Defending marriage:

| Jason Adkins | August 29, 2012 | 8 Comments

Good science can reinforce what we know by faith and reason

A ground-breaking study was released on June 10 that provides one of the first large-scale, random-sample, independent, peer-reviewed, published and critiqued studies ever conducted on the parenting effects of eight groups or household settings with various combinations of male and/or female parents.

The eight classifications were:

1) lived in intact biological family;

2) mother in a same-sex relationship; 3) father in a same-sex relationship;

4) adoptive parents (mother-father);

5) divorced or joint custody; 6) step family; 7) single parent; 8) all others, i.e., children of a deceased parent, etc.

The study, published in the prestigious journal, Social Science Journal, and entitled, “New Family Structures Study,” was conducted by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas. The results were based on a comprehensive study of 2,988 randomly selected young adults between the ages of 18-39. The results were critiqued by several reviewers, representing a broad ideological spectrum, who supported the quality and integrity of the research.

Findings are clear

Of the 40 outcomes that the study researched, the 15 in Table 2 are the most significant.

The data show that children raised in an intact, biological family with a mother and a father produced more positive results in every category.

Most notably, as seen in the chart above, the study found that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems. The study thus makes doubtful the assertion of those seeking to redefine marriage that there are “no differences” in outcomes between children raised by parents in same-sex relationships and those raised by a mom and dad.

In fact, young adults raised by a parent in a same-sex relationship did not fare better on one single outcome measurement than those people raised by their intact, married parents.

The report concludes by acknowledging that many respondents have proven to be resilient in overcoming such factors of death, divorce, diverse romantic partners or remarriage. No one is doomed to fail simply because of difficult family situations. Many people are able to overcome these challenges and do well.

But the authors can emphatically assert that this research: “. . . clearly reveals that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults — on multiple counts and across a variety of domains — when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.  Insofar as the share of intact, biological mother and father families continues to shrink in the United States, as it has, this portends growing challenges within families, but also heightened dependence on public health organizations, federal and state public assistance, psychotherapeutic resources, substance use programs and the criminal justice system.”

Moms and dads matter

This report, like all social science, is limited methodologically in its ability to describe the complexities of human life. Its data sample, while sufficient from a scientific standpoint, is still rather small.

But anecdotally, and more reliably than previous studies on these matters, the study does reinforce what lived experience has taught cultures and civilizations across history and geography, namely, that the welfare of our children and grandchildren is best assured in a home with a mother and a father. Moms and dads matter and law should promote the ideal. Not every marriage produces children, but every child has a mother and father.

The Marriage Protection Amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman that will appear on the November ballot is meant primarily to reaffirm the right of children to know and, to the extent possible, be cared for by the two people whose sexual union made them — a right recognized by even the United Nations.

Civil marriage protects this right and is the only institution that combines the biological, social and legal aspects of parenthood into one lasting bond.

The well-being of children should be one of the most important considerations in the debate on public policy about marriage and family life. And we know that, as a general matter, children flourish best in a home with a mother and a father.

When we live in accordance with and are governed by what faith and reason tell us is the best for human flourishing and happiness, we prosper. When we abandon that plan, we suffer. Good science confirms this reality.

We need to do all we can to assure that our laws connect children to their parents and affirm what abundant research, among other things, confirms is the best context for raising children.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. 

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Category: Faith in the Public Arena

  • Krishoel001

    I encourage readers to question the validity of this study, its design, and funding, as have more than 200 social scientists, physicians, and other academics. You can read an overview of the controversy here http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2012/07/critics-challenge-findings-funding-and-methodology-controversial-gay-parents . You can read the text of the Letter to the editors and advisory editors of Social Science Research here http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/bombshell-letter-scores-of-ph-d-s-ask-for-retraction-of-regnerus-study/legal-issues/2012/06/29/42413 . It’s not all easy reading, but it’s important.

  • billcoffin
    • Krishoel001

      Thanks for this link, Bill. I’m happy for Mark Regnerus that he has been cleared of scientific misconduct charges, which are well defined under the University of Texas’ regulations. However, this does not make his study scientifically well designed. If the journal in which he published, Social Science Research, had performed the process of peer review in the manner usual for scientific journals, Regnerus’ peers in the field would have had a chance to comment upon and question his methods and findings, allowing him to revise his work and ensuring that his conclusions were sound. The time from submission to acceptance for his paper was 5 weeks, in a world where this process of peer review and comment, revision, and further peer review can take from 10 months to over a year. Also at issue is the funding source for his research. His two major donors were the National Organization for Marriage and the Whitherspoon Institute, organisations which are opposed to gay marriage. In the world of academic, scientific research, it is always important to follow the money. I am not a scientist myself, but have lived with a successful, funded researcher for more than 25 years. Quality of research is judged on peer review and how that research is funded. The results of an NIH-funded drug trial will always be seen as more rigorous and valuable than the results of a study funded by a pharmaceutical company. Readers can go here http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-frank-same-sex-regnerus-family-20120613,0,392991.story to see an easily-understood analysis of the faults in Regnerus’ methodology. You may have to copy the URL into your browser as I can’t seem to copy the link into this post.

      • Rich

        Hi Krishoel001,

         

             Thank you for your ‘heads up’ that we should not accept things uncritically.  I clicked on the links you provided hoping to
        find sociological studies (or at least articles with links to sociological
        studies) showing that children raised by same-sex couples fared as well as – if
        not better than – children raised by a father and mother.  I apologize, but I could not find these links.  And please don’t get me wrong, I honestly
        could have just missed them.  Would you
        be able to provide them?  (And, I know
        this is not fair to ask, but may I assume that your studies were not conducted
        or funded by parties who support gay marriage?)

               Your caution to
        be wary of studies in which data and/or methodology are ‘spun’ to reach
        specific outcomes is a sound and fundamental warning.  In relation to our gay marriage discussion, I
        first heard your warning raised by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse roughly 6 years
        ago when she warned about what she called ‘junk science.’  And yes, Dr. Morse supports traditional
        marriage (http://www.ruthinstitute.org/).  But, while her specific position on this
        issue raises ‘flags’ about the objectivity of her claims, it does not make her
        claims wrong.  What kind of world would
        we live in if our very acceptance of a position was evidence that the position
        was wrong?   Claims need to stand and
        fall on their own merit, not simply dismissed out-of-hand.  (That is why I did not consider my parenthetical question above, which was mirroring one of your inferences, to be fair.)

             With that said –
        and with the caveat that I am recollecting from memory — Dr. Morse maintained
        the following points: the most objective sociological studies showed that women
        and men are not interchangeable when it comes to parenting.  Mothers and fathers
        play unique roles in the psycho-spiritual development of their children.  Particularly pronounced is the role mothers
        play in the development of intimacy and trust in young children; particularly
        pronounced is the role that fathers play in the development of teenagers —
        girls without fathers in their lives are more likely to seek fatherly love in a
        misguided way through earlier sexual activity with a larger number of partners;
        boys without fathers in their lives are lacking an important role model to show
        them how to channel their physical and sexual energies, and how to treat
        women.  These boys are much more likely
        to follow the ‘guidance’ of their piers – sometimes in gangs – and the ‘wisdom’
        of our contemporary culture. 

              Furthermore, children have what appears
        to be an innate, natural desire to know and love – and be loved – by their
        biological mother and father. By the very nature of same-sex
        relationships, one biological parent will not have any legal standing in the
        family and the raising of their children. 
        In fact, frequently in lesbian relationships, the father is an anonymous
        sperm donor and the inquiring child is left with the never-answered questions, “Who
        is my father?” and “Why would he create me without loving me?”  Dr. Morse’s point is that, if marriage is
        about protecting rights, we had better stay focused on the rights of those too
        small and too powerless to protect their own rights.  After all, if these little ones are fortunate
        enough to escape the birth canal alive, they will have rights, too.  (And someday they may even have rights from the moment of conception — now there’s a novel idea!)

             And, Krishoel001,
        I admit that I am not a scientist.  I
        cannot even claim to have lived with a ‘successful, funded researcher’ (although
        I do have high hopes for my 17 year old daughter).  I saw Dr. Morse’s talk on EWTN some time ago
        and I cannot cite the studies that she maintains are methodologically sound and
        objective versus those which are ‘junk science’ (and why they are ‘junk science’).  I am guessing that you might be able to
        contact her for those studies through http://www.ruthinstitute.org/.  Still, she seemed very measured and
        respectful in what she had to say.  If
        roughly 6 years ago, she was able to cite studies demonstrating the advantages
        to children of traditional marriage, I would guess that those who dissent would
        have had plenty of time to garner their own evidence.   As I
        noted above, I may have missed it in your links, and I sincerely apologize if I
        did.  Would you be able to supply a few
        links to those contrary studies?

              Thank you.

        • Krishoel001

          Dear Rich,

          Thanks for your comments. In my response to the Catholic Spriit’s article, Defending marriage: good science can reinforce what we know by faith and reason, I do not address the conclusions drawn in the University of Texas study. I do address the methodology of the study and the fact that this methodology, along with its funding sources, and the review process of the publishing journal, have been questioned by the researching author’s peers. You can see an article here in The Chronicle of Higher Education addressing some of the controversy: http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/controversial-gay-parenting-study-is-severely-flawed-journals-audit-finds/30255 .

          I agree that “junk science” is to be avoided when drawing conclusions, looked at with a critical eye, and questioned thoroughly. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, whose PhD is in Economics, is certainly correct on this count. (By the way, The Ruth Institute is a Project of the National Organization for Marriage, a funder of the University of Texas/Regnerus study.) While Dr. Morse is a very persuasive speaker for her organization and while her assertions about the structure and value of families “feel” like what we think we know about psychology and child development, I don’t think she can be called an objective social scientist. Part of the problem with studying social issues is the huge number of variables that must be accounted for, and the difficulty of achieving large sample sizes. If Regenerus’ study had compared the children of intact, married, heterosexual couples with those of intact, homosexual couples in a long-term relationship, the results would be more compelling. This is not how the study was conducted, however. For details of the sampling problems, see this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/gay-parents-study-kids-social-scientists_n_159177.html . Variables like divorce, economic status, education, foster care, separation, family violence, etc., all have a huge impact on outcomes for children, which makes an apples-to-apples comparison for this subject incredibly difficult.

          As far as citing studies goes, I’m certain that you and I can rack up lists of links to “studies” that support our differing viewpoints. And even with that prodigious use of Google, neither of us will change our minds :- ). It seems, however, we can agree that there should be some way to define what science and scientific studies look like and how they should be conducted.

          I understand the church’s teaching on these matters, I understand the church’s reasoning, and I understand that for many Catholics these matters are based in faith. I am sorry that The Catholic Spirit chose to use this study to bolster “reason” and “faith,” and call it “Good Science,” which it is not.

          In closing, I quote Darren E. Sherkat, Professor of Sociology at Southern Illinois University, who was asked to review the handling of this paper’s publication by the editor of Social Science Journal, James D. Wright.

          “There should be reflection about a conservative scholar garnering a very large grant from exceptionally conservative foundations, to make incendiary arguments about the worthiness of LGBT parents—and putting this out in time to politicize it before the 2012 United States presidential election.”

  • Rich

    Sorry about the messed up spacing on my reply.  I sometimes type things in Word and then paste them over.  In this case, that was a ‘boo-boo.’  

  • Ojustin97

    The study that you are mentioning above seems to be very flawed, as multiable people have pointed out. http://www.dailytexanonline.com/university/2012/07/27/controversial-ut-study-found-inaccurate-journal explains the flaws. I believe the most important error in Mark Regnerus’s study. I politely ask that this study be removed from this site. After all I think that I, as a person, would prefer not to be lied to “Do onto others as you would do to yourself”. Please don’t use flawed scientific studies to justify getting a discrimatory ammendment passed.

    Unless of course you have something that would lead me to believe this study isn’t flawed.

    Forgive them lord for they know not what they do—– by passing this amendment you would make it so that committed loving homosexual couples would have a harder time getting married. If they were able to be married I believe that children of gay couples might have a more stable home.

  • Krishoel001

    See this article in the Duluth News Tribune today, “State view: Marriage amendment harmful to health of children, adolescents”

    Two pediatricians state that the proposed marriage amendment would hurt children and families.

    Recently the board of directors for the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics voted unanimously to sign on to the coalition Minnesotans United for All Families, joining more than 600 organizations opposing a constitutional amendment that would limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota.

    http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/245407/group/Opinion/