Another day, another religious conservative employing unethical research practices in order to attack marriage equality. In 2012 we had Mark Regnerus publish a study claiming that children raised by married biological parents had better outcomes than those raised by same-sex parents. However, there was a flaw in Regnerus’ methodology: he forgot to study children raised by same-sex parents. Oops!
If we are to compare the outcomes accurately then children raised by their biological parents in a long term, stable relationship must be compared to children raised by a same-sex couple in a long term, stable relationship.
Regnerus, the silly goose, compared children who were raised by their married biological parents for at least 18 years with children whose parent at some point in their lives was in a same-sex relationship. As you can see the very important “long term, stable” aspect is missing from the latter group. In fact, out of Regnerus’ sample of 236 only 2 were in a relationship for 18 years or more.
We know from numerous other studies on children in differing family forms that stability and low conflict are vital in determining their outcomes. So children raised by biological parents will generally fair better than those raised by single parent, step-parent, divorced parents etc. This is why there were differences in outcomes observed in Regnerus’ study, because he compared high conflict/low stability with low conflict/high stability. This was immediately highlighted and the paper has been well and truly debunked.
Well Donald Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and sociology professor at Catholic University of America must have missed the furor over Regnerus’ flawed methodology because he has copied it!
Sullins reference group consists of “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all children in the family” i.e. long term, stable, low conflict. These children have been raised by two parents their whole lives. He then compares this group with “same-sex parent couples”. If an individual was reported as living with a spouse or partner of the same sex then they were classified as a “same-sex parent couple”. There is no information if the couples were married, if the children were from a previous relationship, if children were being raised by the couple for 1 year or 10 years. No pertinent information is provided. Unlike the reference group there is absolutely no control over stability or conflict. Meaning, of course there would be differences in outcomes observed. But just like the Regnerus study these differences can be attributed to stability which both “researchers” refused to account for.
Sullins also authored these two whoopers, same-sex parenting causes ADHD and lesbianism is caused by being raised in a broken home.
So how did two flawed studies get into journals I hear you ask. Well Regnerus was paid a handsome sum by the Witherspoon Institute, an anti-gay think tank (what’s with the word ‘institute’ and anti-gay think tanks??). W. Bradford Wilcox is a fellow of this institute and he worked as a paid consultant, and he even got to peer-review it. Wilcox also sits on advisory editorial board of Social Science Research in which the study was published. Conflict of interest much?
Sullins has no such luck in knowing influential individuals that can get his studies published in journals so he has to resort to predatory publishing. Predatory publishing involves the authors of studies paying “journals” to publish their work. There is often no peer-review or editorial standards applied to the study. Science Domain International, which is publishing Sullins’ study, is listed on Beall’s list of predatory publishers.
To date no peer-reviewed study has been published which has shown that children raised by same-sex parents has worse outcomes than those raised by heterosexual parents. Every study that has gone through rigorous peer-review and has accounted for stability and conflict has shown there is no difference.
The fact Regnerus and Sullins both employed similarly flawed methodologies raises an interesting point. Surely, if opposite sex parents did provide better outcomes for children then both Regnerus and Sullins could have accounted for stability and conflict and still produced the same results. The fact the anti-marriage equality side are forced to use skewed methodology in order to prove their point shows that there must be no differences in outcomes.
(Big thanks to @Geoffsshorts for tipping me off about the study and providing me with much of the research)