|Quick hit: What’s going on with that “Gay parents” study?|
by Emily Bridges, Director, Public Information Services
In the news this week has been a study which has been getting lots of media coverage. You may have seen headlines like ABC’s “Study: Kids of Parents in Same-sex Relationships Fare Worse as Adults.” The study looked at adult children whose parents had been in a same-sex relationship at some point in their lives, and found that these adults experience more of certain negative outcomes, like anxiety, depression, and unemployment.
A few important facts:
In an article on Slate, the study’s author claimed that the study did a better job of representing the reality of gay parenting than previous studies which found better outcomes for children. But does it? Check out William Saletan’s discussion of the study sample: so-called “broken” families were included in the sample of LGBT families but excluded from the “biological family” category. Regardless of your feelings about marriage’s importance to society, that doesn’t seem like a fair comparison. Plus, as one researcher observed:
"To determine whether a parental same-sex relationship affects a child's outcome, it is critical to know the length of these relationships, and whether the same-sex partners were actually living with, and parenting, the child for any length of time. The study does not assess this.”
Or, as the New York Times notes:
“…the research was rigorous, providing some of the best data yet comparing outcomes for adult children with a gay parent with those with heterosexual parents. But they also said the findings were not particularly relevant to the current debate over gay marriage or gay parenting.”
That is, an unhappy person whose daddy had a boyfriend in the 80s doesn’t really compare to children in today’s LGBT families. It’s unfortunate on the researcher’s part, and irresponsible on much of the media’s part, to pretend that this study has some insight into today’s LGBT families.
The children of today’s LGBT parents are growing up in a time of far more acceptance and “outness.” Their parents have more financial and legal supports, especially in states where same-sex marriage is legal. Their parents’ experiences are less associated with secrecy and shame. They are proud, and diverse, families.
And that’s one interesting takeaway from the study - its findings on diversity. The study found that children who had experienced same-sex parental relationships were not more likely to live in “gayer” geographical areas but live all over the country; Georgia was the state with the most same-sex couple parents, while many lived in the midwest. That’s a good reminder that LGBT families are everywhere. We need to respect and support them, not use misleading headlines and flawed science to push a conservative religious agenda.