicious timing ahead of the 2012 elections, were serious concerns.

“There should be reflection about a conservative scholar garnering a very large grant from exceptionally conservative foundations,” he writes in the audit, “to make incendiary arguments about the worthiness of LGBT parents—and putting this out in time to politicize it before the 2012 United States presidential election.”

Journals are judged and scored according to what’s known as an “Impact Factor” by Journal Citation Reports. The Impact Factor identifies the number of times articles are cited by other journals over a period of time. Higher Impact Factors are earned when other authors more frequently cite journal articles in their published papers, and the higher the Impact Factor, the greater the journal’s prestige. Social Science Research’s Five-Year Impact Factor is 1.994, which is considered low for social science research journals. Wright admitted to Sherkat that he believed the Regnerus paper would generate a high level of discussion and possibly elevate the journal’s Impact Factor, and admits that “perhaps this prospect caused me to be inattentive to things I should have kept a keener eye on.”

Wright told The Chronicle that he has experienced “sleepless nights” and angry emails, both from colleagues and strangers. Wright told The Chronnicle that he supports civil rights for gays and lesbians, and found accusations that he was fostering an anti-gay climate “hurtful and preposterous.” (You can read one email exchange between Wright and a BTB reader here.)

Editor James Wright provided a copy of the audit to The Chronicle, and it will appear in the November edition of Social Science Research. The September issue of the bi-monthly journal has already been issued and posted online.

Tools of the Trade

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2012

Many, many years ago, a co-worker decided to take up woodworking as a hobby. He moved his cars out of his suburban garage — there would no longer be any room for them there — and purchased some of the finest sets of tools and machinery available: band saw, jig saw, router, drill press, and a few others I couldn’t tell you the names of because I’m not a woodworker. He went top of the line, too (or so he assured me, and I believe him), making sure he had the best bells and whistles. That was just his machinery. His array of hand tools was equally impressive lined up on his shiny new cabinets where, in each drawer, he laid a piece of foam with cut-outs in the shape of his tools. This way, there would be a place for every tool and a tool in every place. It was, all in all, a weekend warrior’s dream.

And then he built his book cases and media center. They weren’t awful by any means, but they weren’t spectacular either. I had a hard time seeing how they were much better than what I could have made with my far humbler collection of mismatched and somewhat rusty tools laying around the house. Assuming I could find them.

My co-worker’s dazzling workshop and my mess of a garage come to mind as I read some Mark Regnerus’s postings defending — no, not defending, but bragging about — his purported study on gay and lesbian parenting I reviewed last week. I say purported because with most of the adult children studied spending much less than three years with their gay or lesbian parent, it seems to me to be a study that is not about gay parenting but about children of divorce, separation, parental infidelity, and a host of other sources of instability. Gay parents, it turns out, are barely in the picture at all.

Regnerus blithely ignores this criticism. Instead, he distinguishes his study by the shiny $785,000 worth of tools that he assembled to produce it. It’s often the first point he mentions when he talks about it, like in his defense posted on the Baptist-affiliated Baylor University web site:

By contrast, Regnerus relies on a large, random, and representative sample of more than 200 children raised by parents who have had same-sex relationships, comparing them to a random sample of more than 2,000 children raised in heterosexual families, to reach his conclusions. This is why sociology professor Paul Amato, chair of the Family section of the American Sociological Association and president of the National Council on Family Relations, wrote that the Regnerus study was “better situated than virtually all previous studies to detect differences between these [different family] groups in the population.”

National random samples are inordinately expensive. It is why they are so rare in social science research. It’s every social scientist’s wet dream to be able to assemble a garage like Regnerus’s, but for almost every one of them such a tool set is way out of their reach. So having a tool as shiny and impressive as a nationally random sample is a really big deal. I’d say that it would probably very difficult for most people to resist showing it off.

But what I see happening is that Regnerus wants us to be dazzled by his tools — and they are truly dazzling — and not look too closely at the book case he built with them. And if that book case looks a little off kilter, maybe its because he used his tools incorrectly. If you use a drill press when you really needed a router, you’re going get results that fall short of what you promised. If you ask adults between 18 and 39 if either of their parents ever had a same-sex relationship and leave it up to the responder to ponder whether a short tryst counts, then you are going to get a sample that doesn’t resemble anything like the kind of relationship that is comparable to any kind of marriage, gay or straight.

And as his study has little to say about anything close to resembling marriage, it also says almost nothing about parenting. In his 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 children of so-called “Lesbian Mothers” and 2% of children of so-called “gay fathers” — both loosely defined — reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more. If this is any kind of a study about gay parenting, it is even more so a study about the fifteen-plus years these kids spent outside of that so-called relationship.

And so after constructed a sample that was guaranteed to look nothing like a stable family environment, and then compared it to a sample that was specifically constructed to be a stable as possible, he found differences. That happens when you compare apples to orangutangs. And what else would you expect? When you build an unlevel shelf, you shouldn’t be surprised to see all of the results sliding off to one end. Sure, he may have started with a nationally representative sample, but that doesn’t give him license to move populations around within his samples with the purpose of achieving his aims, or to make claims about what his sample represents when his sample wasn’t constructed to represent what he claims.

And these issues point to a much bigger problem with Regnerus’s study. He wanted to examine the impact of gay parenting on children, but his tools, as impressive and expensive as they were, turned out to be the wrong tools for the job. As powerful as they otherwise would have been, they lacked the critical features that he needed to do the job correctly. And so lacking those important features, he does what a lot of weekend hobbyists in a hurry end up doing: he kludges it and hopes nobody notices. Except they have, and those kludges have been the crux of the criticisms against his study.

His response so far has boiled down to this: don’t pay any attention to how he used his tools. Just look at how shiny and expensive they are. But as every craftsman will tell you, it’s not the tools that make the better product, but the care of the craftsman who uses them wisely.

Regnerus’ Defenders Miss the Point

Rob Tisinai

June 20th, 2012

A group of professors has issued a statement responding to critics of the recent study by Mark Regnerus. Unfortunately, they miss the point entirely. To recap, the criticism is that:

  • Regnerus claims his study improves on previous research on same-sex parenting.
  • Regnerus has been using his study to make claims in the conservative media about same-sex parenting.
  • However, rather than surveying people who were raised by same-sex parents, Regnerus studied people who say one of their parents had a same-sex relationship, whether they were raised by those same-sex partners or not.
  • Regnerus has collected a sample of kids who spent more than three years being raised by actual same-sex parents, but it is so small that it represents no improvement on previous studies, and by Regnerus’ own statement is too small to offer statistically significant conclusions.

That’s egregious. Regenus’ defenders offer three points in response. Or do they? Their introduction does not bode well:

It is perhaps in part for that reason that the new study on same-sex parenting by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus, which finds that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems…

Immediately we find his defenders confusing “same-sex parenting” with “children of parents who have had same-sex relationships.” That doesn’t help their case.

The first of their three points is that prior research on same-sex parenting is flawed. Perhaps it is. But I don’t need to explore that to see this offers Regnerus no defense against charges of misrepresentation, and wouldn’t do so even if  he didn’t repeat the flaws he calls out in those studies (which he does).

Their second point is that Regnerus had trouble finding adults who had been raised by same-sex parents, and was forced to base his study on less stable family structures:

Thus, Regnerus should not be faulted for drawing a random, representative sample of young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex romantic relationships and also happened to have experienced high levels of family instability growing up.

But we’re not faulting him for that. To be clear: We’re faulting him for presenting his work as a (better!) study on same-sex parenting, and for making claims to the media about same parenting, even as he admits he was not able to study same-sex parenting!

His defenders’ first point was irrelevant. This one is actually damning.

Their third and final point is that a new study in a different journal seems to back up Regnerus’ conclusions. I haven’t looked at it yet, but even this, even if true, is irrelevant to the charge that Regnerus’ study does not examine what it claims to examine, and that his statements to the media are unsupported by his work.

The authors conclude by hoping that

[F]uture journalistic coverage of such studies, and this contentious topic, will be more civil, thorough, and thoughtful than has been the coverage of the new study by Professor Mark Regnerus.

I can only hope that future studies — and their defenders — will be more honest, thorough, and thoughtful than this work by Regnerus and those who claim to answer his critics.

Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin reader Straight Grandmother for directing us to this statement.

Where Have All the Straight People Gone?

Rob Tisinai

June 19th, 2012

The enemies of marriage equality are pushing Mark Regneres’ recent study as a sterling scientific achievement, but it contains a landmine that they’re either ignoring or just blundering past: There are a lot more non-straight folk out there than they want to admit.

We used to toss around Kinsey’s 10% figure as the percentage of people who are LGB. Lately that’s been revised to 4 or 5%. Our opponents have even tried to knock it down to 1.4%. It’s part of their argument: Why are we spending so much time on such a tiny segment of the population? As though the Constitution listed some numerical requirement before individual rights kicked in.

But the Regnerus study knocks all that to hell. It holds two surprises, one small and one big.

First, the small surprise. Of the folks who specified their orientation (42 declined to answer), 6.6% said they were bi, mostly gay, or 100% gay. That’s higher than expected. But here’s the shocker:

Of the people who gave an answer, only 80.1% called themselves completely straight.

80.1%.

80.1%!

Regnerus claims this of his study:

“[I]t is a random, nationally-representative sample of the American population. At last count, over 350 working papers, conference presentations, published articles, and books have used Knowledge Networks’ panels, including the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, whose extensive results were featured in an entire volume of the Journal of Sexual Medicine—and prominently in the media—in 2010.

And perhaps he’s right. We’ve slammed him for his strange definitions of “gay” and “lesbian,” for his strange sorting criteria, and for his strange claims that he’s collected a significant sample of “same-sex parents,” but those are different issues. Anyway, the real quandary here is for those who are desperately pushing his results.

Keep in mind that these Regnerus’ sample only covers 18-39-year-olds. I’d love to dig into the data and break it down into smaller age groups (18-23, 23- 28, etc), but that won’t be possible until he makes the details available this fall. Personally, my theory is that surveys of sexual orientation have traditionally undercounted the minority, and we may be seeing a correction of that as the stigma of non-heterosexuality continues to fade.

But in any case, one thing is clear: If our opponents accept the Regnerus study, they have to accept that America is far more sexually diverse than they cared to believe.

I don’t know why this is so funny to me.

Rob Tisinai

June 19th, 2012

Maybe I have the emotional maturity of 13-year-old, but I keep snickering at this question from the Regneres study.

Q115 Have you ever had anal intercourse? (By anal intercourse, we mean when a man inserts his penis into his partner’s anus or butt hole.)

Maybe it’s the utter earnestness of the question and (especially) the clarification; or the look I imagine on someone’s face on hearing the question and (especially) the clarification; or the splitting of “butthole” into two words – what kind of hole? a butt kind of hole; or it’s the nonsensical “or” — his partner’s anus or butt hole (but not both?).

Or maybe it’s just funny.

An interesting note, though. Of the survey’s 2988 respondents, 2361 called themselves 100% heterosexual (that’s 79%), and 2729 were “mostly heterosexual” (or 91%).

Yet an ass-smacking 1145 said they’d had anal sex — almost 40%!

Keep that figure in mind next time you hear someone talking about the disgusting practices of the male homosexual. It ain’t a gay thing. It’s a human thing.

And now I offer my apologies and return you to usual gravitas and decorum of Box Turtle Bulletin.

I Don’t Care Who Financed Prof. Regnerus

Rob Tisinai

June 15th, 2012

I’m confident we’ve exposed Prof. Mark Regnerus’ study as a mess. We’ve ripped him for so many flaws. His sorting of its respondents; his definitions of “gay,” “lesbian,” and “same-sex parenting”; his sample size; his statistical significance; his unsupported statements to the popular press.

In doing so, we’ve haven’t simply torn holes in his work. We’ve legitimately questioned his integrity as a scientist.

And yet some folks believe we’re on the wrong track. The New Civil Rights Movement points out the study was financed by right-wing groups with ties to the National Organization for Marriage:

Mark Regnerus‘s recently-released, anti-gay, Republican political propaganda was a trap set by the malicious anti-gay bigots at the National Organization for Marriage.

Where NOM intended to trap people, and, so far, has largely succeeded in trapping people, is in getting them to blah-blah-blah about the details of Regnerus’s junk findings, instead of talking very pointedly about the genesis of the junk…

…The words in Regnerus’s junk study — and in Marks’s equal heap of anti-gay junk — should not be dignified by repeating them in order to rebut them.

I respectfully disagree. When it comes to who funded the study…I mostly don’t care.

Not that it’s completely irrelevant. It heightens our scrutiny. It provides an answer for the good-hearted and incredulous who object, But why would a scientist do such bad work? (Timothy Kincaid has a good piece on that.)

Ultimately, though, it’s not merely a fallacy to focus so much on the personalities and motivations behind a study. It’s also a trap you set for yourself. I see this scenario all too often in our opponents:

A scientist makes an objective study of gays and lesbians and announces favorable results. Our opponents seize on that as proof that the scientist is a pro-homosexual activist, and therefore fatally tainted with bias.

It’s an odd bit of illogic to dismiss your opponents’ arguments simply because they come from your opponents. And it hurts you. Outside views can never challenge you. You’ve limited your own thinking with a habit of epistemic closure. You’ve even given fair-minded folk a rationale for ignoring gay-positive science done by gay researchers or funded by gay groups.

Worst of all, the undecided middle now has reason to think you don’t have a genuine reply. Some might be impressed by: It was funded by an anti-gay group. But how much more effective to say:  My god, his whole $800,000 study only looked at two — yes, two — kids who were raised entirely by same-sex couples, and he won’t even say how those two turned out!

The first reply questions the study’s integrity. The second demolishes it. Why would you merely question if you have the power to demolish?

And here’s a secret. For all their talk of being “silenced” by homosexual activists, our opponents don’t want an open conversation. We saw this, hilariously, in the Prop 8 proceedings. A number of their expert witnesses backed out of testifying, allegedly because they feared for their safety. So how did our own all-star legal team respond? By calling one of these hostile witnesses to the stand, and by showing videotaped pre-trial depositions from two others.

It was a huge win for us: their testimony highlighted the irrationality and ignorance of our opponents. And don’t forget about David Blankenhorn, the opposition witness with enough foolhardy courage to take the stand. He ended up having to admit he’d once written, “We would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.”

You only find this out through dialog, through analysis, through holding responsible for what they’ve said and done. The other side wants to side-step all that. Too many of them positively thrive on shadowy innuendo about hidden agendas driven by secret motives. Don’t take the conversation to that world.

The average undecided person isn’t going to remember who financed which study. The average undecided person is going to remember their reaction on hearing the stupid crap the researchers tried to pull off. That feeling of disgusted wonderment will stick with them, even if the details do not.

Editor of “Gay Parenting” paper responds to BTB reader

Timothy Kincaid

June 15th, 2012

Andrew, a reader and regular commenter at Box Turtle Bulletin, emailed James Wright, the editor of Social Science Research. Citing his own experience as a published author of scientific articles, Andrew expressed concern about Mark Regnerus’ article, its failure to address its objectives, and the careless way in which it lends itself to political abuse (snippet):

In short, the author ultimately fails to address the question he seeks to any reasonable degree. In the past days, Regnerus himself has publicly acknowledged that acquiring some of the data necessary to arrive at the conclusions he does is a “methodological impossibility” at present, and that there’s a “low ceiling to what’s possible” with this information. Given the critical impact of frankly inadequate work funded by an ultraconservative think tank, I question the ethics of publishing such incomplete (some might argue shoddy) work. This will have significant real-world impact, given the political salience of the issue.

James Wright responded (in full):

The paper to which you refer was vetted, reviewed and revised following exactly the same processes that all SSR submissions go through. None of the three external reviewers of the paper, nor any of the three formal commenters, raised any prohibitive concerns about any aspect of the study. Some suggestions for revisions were made in the first round of reviews and those suggestions were followed in the published version.

For the record, Dr. Regnerus is a well-known, respected, and widely cited member of the social science community. A check this morning of the Publish or Perish data base shows 2,415 scientific citations to his papers, which generally appear in high-quality social science journals.

I am told that Professor Regnerus intends to release the raw data for reanalysis sometime in the fall, and I expect those data to be pored over very carefully by a large number of investigators. Any possibly erroneous conclusions that come to light as a result of this process are certain to be reported. This is what makes science self-correcting.

Since we followed the same procedures that are followed for all submissions (some three-quarters of which are rejected, by the way), I would not call the decision to publish the paper “an editorial oversight,” although I am quick to admit that peer review is not a perfect process. As for seeking publicity, be assured that I much prefer the relative anonymity within which my journal editing normally takes place.

I will indulge myself in one final point. The children studied in this survey were raised in an era when it was legally impossible for their parents to form normal marital unions, when gay people were subjected to hostilities and prejudices of the worst imaginable sort, and where their children would have been stereotyped and vilified by their peers and others. The hypothesis that these children would not suffer lasting effects from this sort of social environment seems implausible in the extreme. I do not see that is damaging either to the parents or the children to call attention to the formidable difficulties gay parents must have faced (and still face) in trying to raise their children, or to the consequences for these children that are still detectable years and even decades later. To the contrary, these strike me as precisely the realities that must be acknowledged and faced if we are ever to progress beyond our current heteronormative bigotries.

With best wishes,

Jim Wright

Perhaps Mr. Wright simply doesn’t understand the objections to the article. Hearing complaints about how the conclusions are not supported, it seems that he thinks that it is the conclusions themselves that are causing concern – that if they had been glowing then the report would be accepted. And besides, the conclusions confirm what his presumptions already know.

Wright’s discussion about the likelihood of children of gay parents growing up in the 80’s and 90’s having detectable negative social consequences is not a bad hypothesis. It would not surprise me to find that there were some differences between those children raised by intact same-sex families and intact opposite-sex families, especially in socially hostile locations. But we don’t know that to be true and, despite its pretensions and Regnerus’ media claims, his study tells us nothing whatsoever about that possibility. Besides, difference does not necessitate negative consequences (for example, children of Orthodox Jews tend to have much lower drop-out rates).

While Wright sees logical and predictable results about “the children studied in this survey”, he misses the point that there weren’t any. Of all the children in the survey, only two were raised for their entire childhood by a female same-sex couple and none were raised for their entire childhood by a male same-sex couple.

We do know that Dr. Wright is not unaware of proper sampling techniques or the limitations of inadequate data. In 2010, he co-edited The Handbook of Survey Research, Second Edition, a synopsis of which describes the book thusly:

Detailed chapters include: sampling; measurement; questionnaire construction and question writing; survey implementation and management; survey data analysis; special types of surveys; and integrating surveys with other data collection methods. This handbook is distinguished from other texts by its greater comprehensiveness and depth of coverage including topics such as measurement models, the role of cognitive psychology, surveying networks, and cross-national/cross-cultural surveys. Timely and relevant it includes materials that are only now becoming highly influential topics.

So it’s hard to say at this point exactly why Wright rushed to publish this obviously flawed study. Perhaps he was impressed by the scientific citations that Regnerus has generated (Dr. Wright is not, himself, affiliated with a prestigious social science program and his publication, while carrying the Elsevier name, is not sufficiently important, for example, to be carried by the University of California).

It may be that he was blinded by his presumptions and green-lighted a paper that confirmed what ‘everyone knows’. Or maybe his desire that we progress beyond our heteronormative bigotries doesn’t extend to full social and legal equality and he felt it important that Regnerus’ “findings” be presented with politically expedient timing.

I will resist guessing as to his motives. But I do hope that in his continuing conversation with Andrew he will give serious thought to the matter and will be open to rethinking the wisdom of his decision.

Express Delivery: The Regnerus “Gay Parenting” Paper Took The Fast Lane To Publication

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2012

One of the things that a few researchers have commented privately to me about concerning Mark Regnerus’s much-dissected study on so-called gay and lesbian parenting (you can read my dissection here), is the amazing speed with which the paper was submitted, peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the journal Social Science Research. The typical process is measured in months, if not years in some cases. But for Regnerus’s paper, only 41 days passed from the time the manuscript was submitted to the day the editors accepted it for publication. This accomplishment is notably rare for journal publication, and it has left quite a few researchers I’ve talked to scratching their heads.

To be sure, not everything about the paper could be measured in days. Regnerus reported in his paper that the survey firm he hired, Knowledge Networks, had a hard time finding adult children with parents who fit his peculiar definition of being lesbian or gay. One solution was spend more time to keep looking:

Thus in order to boost the number of respondents who reported being adopted or whose parent had a same-sex romantic relationship, the screener survey (which distinguished such respondents) was left in the field for several months between July 2011 and February 2012, enabling existing panelists more time to be screened and new panelists to be added.

Altogether, those extended efforts combined with the originally drawn sample yielded 236 adult children whose mother or father “ever [had] a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex.” Regnerus has, when asked directly, admitted that those numbers are much too small to make adequate comparisons to determine their fitness as parents — even though he nevertheless made those comparisons in his paper. When BTB reader StraightGrandmother pressed him in an email exchange on this point, he responded:

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.

I’m not following why he doesn’t believe he couldn’t have significantly increased his sample size if the question had been held open for another year. If it is true that, as he acknowledged, that he was hampered by the difficulty of finding enough people to fit his definitions, then the only statistically relevant solution is to keep looking, and not to construct an arbitrarily heterogeneous category to contrast against a homogeneous one and falsely claim that the comparison is legitimate.

And so why not wait? Why not do the only statistically proper thing to do and hold the question open for a year? We’re talking about a paper that was intended to either validate or destroy 30 years of social science research on gay and lesbian parenting. What’s another year more?

What’s the rush?

And rush is clearly the right word. Just look a this the timeline:

July 2011-February 2012: As Regnerus recounted in his paper and I quoted above, Knowledge Networks, the company which conducted the survey and gathered the raw data, held the data collection process open during this period in order to find enough adult children of “Lesbian Mothers” or “Gay Fathers” (terminology that I always find difficult writing out when one considers how loosely he defined those categories)

February 1, 2012: The article is submitted to Social Science Research for consideration. This date is given on the paper’s front page. If the previous time period he gave for collecting his samples is correct, then he had only days to get the last of his data in, the numbers crunched, and the nineteen-page article completed. That alone is pretty remarkable.

February 29, 2012: The article is revised for publication. This typically occurs due to feedback from peer reviews. Taking only one month for others to review the study, get the feedback back to him and for him to incorporate revisions, again, is a remarkable turnaround.

March 12, 2012: The article is accepted for publication.

But then, from the time the article was accepted for publication until mention of it suddenly appeared in the Deseret News and The Washington Times, the article was never posted on Social Science Research’s Articles In Press section. After the incredible speed with which the data was gathered, article written, reviewed, revised, and accepted for publication, the article just sat there, hidden, available only to the select few that Regnerus chose to make it available to. In fact, one potential critic of that Deseret News contacted to comment on the study couldn’t because he had not seen it and Deseret News refused to provide him with a copy.

As of today, Social Science Research lists 33 articles as being in press. Three of those articles have been in the queue since before March 12 when Regnerus’s paper was accepted. And as you can see, none of the other articles were prepared with the lightning speed which Regnerus’s paper enjoyed.

Received Revised Accepted Available
In Press
York Feb 1, 2012 May 4, 2012 May 31, 2012 Jun 13, 2012
Krumpal Jul 13, 2011 May 24, 2012 May 31, 2012 Jun 13, 2012
Price & Collett Sep 5, 2011 May 15, 2012 May 31, 2012 Jun 13, 2012
Alvarado & Turley Nov 11, 2011 May 10, 2012 May 31, 2012 Jun 13, 2012
Schmidt & Danziger Jul 18, 2011 May 31, 2012 Jun 4, 2012 Jun 12, 2012
Warner & Adams Jun 10, 2011 May 23, 2012 May 31, 2012 Jun 11, 2012
Kreisman Oct 22, 2011 Feb 23, 2012 May 10, 2012 May 31, 2012
Högnäs & Carlson Jul 25, 2011 Mar 7, 2011 May 10, 2012 May 30, 2012
Arnio, et al. Jul 10, 2011 Jan 18, 2012 May 10, 2012 May 22, 2012
Kye & Mare Apr 5, 2011 Feb 20, 2012 May 10, 2012 May 18, 2012
Cor, et al. Aug 10, 2011 Apr 26, 2012 May 2, 2012 May 16, 2012
Daw & Hardie Feb 5, 2011 Apr 20, 2012 May 2, 2012 May 14, 2012
Yan, et al. Jul 7, 2011 Dec 15, 2011 May 2, 2012 May 11, 2012
Shu & Zhu Feb 23, 2011 Jan 4, 2012 May 1, 2012 May 11, 2012
Seltzer, et al. Aug 23, 2011 Apr 24, 2012 May 2, 2012 May 11, 2012
Klugman, et al. Jul 1, 2011 Apr 25, 2012 May 2, 2012 May 10, 2012
Felson & Painter-Davis Sep 19, 2011 Apr 15, 2012 Apr 23, 2012 May 2, 3012
Lancee & Van de Werfhorst Jun 22, 2011 Mar 25, 2012 Apr 16, 2012 Apr 26, 2012
Marquart-Pyatt Jan 24, 2011 Mar 27, 2012 Apr 2, 2012 Apr 17, 2012
Brauner-Otto, et al. Jun 10, 2011 Mar 30, 2012 Apr 2, 2012 Apr 16, 2012
Mollborn, et al. Sep 1, 2011 Mar 23, 2012 Apr 2, 2012 Apr 16, 2012
Xie, et al. Sep 4, 2009 Feb 12, 2012 Apr 1, 2012 Apr 10, 2012
Cheadle & Sittner Hartshorn Jul 8, 2011 Mar 18, 2012 Mar 27, 2012 Apr 3, 2012
Logan & Zhang Oct 11, 2011 Feb 13, 2912 Mar 14, 2012 Apr 3, 2012
Cheadle & Schwadel Sep 23, 2011 Mar 18, 2012 Mar 27, 2012 Apr 1, 2012
Sonnenberg, et al. Jul 7, 2011 Nov 2, 2011 Mar 19, 2012 Mar 27, 2012
Zhou Apr 15, 2011 Jan 15, 2012 Jan 2, 1900 Mar 27, 2012
Teney & Hanquinet Jul 31, 2011 Mar 7, 2012 Mar 15, 2012 Mar 23, 2012
Thornton, et al. Aug 24, 2011 Jan 18, 2012 Mar 12, 2012 Mar 21, 2012
Guzzo & Hayford Mar 9, 2011 Dec 22, 2011 Mar 12, 2012 Mar 21, 2012
Villareal & Hamilton Jan 6, 2011 Feb 15, 2012 Feb 21, 2012 Mar 7, 2012
Smith, et al. May 17, 2011 Feb 13, 2012 Feb 14, 2012 Feb 27, 2012
Logan & Shin Apr 8, 2011 Jan 29, 2012 Jan 31, 2012 Feb 7, 2012

And how does the timeline for Regnerus’s paper stack up with the others appearing in the July 2012 issue? Have a look:

Received Revised Accepted Available
In Press
Marks Oct 3, 2011 Mar 8, 2012 Mar 12, 2012
Regnerus Feb 1, 2012 Feb 29, 2012 Mar 12, 2012
Zuberi Jan 28, 2010 Jan 13, 2012 Jan 17, 2012 Jan 29, 2012
Casciano & Massey Apr 5, 2011 Feb 11, 2012 Feb 14, 2012 Mar 3, 2012
Schmeer Oct 28, 2010 Jan 20, 2012 Jan 23, 2012 Feb 2, 2012
Treas & Tai May 31, 2011 Jan 26, 2012 Jan 30, 2012 Feb 13, 2012
Ehlert Nov 10, 2010 Jan 10, 2012 Feb 7, 2012 Feb 17, 2012
Manlove Jan 21, 2010 Feb 2, 2012 Feb 7, 2012 Feb 21, 2012
Henretta, et al. Feb 10, 2011 Dec 15, 2011 Feb 21, 2012 Mar 2, 2012
Flashman Feb 5, 2011 Jan 15, 2012 Mar 1, 2012 Mar 13, 2012
Béteille, et al. Jul 18, 2011 Mar 1, 2012 Mar 12, 2012 Mar 27, 2012
Pharris-Ciurej, et al. May 21, 2009 Mar 1, 2012 Mar 12, 2012 Mar 21, 3012
Skaggs, et al. Aug 4, 2010 Jan 17, 2012 Jan 17, 2012 Jan 26, 2012
Foschi & Valenzuela Jul 25, 2011 Feb 1, 2012 Feb 2, 2012 Feb 11, 2012
Ergas & York Nov 17, 2011 Feb 2, 2012 Mar 12, 2012 Mar 17, 2012
Maimon & Browning Apr 16, 2011 Jan 25, 2012 Jan 30, 2012 Feb 8, 2012
Leopold, et al. Jul 16, 2011 Feb 20, 2012 Mar 12, 2012 Mar 21, 2012

You will notice that the only other article which didn’t appear in press before showing up in the July issue is a paper by Loren Marks which criticizes virtually every other study about gay and lesbian parenting from the past 30 years. (I hope to review that article over the weekend.) It too, along with Regnerus’s study, has been hailed by anti-gay activists and discussions of it appeared alongside Regnerus’s study in the Deseret News and The Washington Times.

By the standards of Social Science Research, it looks like the skids were well greased to get Regnerus’s article through the process as quickly as possible, and then to carefully control its release afterward. With these kinds of dates, it’s very difficult to believe that Regnerus’s article did not receive special treatment throughout the processes.

And so this brings up the obvious question: Why?

There are two major sets of events this year which might provide an answer. By the time this year is over, it looks like there will have been a total of five ballot initiatives on same-sex marriage.  We had one constitutional amendment passed in North Carolina, and there will be another on the ballot in Minnesota. Maine and Washington will vote on whether to allow same-sex marriages in those states, and it looks all but certain that a similar question will be put to voters in Maryland. And if history is any guide, one important topic in these debates will be whether gay and lesbian couples are fit to raise children.

And that’s in addition to the four federal court cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act — all of them successful so far. At least two of them, along with the pending Prop 8 case, are likely to go to the U.S. Supreme Court very soon. Arguments over whether gays and lesbians can be good parents have figured in many of those cases as well. You can count on this paper showing up in briefs and filings as these cases move forward.

The conservative Whiterspoon Institute and Bradly Foundations together threw $785,000 at this study. They purchased a potent weapon, notwithstanding Regnerus’s protestations that the study says nothing about the fitness of gay or lesbian couples to raise children. And Social Science Review has been co-opted into that fight. Which goes to show that money doesn’t but good research, but it does buy politically useful research just when you need it.

Regnerus Admits He Lacks the Data to Critique Same-Sex Parenting (*so why is he doing it?)

Rob Tisinai

June 13th, 2012

This is getting uglier.

Prof. Mark Regnerus has been giving interviews about his study on parents who’ve had same-sex relationships, saying things like this:

Well, in the generation that are adults now, kids raised in a same-sex household were more likely to experience instability and shifting household arrangements. For example, 14 percent of kids whose moms had a lesbian relationship reported spending more time in foster care, well above the average of 2 percent among all respondents.

That leapt out at me because the error is obvious: The second sentence in no way supports the first. Children whose “moms had a lesbian relationship” weren’t necessarily “raised in a same-sex household” — the children might have never even met their mother’s lesbian partner, much less have been raised by her. Jim Burroway has done some great work pointing this out, and I’d like to extend it. In fact, I’d like to go so far as to show that Regnerus himself admits that he has, well, nothing.

Regnerus’s team interviewed 15,058 people. Few of them had a gay parent; even fewer lived with their gay parent’s partner for a significant time; and fewer still came from what Regnerus calls a “‘planned’ gay family.”

Respondents who: “Lesbian” mother “Gay” father
Had a parent in a same-sex relationship 175 73
Lived with parent’s same-sex partner more than 3 years 40 1
Came from “planned” gay families (estimated) 30 – 45 less than 1

A couple points:

  • Regnerus is fond of talking about “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers,” but he defines them as adults who have ever had a same-sex romantic relationship, even if it only happened once, even if it only lasted a few days.
  • Regnerus has no data on “planned gay families.” He derived those numbers from looking at “respondents who claimed that (1) their biological parents were never married or lived together, and that (2) they never lived with a parental opposite-sex partner or with their biological father.” The numbers are a guess.

Back to those numbers, though. Regnerus obviously can’t draw any conclusions male same-sex parenting based on a sample of less than 1. How about lesbian same-sex parenting? Is his sample of 30-45 respondents enough to significantly describe the broader population?

No. Not unless the total nation-wide population of adults raised by two lesbian parents is about 50 or fewer. And I suspect it’s more.

Here’s the kicker: Regnerus agrees with me. His article bemoans the low sample sizes of studies that offered up good results for same-sex parenting:

It is not surprising that statistically-significant differences would not emerge in studies employing as few as 18 or 33 or 44 cases of respondents with same-sex parents, respectively…Even analyzing matched samples, as a variety of studies have done, fails to mitigate the challenge of locating statistically-significant differences when the sample size is small.

Look at the numbers in that quote. Now look back at the numbers in the table. This is Regnerus telling us he’s got, as I said, nothing.

Now here’s why this is so ugly.

  • In the study’s introduction, Regnerus frames it as an examination of same-parenting and a corrective to flaws in earlier, positive studies on same-sex parenting.
  • But Regnerus’s data on same-sex parenting contains the same sample-size flaws for which he which criticized those other studies.
  • So once he leaves his introduction and enters analysis, he abandons all pretense of studying same-sex parenting and focuses instead on parents who have ever had a same-sex romantic relationship, regardless of whether they raised a child with that same-sex partner.
  • Nevertheless, he does not correct his introduction in order to frame the issue properly.
  • And finally, he grants interviews to conservative outlets, claiming that his study shows the harm of same-sex parenting, even though his own words, in his own study, demonstrate that he knows his sample size is just too damn small to say anything with confidence.

Am I wrong to call this ugly? Prof. Regnerus could well be following this blog, given Jim’s excellent and well-publicized work. I hope the professor provides us an explanation and justification for what he’s telling the press.

Why We Talk about Anti-Gay Bias

Rob Tisinai

June 12th, 2012

The Washington Times has (indirectly) declared that not being “entirely heterosexual” is a negative outcome. And it did this in a news article, not an editorial.

In a widely-quoted piece on Mark Regnerus’ gay-parenting study, the Washington Times wrote:

He found that, when compared with adults raised in married, mother-father families, adults raised by lesbian mothers had negative outcomes in 24 of 40 categories…

Actually, no. Regnerus didn’t find that at all. Rather he found 24 statistically-significant differences, and of those differences he wrote:

…in the vast majority of cases the optimal outcome—where one can be readily discerned—favors [intact biological families].

Emphasis added. See what the Times did? It put words into Regnerus’s mouth. Regnerus did not say all these outcomes were negative. That was invented by the Times.

Here’s the kicker. One of the those differences is whether someone “identifies as entirely heterosexual.” Regneros didn’t classify this was positive or negative. He gives a few examples of outcomes that are “obviously suboptimal (such as education, depression, employment status, or marijuana use),” but sexual orientation isn’t on that list.

By now, though, this Washington Times falsehood has been widely reported as truth when it’s nothing of the sort.

What makes this so insidious is that it’s unstated. In one place the reader hears that all the differences were negative. In another, that one of those differences was sexual orientation. The association sinks in without ever being explicitly connected.

But it’s still there, a little splash of anti-gay bias that lands in the article almost unnoticed, one more drop of rain added to the river of homophobia.

My take on the “Children of Gay Parents” study

Timothy Kincaid

June 12th, 2012

The key to understanding Mark Regnerus’ study – and to understanding it’s failure – is understanding the motivations of the author and his funders. And, sadly, this is something that I think we fail to grasp with subtlety.

We tend to look at individuals and organizations who oppose our equality as being “anti-gay” and, as that is important to us, we elevate it’s importance to them. We see them as primarily and “anti-gay organization” and attribute motives and malices to them. This may not always be accurate. Anti-gay malice may simply be but a small – incidental even – part of their motivation.

Let me give an illustration: If one is Jewish, then it can be easy to see the Ku Klux Klan’s efforts over the years through the lens of how it impacts you. If one is insufficiently aware of the totality of their endeavors, one might confuse them of being an “anti-Jewish organization”. If one is black, that is not at all how they are perceived.

We need to understand that Regnerus’ study was not necessarily to prove that gay families are inferior. Rather, his goal was to prove that married heterosexual biological parents (intact biological families – “IBFs”) are superior. Not just superior to gays, but superior to everyone else. Gays are just one group, joining divorced parents, single parents, widows, adoptive parents, and all who aren’t IBF.

Children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.

Regnerus did not set out to say anything about orientation, he simply set out to prove that a certain family structure is superior. And that’s where he failed.

When discussing heterosexual parents, he did compare family structures. The distinctions and differences between the groups were determined by marital status, divorce, step-parentage and the like, all of which address the structure of the families. However when it came time to discuss children of parents in which one was same-sex attracted, Regnerus played a sleight of hand. He redefined his terms such that ‘having a gay parent’ became in and of itself a family structure.

Regnerus did the same thing for adopted children. The stability of the family, divorce, age of adoption, prior trauma, nothing at all was important other than the way in which they differed from IBF, and as they violated the “B” (biological) then that is the only measure that was important. Regnerus’ “family structures” became defined not by what they were, but by what they were not. There were the Not-I’s: divorce, step-family, single; and the Not-B’s: adopted by ‘strangers’, gay fathers, lesbian mothers (and especially violates the unstated but underlying requirement that the IBF be heterosexual).

Oddly enough, while claiming that he didn’t “go into orientation of parents in this study”, that is precisely what he did. Should one parent have had a same-sex relationship of any sort, that was the determinant that pulled them out of whatever family structure they might have been included in and placed them, de facto, into a non-IBF family structure.

(Imagine if he had done a study in which some other situation were used to create a new family structure: “Families in which the parents are married fare better than ones in which one parent abuses drugs.” Or perhaps “Families in which the parents are married fare better than ones in which both parents work.” It sounds meaningful until you try find the meaning.)

So what is Regnerus to do with this data? He didn’t get the data he hoped for. He didn’t get meaningful data to address the premise he wished to support. He can’t break up the same-sex attracted parents into statistically meaningful family structure groups; he doesn’t have sufficient sample size.

So he has two choices:

He can eliminate the same-sex attracted parents from the study (or put them in comparable family structure groups) or even report that sample sizes disallowed any meaningful conclusions about the comparisons between IBFs and gay families. But then he’s left with a study that says “married parents do better than divorced parents” and that wouldn’t generate headlines in his mother’s Christmas letter, much less in mainstream press. And his funders would object to three quarters of a million bucks being spent on something that has been shown to be true in many studies before this one.

They know that they are superior (and just a bit more special) than divorced parents or those slutty single mothers (who surely are all on welfare). They have studies to prove it. But so far they didn’t have anything to point to which would prove them to be superior to same-sex families.

So instead he chose to play word games. He decided to claim that “one parent is same-sex attracted” is a family structure in the same way that married or separated is a family structure. And, of course, this could be presented (with lots of “oh, no, really”) as implied evidence that IBF is superior to same-sex married couples. Which is precisely what Regnerus did when he said:

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.

But, ultimately, once one says “oh, but being gay is not a family structure” then his study becomes meaningless. As Mark Regnerus is discovering.

“Children of Gay Parents” Author Responds To BTB Reader

Jim Burroway

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…

Sincerely yours,

Mark Regnerus

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?

Regnerus responded:

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

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.”

Regnerus replied:

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

How many times are they going to do this?

Rob Tisinai

June 11th, 2012

Two days after leaving the AIDS/LifeCycle bubble of love, I force myself to click on NOM’s blog page, and you know what I find?

Same sh*t, different day.

NOM (and the rest of the anti-gay world) is crowing about a study on the awfulness of gay parenting. You can read more about that here and here and here. Let me focus on one distinct and familiar flaw: The study compares the children of married biological parents with those from broken homes — and the study’s “lesbian mothers” that our opponents are vilifying generally weren’t married to each other; nor were the gay fathers. No, they were often in opposite-sex relationships that broke down.

Our opponents’ reporting hasn’t focused on that. But I can easily imagine how how an unstable, dishonest mom/dad relationship would (a) be harmful to the kids, and (b) have nothing to do with same-sex parenting!

Now, you can combat this sort of thing with careful analysis. But the error is so common, so recurring, that I’ve put together a cartoon I now can just whip out when the need arises. Who knows, maybe this is the best way to make such an obvious and elementary point:

Feel free to post it where needed.

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