The Evolution of Science on Same-Sex Households

Public Discourse 12 May 2015
Now that the Supreme Court’s oral arguments are behind us, and the justices have already privately cast their votes about the future (and the history) of marriage, perhaps it’s possible that the social science of marriage, sexuality, and child outcomes can catch its breath. Better yet, perhaps it can operate without the pressure-cooker of politically acceptable narratives.

But after three years, and two separate inquisitions by my own university, I’ve come to conclude that “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” as the saying goes. Or in my case, until I capitulate and admit I was wrong. I’m not above admitting mistakes, but neither am I prone to the sort of reeducation that is being pursued.

And so it is that a Washington Post blog recently covered the release of a study that re-analyzes the data I collected and described back in 2012 in my pair of studies of the adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships, continuing a contest over the meaning of the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) that’s nearing three years in length now. Social science has become a spectator sport.

In the spirit of (continued) full disclosure, I was even a blind peer reviewer of an earlier version of this study. I didn’t sign off on what appears in print, but I felt—as a scientist—that alternative analyses at least deserve a hearing, for the sake of science.

To their credit, the authors helpfully pointed out a handful of cases that were questionable—respondents whose unlikely answers to other questions (like height, weight, etc.) suggest they weren’t being honest survey-takers. Such a critique is certainly fair and welcome; it’s part of the long-term process of cleaning and clarification in any dataset of substantial size. And removing those questionable cases actually strengthened my original analytic conclusions—and the authors say so: “. . . these adjustments have minimal effect on the outcomes . . . these corrections actually increase the number of significant differences . . .”
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