July 4th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Are we facing history's largest mass migration?

CANBERRA OBSERVED Northern dream creeps slightly nearer to reality

THE FAMILY 'Consensus' on same-sex parenting ignores evidence

SOCIETY Why marriage cannot be separated from family

EDITORIAL Housing affordability: what has gone wrong?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Human Rights Commission backs same-sex marriage

HISTORY What is Indonesia? From Java man to Islam

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Why G7 endorsed UN climate-change agenda

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Straitjacket treaty has led to European insanities

HISTORY Zenobia: warrior queen, thorn in Rome's side

PUBLIC HEALTH Methadone cure worse than the heroin addiction

CINEMA Inside Out is a thoughtful emotional roller-coaster


BOOK REVIEW There is no such thing as a soft drug

BOOK REVIEW Probing the deepest roots of the push for same-sex marriage

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'Consensus' on same-sex parenting ignores evidence

by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, July 4, 2015

It has been claimed that there is a “consensus” within the social science establishment that children being raised by same-sex couples are doing fine, and will do even better if their parents are allowed to marry.

Mark Regnerus

“Any researcher who finds anything different must be wrong, incompetent and homophobic,” wrote Carolyn Moynihan on Mercatornet in April.

Mark Regnerus has been heavily criticised for his landmark “New Family Structures Study” in 2012 and its finding that the adult children of women who had had same-sex relationships did significantly worse on many measures than the children of married heterosexual couples.

Adults between 18 and 39 years of age were asked if their parents had ever had a same-sex romantic relationship. One hundred and sixty-three replied they had mothers who had been in such a relationship and 73 that they had fathers who had been in such a relationship. In addition 2,752 replied that they had parents with other family structures.

Regnerus reported results for 40 different outcomes, among them whether the subject ever had suicidal thoughts, identified entirely as heterosexual, ever had an STI, their closeness to parents, attachment, condition of current relation­ship, frequency of use of various drugs, and numbers of various sexual partners.

Regnerus stressed that his study did not tell us “that same-sex parents are necessarily bad parents [...] Rather, family forms that are associated with instability or non-biological parents tend to pose risks for children as they age into adulthood.”

Regnerus was criticised in particular for comparing the most stable form of family, children raised by married father and mother, with lesbian or mixed-orientation households that happened to be particularly unstable. This ignores the fact that most studies alleging to show “no differences” between children raised in heterosexual and same-sex families have not accounted for this variable either.

And further, Regnerus did not compare “stable homosexual families” with “stable heterosexual families” because he could find hardly any “stable homosexual families”. Of the 248 children with homosexual parents who were surveyed, only two had lived with their homosexual parent and the parent’s partner during their entire childhood from birth to age 18.

Robert Oscar Lopez, raised by his mother and her lesbian partner, has written that this is the most common same-sex parenting situation.

Certainly there has not been time to assess the more recent situation of children born from artificial insemi­nation or from a surrogacy arrangement and raised by same-sex couples from birth. Most of these children are still very young. Will these children fare better than those now adult children who were mainly born to heterosexual couples and were, after divorce or separation, raised by one biolo­gical parent and that parent’s same-sex partner and where there was trauma or instability before the same-sex parenting situation?

Well there is evidence that same-sex marriage does not mean more stability and longer-lasting relationships for same-sex couples or the children they have by artificial means or surrogacy.

British sociologist Patricia Morgan found, based on research and data from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada and the U.S., that a publicly professed legal partnership does not prevent homosexual couples from breaking up more frequently than married heterosexual couples.

Certainly more research needs to be done on this cohort of children, but there is evidence that same-sex marriage does not mean a more stable or enduring family situation for children of married same-sex couples.

At about the same time Regnerus’ research was published, Loren Marks, an associate professor of Family, Child, and Consumer Sciences at Louis­iana State University, published a meta-analysis of 59 reviewed studies published between 1980 and 2005.

These studies were cited by the American Psychological Association (APA) in its 2005 official brief on same-sex parenting in which it asserted: “Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.”

Loren Marks found that, of the 59 studies referenced in the APA brief, more than three-quarters were based on small, non-representative, non-random samples that did not include any minority individuals or families;  nearly half lacked a heterosexual comparison group; and few examined outcomes that extended beyond childhood, such as intergenerational poverty, educational attainment, and criminality.

Paul Sullins this year released research that again shows any “consensus” of no harm to be highly questionable. He found that child emotional harm is 2.4 times higher with same-sex parents than with opposite-sex parents.[1]

Sullins, like Regnerus, has been strongly criticised. He has been criticised for an allegedly slipshod peer-review process that, in fact, is far more rigorous and open than anything their own favourite studies have been subjected to. And it has been claimed that his finding that children of same-sex couples suffer more emotional harm than do children of opposite-sex parents is due to the stigma children of same-sex parents have to contend with.

However, Sullins tested that variable and found that children with same-sex parents did not experience more bullying than did their counterparts with opposite-sex parents – except those in the former group who had ADHD. In other words, the bullying was associated with ADHD rather than the kind of parents these child had.

Terri M. Kelleher is national president of the Australian Family Association.



Paul Sullins, “Emotional Problems among Children with Same-Sex Parents: Difference by Definition”,British Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science 7(2): 99-120, 2015.

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