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Study: Biology Matters to Children of Same-Sex Couples

iStock_000013186463_SmallNew research published this month in a prestigious British journal is the largest study to date that finds poor outcomes for children who were raised by same-sex parents.

In an article published by the Witherspoon Insitute, Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas describes the study which was published this month in the British Journal of Education, Society, and Behavioral Science. Researchers analyzed data collected from 512 children of same-sex parents who were part of a pool of over 207,000 respondents to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) which was conducted between 1997 and 2013.

“Results reveal that, on eight out of twelve psychometric measures, the risk of clinical emotional problems, developmental problems, or use of mental health treatment services is nearly double among those with same-sex parents when contrasted with children of opposite-sex parents,” Regnerus explains.

“The estimate of serious child emotional problems in children with same-sex parents is 17 percent, compared with 7 percent among opposite-sex parents, after adjusting for age, race, gender, and parent’s education and income. Rates of ADHD were higher as well—15.5 compared to 7.1 percent. The same is true for learning disabilities: 14.1 vs. 8 percent.”

The study’s lead author, sociologist Paul Sullins, assessed all the possible reasons for the differences between same-sex-parented and opposite-sex-parented children including residential stability, incidents of bullying, parental emotional problems, and biological parentage.

As we can imagine, each of the above factors had a negative impact on children’s emotional health, but only biological parentage accounted for nearly all of the variation in emotional problems.

Even though it’s well-known that adopted children – or those who were adopted by strangers - are at a higher risk of emotional problems, being adopted did not account for the differences between children in same-sex and opposite-sex households. In fact, the majority of same-sex couples in the NHIS survey contained one parent with a biological relationship with the child.

Mark Regnerus Mark Regnerus

But not even this mattered in the overall outcome of children raised by same-sex couples. Children who were raised by their biological mother and father still fared much better than those who had either no biological connection or a connection to just one parent.

What the study shows is that “ . . . (T)here is no equivalent replacement for the enduring gift to a child that a married biological mother and father offer. It’s no guarantee of success. It’s not always possible. But the odds of emotional struggle at least double without it,” writes Regnerus who came under attack in 2012 for publishing research with the same conclusions.

Even so-called “planned” same-sex families where children are created via assisted reproductive technology reveal unique difficulties and relational stresses not found in opposite-sex households.

“The birth and non-birth mother . . . are subject to competition, rivalry, and jealousy regarding conception and mothering roles that are never faced by conceiving opposite-sex couples, and which, for the children involved, can result in anxiety over their security and identity,” Regnerus writes.

So why do so many studies purport to show no difference in outcome between same-sex-parented and opposite-sex-parented children?

It’s all in the way scientists choose to collect and interpret the data, Regnerus explains.

For example, studies that do not rely on random sampling but recruit samples of same-sex parents tend to foster a strong bias resulting in false outcomes. Whereas, random based sampling, such as the data collected in large surveys such as the New Family Structures Study, Early Childhood Longitdinal Study, and the U.S.Census all tend to reveal the same thing – that children raised by biological, opposite sex parents fare better than those raised by same-sex couples.

Another tactic is to control for those things that tend to plague same-sex households such as relationship instability, residential instability, health and emotional challenges, greater economic struggle and the lack of two biological parents. When these factors are not included in the study, children of same-sex parents appear to fare just fine. In fact, some studies have even gone so far as to claim they fare better than those raised by married heterosexual parents.

“Doing this gives the impression that ‘the kids are fine’ at a time when it is politically expedient to do so,” Regnerus writes.

“On a Thursday morning in late June 2015, Americans will be treated to the Court’s decision about altering an institution as old as recorded human history. But one thing that day will not change is the portrait of same-sex households with children. . . .

“Biology matters—as new research released this week confirms—and no amount of legislation, litigation, or cheerleading can alter that.”

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