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June 13, 2012

Column #1607a

Children of Same-Sex Parents Fare Poorly

By Mike McManus

            Conventional wisdom is that children of same-sex parents do as well as, or even better than children from intact, two-parent married households.  Many studies make that assertion.

            It is massively wrong according to a new, very large, thorough study published this week by the journal Social Science Research. It was written by Mark Regnerus, a scholar at the University of Texas. The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is a breakthrough report.

            Regnerus compares how young adult children, aged 18-39, of a parent who has had a same-sex relationship fare on 40 different social, emotional, and relational outcomes when compared with traditional and other families. 

            The biggest differences were between children of women who have had a lesbian relationship – and those raised by still-married biological parents.

            Fully 69% of those with lesbian mothers were on welfare as children – four times the 17% in intact families ever had that experience.  In fact, 38% of the adult children of lesbian mothers are currently on welfare vs. only 10% of those with married parents. That’s the same 4-1 ratio.

            Only 8% of adult children from intact homes were unemployed when interviewed in 2011 vs. 28% with a lesbian parent. 

            What’s most shocking is that only 2% of those with married parents were ever touched sexually by a parent or an adult – while 23% of those with a lesbian mother had that experience!  Golly, they are 11 times more apt to be molested by a parent!

            The design of the NFSS research was brilliant. 

Most research on the impact of gay parenting has relied on interviews with gay parents who are from convenience samples.  For example, the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study conducted last year “recruited entirely from self-selection from announcements posted at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores and in lesbian newspapers in Boston, Washington and San Francisco.”

Such a sample is biased toward including better educated, wealthier people who visit bookstores.  What about the less educated or less likely to be employed? They aren’t interviewed.  Of course, the children of these more affluent parents are more apt to do well.

By comparison, NFSS asked 3,000 young adults if either of their parents had a same-sex relationship while they were growing up.  Result: 175 reported their mother was in a lesbian relationship and 73 said the same about their father. That’s about 1.7%, a figure comparable to other studies.  The sampling was so carefully done that it included both those with listed phone numbers, and those who only use cell phones (about half the total).

Only 23% said they had spent at least 3 years in the same household with a romantic partner of their mothers; an additional 57% did so for at least four months.

Among those with a father in a gay relationship, less than 2% said they had spent at least 3 years in that household. These relationships are much more volatile and short-lived, but neither compares with the stability of married heterosexual parents.

Also, by interviewing young adults of gay parents, we can see how the experience shaped their adult lives.  This is vastly more useful information than asking volunteer same-sex parents if their kids are doing well.  Of course, they say YES.

More results: three times as many young adults of lesbians were currently cohabiting as those with married parents (24% v. 9%). Even more young adults (31%) of divorced parents were living together. Twice as many from intact homes were employed full-time as those with lesbian mothers.

Only 5% of those with married parents had considered suicide in the past year vs. 12% of those with lesbian parents and 24% with homosexual fathers. That’s five times those from intact homes. Similarly, a young adult of married parents is less than half as likely to be in therapy “for a problem connected with anxiety, depression, or relationships” – as those with gay or lesbian parents (8% v. 19%).

Only 12% of young adults with married parents had ever cheated while married or cohabiting, but a big 40% of adult children of lesbians had done so. 

Just 8% of those from intact homes had ever been forced to have sex against their will vs. 31% with lesbian parents and 25% of gay parents.

These are huge differences. 

They should be cited by those opposed to same-sex marriages. 

In the last two weeks, I helped gather signatures for a statewide referendum on whether to reverse a vote by the Maryland Legislature legalizing same-sex marriage.  

I hope this column will give fresh ammunition to those trying to protect traditional marriage – and children.

Copyright © 2012 Michael J. McManus is a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers.

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