Chapter 10 What About the Children? A Review of Homosexual Parenting Studies
Advocates for legalizing same-sex relationships by civil unions, gay marriages or domestic partners, often say these relationships have no bearing on the well-being of children. They claim that numerous studies support such an outcome. But in the five articles reviewed below, other researchers say this is not the case; rather that the studies are biased and contain fatal flaws and limitations. Stacy and Biblarz are sociologists who favor homosexual parenting, and even they admit, the sexual orientation of these parents matter somewhat more for their children than the researchers claimed. Children raised by homosexual parents differ in their family relationships, gender identity, and gender behavior from children raised by heterosexual parents. There are also differences in sexual behavior and practices by children raised by homosexual parents. They follow the role modeling of their parents in homosexuality.
1. A Review of Data Based Studies Addressing the Affects of Homosexual Parenting on Children’s Sexual and Social Functioning. Philip A. Belcastro, Theresa Gramlich, Thomas Nicholson, and Richard Wilson. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage. 1993, Vol. 20(1/2), p.105-122.
All of the authors are associated with universities, Belcastro at the University of New York (Department of Health and Physical Education), Gramlich with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the other three with the Western Kentucky University (Department of Public Health).
Fourteen studies were reviewed. Studies were selected based upon the following criteria.
1. data based
2. post-1975 publication
3. independent variable - homosexual parent
4. dependent variable - some aspect of the reared child’s sexual and /or sexual functioning
Each study was evaluated according to accepted standards of scientific inquiry. The most impressive finding was that all of the studies lacked internal validity, and not a single study represented any sub-population of homosexual parents. Three studies met minimal or higher standards of internal validity, while the remaining eleven presented moderate to fatal threats to internal validity. The conclusion that there are no significant differences in children reared by lesbian mothers versus heterosexual mothers is not supported by the published research data base. (Belcastro et al. A Review of Data Based Studies Addressing the Affects of Homosexual Parenting on Children’s Sexual and Social Functioning. p.105-106.)
2. The Potential Impact of Homosexual Parenting on Children. Lynn D. Wardle. University of Illinois Law Review. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Law. Champaign, IL. 1997, Vol. 1997, No. 3, p. 833-920.
Wardle is a law professor at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. His article was published in a law journal addressing legal issues. His concern is the misuse of social science studies comparing the effects of homosexual parenting to heterosexual parenting. In his article, Wardle cites the study by Belcastro et al. discussed above.
Thus, collectively, the social sciences studies purporting to show that children raised by parents who engage in homosexual behavior are not subject to any significantly enhanced risks are flawed methodologically and analytically, and fall short of the standards of reliability needed to sustain such conclusions. (Wardle, The Potential Impact of Homosexual Parenting on Children. p. 852)
3. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? Judith Stacy and Timothy J. Biblarz, American Sociological Review. April 2001, Vol. 66, No. 2, p.159-183.
The authors are sociology professors at the University of Southern California. In their article, they acknowledge their bias in support of homosexual parenting.
Twenty-one psychological studies published between 1981 and 1998 were reviewed. They were selected by the following criteria. The studies:
1. included a sample of gay or lesbian parents and children and a comparison group of heterosexual parents and children
2. assessed differences between groups in terms of statistical significances
3. included findings directly relevant to children’s development.
The studies reviewed compared relatively advantaged lesbian parents (18 studies) and gay male parents (3 studies) with roughly matched samples of heterosexual parents.
Echoing the conclusion of meta-analysts Allen and Burell (1996), the authors of all 21 studies almost uniformly claimed to find no differences in measures of parenting or child outcomes. In contrast, our careful scrutiny of the findings they report suggests that on some dimensions - particularly those related to gender and sexuality - the sexual orientations of these parents matter somewhat more for their children than the researchers claimed. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.167)
4. No Basis: What the Studies Don’t Tell Us About Same-Sex Parenting. Robert Lerner, Ph.D., and Althea K Nagai, Ph.D. http://www.marriagewatch.org/publications/nobasis.htm
Lerner and Nagai are professionals in the field of quantitative analysis. In their article, they evaluated 49 empirical studies on same-sex (or homosexual) parenting. Each study was evaluated based on how they carried out six key research tasks:
1. formulating a hypothesis and research design
2. controlling for unrelated effects
3. measuring concepts (bias, reliability, and validity)
5. statistical testing
6. addressing the problem of false negatives (statistical power)
Lerner and Nagai found at least one fatal research flaw in all forty-nine studies. As a result, they conclude that no generalizations can reliably be made based on any of these studies. For these reasons the studies are no basis for good science or good public policy. (Lerner & Nagai. No Basis: What the Studies Don’t Tell Us About Same-Sex Parenting. p.3)
5. Studies of Homosexual Parenting: A Critical Review. George Rekers and Mark Kilgus Regent University Law Review. 2001-2002, Vol. 14, No. 2, 343-382.
Rekers PhD is a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He is the author of over 100 journal articles, invited book chapters, and nine books. Rekers has given invited expert testimony to numerous federal government agencies and presented invited papers to academic meetings in 24 countries. Agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health have supported his work through fellowships, contracts, and grants. Kilgus, M.D. Ph.D. is a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist. He was also affiliated with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine at the time of co-authoring the article.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the methodology and possible limitations of existing research studies on the effects of homosexual parenting studies upon child development in order to assist lawyers, legislators, and judges to identify politically-motivated assertions regarding so-called research findings that are not, in fact, substantiated by adequate scientific research. (Reckers and Makigus, Studies of Homosexual Parenting A Critical Review, p. 346)
Reviewed were 35 of the best currently available homosexual parenting studies published in refereed (peer reviewed) academic journals.
This article discovered that with very few exceptions, the existing studies on homosexual parenting are methodologically flawed and they should be considered no more than exploratory pilot work which suggest directions for rigorous research studies. (Reckers and Makigus, Studies of Homosexual Parenting A Critical Review, p. 345)
At best, the scientist must still consider this body of published articles to be suggestive of possible leads to be systemically researched in future rigorous controlled research studies. At worst, these methodologically flawed studies are misleading, biased, politically motivated forms of propaganda, which irresponsibly assert conclusions which are not scientifically warranted. (Reckers and Makigus, Studies of Homosexual Parenting A Critical Review, p. 375)
Limitations and flaws of the homosexual parenting studies reviewed.
We have identified conceptual, methodological, and theoretical limitations in the psychological research on the effects of parental sexual orientation and have challenged the predominant claim that the sexual orientation parents does not matter at all. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.176)
Size: Marginally acceptable sample sizes. Numbers varied from 5 in one study to a few dozen. Frequently 10 to 40 subjects were studied. Samples are too small to yield meaningful results.
Sample of convenience: subjects are self-selected, or at least not randomly selected. Recruited through advertisements in homophile publications. Participants who recruited other participants. Educated, economically stable white lesbians are typically over-represented.
2. Control Groups
Some studies had no control groups.
Seldom compared to married heterosexual families. Often compared to single heterosexual parents and their children
Cohabitation: Most of the lesbian mothers were cohabiting with a partner, while heterosexual mothers were single parents not cohabiting with partners.
Data collection: In some studies, the homosexual parents were interviewed in person, while the heterosexual parents’ data was collected by mail in response.
Analysis of the data: Broad over-generalizations abound, especially in extrapolating the results to the general population. Some studies had missing or inadequate statistical analysis of the data. There was a general inaccurate reporting of the data that was expressed through illegitimate generalizations or unwarranted conclusions.
Finally, based upon the researchers’ interpretations of the data, and at least in one case censorship of the data, most were biased towards proving homosexual parents were fit parents. A disturbing revelation was that some of the published works had to disregard their own results in order to conclude that homosexuals were fit parents. We believe that the system of manuscript review by peers, for minimum scientific standards of research, was compromised in several of these studies. (Belcastro, et al. A Review of Data Based Studies Addressing the Affects of Homosexual Parenting on Children’s Sexual and Social Functioning. p. 117)
3. Longitudinal studies
This is a new area of research. There is very little data available on the adult children of homosexuals.
Social desirability bias: Both researchers and respondents perceive that within society, or at least the subgroup of society with which they identify, it is deemed desirable, progressive, and enlightened to support one particular outcome - in this case, that homosexual parenting is just as good as heterosexual parenting. (Wardle, The Potential Impact of Homosexual Parenting on Children. p. 848
Another mutual limitation of many of the studies was one identified by Rees (1979), namely, lesbians’ political and legal desire to present a happy, well-adjusted family to the world. (Belcastro et al. A Review of Data Based Studies Addressing the Affects of Homosexual Parenting on Children’s Sexual and Social Functioning. p.116.)
What the homosexual parenting studies do show:
What is possible, given the collective limitations of these three studies, is to conclude that there appears to be some significant differences between children raised by lesbian mothers versus heterosexual mothers in their family relationships, gender identity, and gender behavior. (Belcastro et al. A Review of Data Based Studies Addressing the Affects of Homosexual Parenting on Children’s Sexual and Social Functioning. p.119.)
The author suggests that these studies have ignored significant potential effects of gay childrearing on children, including increased development of homosexual orientation in children, emotional and cognitive disadvantages caused by the absence of opposite-sex parents, and economic security. (Wardle, The Potential Impact of Homosexual Parenting on Children. p.833)
Even in a utopian society, however, one difference seems less likely to disappear: The sexual orientation of parents appears to have a unique (although not large) effect on children in the politically sensitive domain of sexuality. The evidence, while scanty and underanalyzed, hints that parental sexual orientation is positively associated with the possibility that children will be more likely to attain similar orientation - and theory and common sense also support such view. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.177-178)
It is the two sociologists, Stacy and Biblarz, who acknowledge their bias in that they support homosexual parenting. Stacy and Biblarz admit that there are flaws in the homosexual parenting studies, We have identified conceptual, methodological, and theoretical limitations in the psychological research on the effects of parental sexual orientation . . . They believe it is homophobia and heterosexism that prevents homosexual parenting from being on par with heterosexual parenting. So, for them it is not homosexuality itself that prevents good parenting, but the society and culture, even though our society and culture today allows unprecedented historical acceptance of homosexuality. What is most surprising of all, are their comments that social sciences research is not grounds for determining the effects of homosexual parenting on children in the political consideration of granting parental rights for homosexual parenting. They are sociologists themselves.
We agree, however, that ideological pressures constrain intellectual development in this field. In our view, it is the pervasiveness of social prejudice and institutionalized discrimination against lesbians and gay men that exerts a powerful policing effect on the basic terms of psychological research and public discourse on the significance of parental orientation. The field suffers less from overt ideological convictions of scholars than from the unfortunate intellectual consequences that follows from implicit hetero-normative presumptions governing the terms of the discourse - that healthy child development depends upon parenting by a married heterosexual couple. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.160)
On contrary, we propose that homophobia and discrimination are the chief reasons why parental sexual orientation matters at all. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.177)
Even were heterosexism to disappear, however, parental sexual orientation would probably continue to have some impact on the eventual sexuality of children. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.178)
Thus, while we disagree with those who claim that there are no differences between children of heterosexual parents and children of lesbigay parents, we unequivocally endorse their conclusion that social science research provides no grounds for taking sexual orientation into account in the political distribution of family rights and responsibilities. (Stacy & Biblarz. (How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? p.179)