Media Gush over New Study on Same-Sex Parents. Unfortunately……

Media Gush over New Study, Only to Find Same-Sex Parents More Irritated with Their Children
Public Discourse 15 April 2016
Family First Comment: Interesting summary by a researcher slammed simply for speaking the truth. “The children of divorce, which has been legal in the US now for many decades, have never appeared comparable—on average—to the children of stably intact households. (The same is true of adoption.) Nor did their advocates insist we agree that they are comparable. In reality, there are kids who navigate all manner of household upheaval and diversity, often emerging scathed but resilient, going on to live productive and emotionally healthy lives as adults. I know lots of them; we all do. They have lived in straight and gay households, as well as those of the rich and poor, black and white. No diligent scholar I know of has stated that same-sex couples make uniformly terrible parents whose efforts at childrearing are doomed to failure. No, what is new here is not the revelation of difference and the tacit acknowledgement that a stable, loving, married mother and father remains an optimal scenario. What’s new is that we are learning that legalized civil same-sex marriage and adoption laws are not enough. We have to agree that “the kids are fine.”

A new study of 6-to-17-year-old children of female same-sex households has been rushed to publication and is now making the rounds at the typical outlets, which are proclaiming that now the social science here is truly, genuinely, totally, finally settled. The problem is that the study doesn’t really accomplish anything near what its adoring fans claim it does. In fact, it all but undermines their wish for consensus.

Here’s what the new study claims: “No differences were observed between household types on family relationships or any child outcomes.”

Here’s what the study actually signals (and it didn’t take a PhD to see it): female same-sex parents report more anger, irritation, and comparative frustration with their (apparently misbehaving) children than do opposite-sex parents.

The study in question was published recently in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and is based on data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, a 2011-12 effort that yielded nearly 96,000 completed surveys of parents in households with children under the age of 18.

In the pecking order of good study qualities, it has several things going for it, and I am happy to give credit generously where it is due. First, it focuses on “continuously coupled” households, which were profoundly rare in my 2012 study of 18-to-39-year-old adults answering questions about the households in which they had grown up. That is optimal, no doubt about it.

Second, it originates with a nationally representative sample—another big plus. However, when you start with tens of thousands of eligible cases but whittle down to comparing 95 female same-sex households with 95 opposite-sex ones, you quickly arrive at territory where statistical significance is going to be hard to locate. (Indeed, reducing sample size further and further from my original study is exactly how analysts came to proclaim that there was little statistical difference after all.) Basically, (sample) size matters. Yet this one is over twice as large as Charlotte Patterson and Jennifer Wainwright’s matched pattern studies of 44 same-sex households compared with 44 opposite-sex ones.

Locating an ample sample of same-sex households with children in population-based studies remains a challenge, inflated assumptions about their real numbers in the population aside. Hence it is still hard to randomly find stably-coupled same-sex households with children almost anywhere except in newspapers and on TV. Despite these common limitations, this study would seem to be an improvement. But it dismally fails to deliver what it proclaims, and it’s no stretch to say that. Why? Several reasons, the first of which is rather stunning.

Despite claims to the contrary, same-sex-couple moms display a problem in the study on a measure the authors oddly decided to label “parental stress.” That is, (presumably) lesbian mothers display notably more of it than do opposite-sex parents. The oddity I speak of is why they call the measure “parental stress” in the first place. It is not a measure of stress, and it doesn’t take a psychometrician to see it. Each parent respondent was asked how often in the past month they have:

– Felt that their child is much harder to care for than most children his/her age
– Felt that their child does things that really bother you a lot
– Felt angry with their child

The authors label as “stress” what is far more obviously a three-measure index of irritation and anger (at the child). Why are female same-sex parents more angry at their children than opposite-sex ones? I confess I don’t know. But this study unwittingly reveals that they clearly are. The effect size, moreover, is a “moderate” one, meaning it’s not tiny.

The authors even make overtures toward blaming the absent father for the irritation female same-sex parents feel at their children’s behavior. They don’t cite his absence, though. (That cannot matter, right?) Rather, they question his unknown genes and their possible influence on their child’s behavior:

The children of divorce, which has been legal in the US now for many decades, have never appeared comparable—on average—to the children of stably intact households. (The same is true of adoption.) Nor did their advocates insist we agree that they are comparable. In reality, there are kids who navigate all manner of household upheaval and diversity, often emerging scathed but resilient, going on to live productive and emotionally healthy lives as adults. I know lots of them; we all do. They have lived in straight and gay households, as well as those of the rich and poor, black and white.

No diligent scholar I know of has stated that same-sex couples make uniformly terrible parents whose efforts at childrearing are doomed to failure. No, what is new here is not the revelation of difference and the tacit acknowledgement that a stable, loving, married mother and father remains an optimal scenario. What’s new is that we are learning that legalized civil same-sex marriage and adoption laws are not enough. We have to agree that “the kids are fine.”

People think I have it in for the LGBT community(ies). I do not. I have it in for a science that refuses to proceed honestly, and instead shelters privileged groups—as it currently is doing—with a protective shell of administrators, grant-makers, and editors. Hence the Regnerus bashing will continue until further notice. So be it. I may be unpopular—there are more important things in life than that—but about the comparative advantages of stably-married households with mom, dad, and children, I am not wrong. It will take more than smoke, mirrors, and shifty rhetoric to undo the robust empirical truth.
READ MORE: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/04/16760/?utm_source=The+Witherspoon+Institute&utm_campaign=90e1f86c8c-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_15ce6af37b-90e1f86c8c-84094405

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