A recent study “proved” that the children of lesbians are just as happy and have fewer behavioral issues than the children of heterosexual couples. Check out this link in case you’re wondering

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/07/lesbian.children.adjustment/index.html

Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you read (these are taken from Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse’s Lecture on “Beyond Contracts; Marriage and Sustainable Markets):

–       The study was not random. Specific woman volunteered to be part of the study

–       Only 78 children were interviewed for the study

–       The study of the child’s well-being and behavioral issues was based on the mother’s report of the child’s functioning with no independent verification that what she said was true.

Here are a few assumptions made in the study:

–       The study assumes that women are better parents than men. Therefore fathers are unnecessary.

–       The study hints that the problems that do exist for children of lesbian couples are caused by society’s aversion to gay-marriage.

–       The study assumes that the means for having a child through artificial reproductive technology is better than through sex because the child will always be wanted and therefore better cared for in the latter case.

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Posted by Rebecca Elizabeth

7 Comments

  1. Christof Meyer June 18, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Good call. When I noticed that article I assumed that Christians would be all over it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From my vantage point (here in the Christ-haunted South) it looks like Christianity in general simply heaved a heavy sigh and then shuffled back to their respective jobs – having heard another terrible confirmation of the fear that has been troubling them for decades. Christianity, it seems, is not only unpopular – but unhelpful.

    So goes the story.

    What I am REALLY troubled by is the way that more people haven’t attacked the substance of this article/study/op-ed/whatever it is. The argument is shoddy, the funding dubious, motives obvious, and presuppositions militantly opposed to the majority position of American familia. And yet a stilled hush is all that I’ve heard in response.

    Good job in mentioning it… But it seems like we have a larger problem on our hands. Failure to believe in the goodness of our religious beliefs. Failure to have the courage to respond to philosophical attacks on our foundations (sapper attacks!). Failure to believe that minds can still be changed. Alas. It seems like this article highlights the soft underbelly of our Christian community.

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  2. Christof,
    It seems that you are all too correct and sadly so. But to be honest, I myself hadn’t really heard or developed what I felt to be a good argument in opposition to the “same-sex” marriage argument until I came here to Acton. I felt, and I think many Christians feel that they just believe that homosexuality as marriage is wrong, but can’t really articulate their position beyond that. They have a vague notion that it is wrong for more than religious reasons, but cannot strongly present an argument as to why.
    Thanks for highlighting this lack of knowledge. I’ll try to present the argument against gay marriage in more detail in the coming days.

    Reply

  3. Few things to keep in mind about things to keep in mind:

    Randomness is an ideal but if often difficult to achieve in practice. Asking people to volunteer for a study raises issues but does not automatically sink it.

    78 subjects is a pretty good number.

    The evaluation of the child’s well being was done by “Gartrell used the Child Behavior Checklist, a commonly used standard to measure children’s behavioral and social problems, such as anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior and social competence”. The check list is widely used and is reliable. Granted individual psychological evaluations by several different psychologists would have been better but costs have to be considered as well as feasibility (try finding 78 subjects with parents willing to go along with that!).

    From what I read of your link, none of the ‘assumptions’ were made. The study’s author choose to look at lesbians only because lesbians often use insemination always producing at least one biological parent while gay men have only adoption or surrogacy. (In addition, gay couples adopting kids is a newer development, this study was started 25 years ago). I see no assumption that women are better than men therefore two women parents trumps one man and one woman.

    Actually the study doesn’t hint that social aversion is a problem, the study finds that.

    The last ‘assumption’ too seems like it misses a subtle statistical issue in studies like this.

    Heterosexual couples produce kids in all manner of circumstances. Lesbian couples tend to have different circumstances. They tend to be older, more stable and more financially secure (16 yr old kids messing around in high school can’t afford insemination clinics).

    So let’s just say that 30% of kids in heterosexual couples have some type of emotional issue. In a study like this, then, 30% would not be the bar for lesbian couples. If the lesbian couples are older, more secure, more well off then you need to compare that not to the entire population of heterosexual couples but the sub-population who can most closely fit that demographic. Of course if you really wanted to be picky, you could insist on comparing to heterosexual couples who used a sperm bank (although that would raise issues of its own, do the men in such couples have the same reaction to their partner not having their biological child as women? Biology suggests otherwise).

    It sounds like the study author recognizes this but since I can’t read the study I don’t know how she adjusts for it. Nonetheless, coming out slightly ahead doesn’t indicate an advantage necessarily for the reasons I just cited. (Also the fact that it is being published in a respected peer reviewed medical journal hints that it suffers no obvious mathematical errors that a layman like me or you can detect)

    The question, though, isn’t really whether lesbian couples are better. Even if they are, the fact is its impossible for any but a tiny portion of kids to be raised by lesbian couples for the simple fact that there are simply not enough lesbians in the population. The question is whether there is anything special about lesbian couples raising kids that is damaging. The evidence here is that there isn’t.

    Now you can say ‘but but but’. At the end of that ‘but’, though, is no evidence on your side. Yes maybe if the children were interviewed directly they would reveal problems their mothers didn’t when they filled out the surveys. But YOU haven’t interviewed them and haven’t established any such evidence. This study is started 25 years ago. The children are in their early 20’s now. There’s already a population of people who were raised by gay parents. If evidence was clear cut that such a thing is damaging it would be easy to see by now. Maybe the evidence is subtle. “But….maybe…” is not an argument, not a study and not evidence.

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  4. […] kids. But the study doesn’t prove anything because it has a dubious funding bias, used incorrect research methods and made wrong assumptions (more analysis of the study can be found here and here). But it’s yet another disturbing slap […]

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  5. First of all, the use of the word NOT! with the exclamation point in one’s titles is dubious. I’m referring to the post on her blog and, by responding here, I’m shooting the messenger. But this is bad information that should not have been passed along.

    Regarding Roback Morse’s issue with sample size, a longitudinal study in which 78 subjects have participated for over 20 years generates enough data to draw generalizable conclusions.

    Specific women? I guess you mean lesbian couples who were starting families two decades ago. The women volunteered when they were pregnant…back in 1986-1992, when the researchers were seeking volunteers so it’s not like they could have selected only children of lesbian couples with better well-being to skew the results.

    The study compared maternal reports on a standardized, widely-used survey instrument between children raised by lesbians and what the study calls the normative sampel. It was a gender-matched group of 49 girls and 44 boys, all 17 years old. Surveys were completed at ages 2,5, 10, and 17 by the participants in the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study and the surveys done at age 17 were used to compare the groups.

    Okay, so let’s assume parents in both groups overestimated their children’s well-being. That’s a fair assumption. But it negates Roback Morse’s contention that the study should have “cross-referenced with objective outcomes.” There is no issue with comparibility.

    Regarding the confounding variable of socioeconomic status, the study notes that the SES of both both groups comparable. If you look at Table 1 in the study, the control group (children of heterosexual parents) is actually more skewed toward those with higher SES so the reports from those parents would be expected to be higher. Generally speaking, higher SES, better-off kids.

    Like it or (obviously) not, this long-term study has been rigorous, peer-reviewed social scientific work and misrepresenting their research methods to your readers in an attempt to weaken the study’s finding is intellectually dishonest or maybe just ignorant.

    Read the study for yourself, if you want to identify its limitations. The researchers address them directly on p.8 of this .pdf online: http://www.nllfs.org/publications/pdf/peds.2009-3153v1.pdf

    Reply

  6. I’m all for reasonable discourse and, despite my tone and I hope that was a reasonable response.

    Reply

  7. […] few weeks ago I highlighted what proved to be some controversial criticisms (https://mereorthodoxy.com/?p=3169 ) given by Dr. Roback-Morse of a recent study on the psychological health of children raised in […]

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