One of the issues concerning the current gay marriage debate has to do with the parenting that occurs in such relationships. I have often held that the primary value of marriage between a man and woman to a society has to do with the parenting that occurs within such relationships. The state has no interest in sanctioning our romantic relationships – but it does have a significant interest in sanctioning and supporting those relationships in which children are raised. It is in such homes our citizens are created and the nature of the home can determine the future health and wealth and happiness of children.
So it is no surprise that one of the critical factors in the debate has been to consider how well gay couples do as parents. It is already established that children do best with two parents, and that there are many benefits from having a father and mother in the household in a long-term relationship. Gay marriage advocates tend to agree that a plurality of parents is beneficial, but contend that the sex of the parents is irrelevant. In defending such claims they have cited a number of studies that have been done over the years which purport to show that there is no significant difference between children raised in the home of gay parents and those raised of the homes of heterosexual couples. Such studies that are becoming increasingly important as the courts begin to take up these issues.
Now there are two new studies that come to notably different conclusions than previous investigations. In a study by Professor Mark Regnerus using data from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), one of the largest samples to date of the health and well-being of young Americans there is evidence of numerous differences between the social and emotional well-being of children raised by women in a lesbians relationship, and those who have grown up in a heterosexual family. Most notable were these findings:
According to his findings, children of mothers who have had same-sex relationships were significantly different as young adults on 25 of the 40 (63%) outcome measures, compared with those who spent their entire childhood with both their married, biological parents. For example, they reported significantly lower levels of income, more receipt of public welfare, lower levels of employment, poorer mental and physical health, poorer relationship quality with current partner, and higher levels of smoking and criminality.
A separate but related study by Dr. Loren Marks from Louisiana State University that previously widely cited study from 2005 regarding same-sex parenting fails to provide a sufficient basis to draw conclusions about same-sex parenting. As he puts it:
“The jury is still out on whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children”, explains Marks. “However, the available data on which the APA draws its conclusions, derived primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way.”
Like all published scientific studies, these findings will certainly be reviewed, debated, and further studied. What they seem to indicate now is that the data gathered so far on the subject of same-sex parenting don’t warrant the confidence advocates often attribute to them and that there is reasonable doubt about the efficacy of same-sex parenting when compared to the parenting of married heterosexual couples.
The question of course is whether those who are advancing a pro-gay marriage agenda will care about the data when it doesn’t support their position.
*Studies cited below*
How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. by Mark Regnerus – Social Science Research Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 752–770
“Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association’s Brief on lesbian and gay parenting” by Dr. Loren Marks – Social Science Research Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 735–751