A Quick Hitter--The Importance of Reading Carefully

The interwebs are abuzz with a study by a Catholic University of America researcher Donald Sullins entitled "Emotional Problems Among Children with Same-Sex Parents: Difference by Definition."  In it, cultural conservatives hope to find the Holy Grail--some scientific evidence that letting gay folks raise children is bad for the children.  Thus far, such evidence has been, well, non-existent.

Have they found the Grail?  Not exactly.  First, it is worthwhile to note that, while this is a peer-reviewed study, we have seen "peer reviewed work" by folks like Mark Regnerus turn out to be, well, bogus.  But, for our purposes, let's assume that the study is accurate.  It is true that, per the study, the overall emotional health of children in opposite sex marriages (according to the metrics they used) is about twice as good as same sex marriages (Table 3, page 9).  But the key lines are found on page 11:

Model 4.7 tests the effect of biological parentage. Including this variable in the model reduced the relative risk of child emotional problems with same-sex parents by 39%, and the resulting risk ratio was no longer statistically significant. . . .

Consideration of biological parentage, as Model 5.3 shows, renders null all same-sex parent risk ratios, fully accounting for differences between same-sex and opposite-sex parents in child emotional problems. 

In other words, a family consisting of the biological mother and the biological father is significantly better for the children than any other alternative.  But, once we are in the realm of alternatives, the difference between same sex and opposite sex parents is no longer statistically significant.  Or, to put it more bluntly, gay parents are no worse for kids than divorced-and-remarried, opposite sex parents.

Again, I have no way of knowing for certain if this study is accurate, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if it is.  It was generally known that children of divorce, or children who are adopted, have a tougher time than kids from married, intact families.  It would be better, on balance, for all kids to be raised by their biological parents.  I don't think this is seriously in debate.

So, if we have a hypothetical Child X who is up for adoption, or who is the child of a divorced parent, we can agree that it would be better for the child if the counter-factual scenario in which his or her biological parents were raising him or her were true.  But, it's not true.  The real question is--given that his or her parents are not together and present, is it worse for the child to be adopted or incorporated into a same sex family than to be adopted or incorporated into an opposite sex family?  The answer, per this study, is no.

That being the case, there is no reason for same sex couples to be treated any differently from opposite sex couples in, for example, the adoption context.  The damage, so to speak, has already been done when the child's biological parents split up, and having a loving gay couple adopt the child is no worse than a similar straight couple.

All this study proves is that we should not encourage biological parents to get divorced, nor should we forcibly remove children from their biological parents and place them with gay couples.  Which, of course, no one is seriously advocating.


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