The Point Blog ARCHIVE
All articles found in the archive are more than three years old.
The purpose of this blog is to stimulate thought and discussion about important issues in healthcare. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of CMDA. We encourage you to join the conversation on our website and share your experience, insight and expertise. CMDA has a rigorous and representative process in formulating official positions, which are largely limited to bioethical areas.
Gay Parenting and Child Health Outcomes
February 22, 2018
by Andrè Van Mol, MD
A 2016 article in the journal Demography asserted that health outcomes for children raised in either same-sex or different-sex married homes were about the same. Sociologist D.P. Sullins published a 2017 article in the same journal noting inadvertent but crushing mistakes in the measures for the 2016 paper, namely that the data taken from the National Health Interview Survey, administered by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), misclassified 42 percent of the sample’s same-sex married partners as opposite-sex. Sullins cited the NCHS advisory from 2015 warning of the error. Consequently, the Reczek team’s findings were invalid.
Furthermore, Sullins recalculated the estimated risk of emotional problems in the children of same-sex married couples—excluding data from the embargoed years—revealing a three-fold risk elevation.
Kiley Crossland of World Magazine wrote that Sullins informed her the Reczek team published a piece accompanying his, concurring that the corrected calculations did demonstrate disadvantages for children brought up by same-sex married partners. More strikingly, Crossland specified, “Sullins said it was the first time ‘mainstream’ social scientists acknowledged the truth of the evidence showing less positive outcomes for children with same-sex parents.”
Efforts to re-examine the results of same-sex versus opposite-sex parenting are picking up steam. Mark Regnerus made waves with his New Family Structures Study in 2012. He evaluated “40 different social, emotional and relational outcomes” and, among other findings, showed that children of women in same-sex relationships did worse on 25 of them. In his 2015 study published in the United Kingdom, Sullins found that “Joint biological parents are associated with the lowest rate of child emotional problems by a factor of 4 relative to same-sex parents….”
The “no difference” position that children do every bit as well raised by same-sex parents as by opposite-sex parents—one espoused by several professional guilds (please don’t call them scientific organizations)—was used to advance the case for gay marriage.
Loren Marks’ 2012 review examined the 59 studies cited by the American Psychological Association to support gay parenting. Marks discussed in some detail the failures of the studies: 26 lacked heterosexual comparison groups, single mothers were frequently used as the opposite-sex comparison group, homogeneous sampling, contradictory data, inadequate statistical power and more. He found, “The conclusion is that strong assertions, including those made by the APA, were not empirically warranted.”
The American College of Pediatricians 2013 updated position statement “Defending Traditional Marriage” explained that studies with results supporting the “no difference” platform predictably are marred by design “flaws such as insufficient sample sizes, reliance on volunteer rather than random samples, a lack of longitudinal research, inappropriate comparisons,” and other errors.
If the science doesn’t support the often-made claim, just what inertia is behind the “no difference” position? In an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, former University of Chicago professor Leon Kass and Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield warned, “Claims that science provides support for constitutionalizing a right to same-sex marriage must necessarily rest on ideology. Ideology may be pervasive in the social sciences…but ideology is not science.”
As I discussed in “The Bad Science Battering Ram,” there are a great deal of poor studies out there. A 2015 study in Science involved a team of 270 scientists on five continents tasked with repeating 100 studies from three major psychology journals. Results: only one-third to one-half of the studies were reproducible, thus one-half to two-thirds were not! P.A. Ioannidis wrote a 2005 PLOS Medicine article provocatively titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” He stated this was true “for most research designs and for most fields,” and that much research was simply “accurate measures of the prevailing bias,” with hotter fields the most likely to be producing the erroneous. All things same-sex is clearly a hot field.
Hot fields, blazing ideology and poor studies make for sketchy findings. The “no difference” claim about same-sex and opposite-sex parenting is a case in point. Children do best when raised by their married biological mother and father. It’s the gold standard of parenting, but somehow simply stating that has become radical.