The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Fall
2012

Mark Regnerus Gets It Right


Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson


Although the American Psychological Association (APA) boasts scholarly objectivity, the social-science guild has for years conducted studies that generate the results—from the alleged benefits of the “good” divorce to the virtues of homosexuality—that progressive activists’ itching ears want to hear. Consequently, it often falls to one brave solider to challenge the groupthink.

Indeed, Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas has done exactly that, conducting the first methodologically rigorous study of homosexual parenting, the latest cause of American elites. Exposing the discredited studies hailed by the APA, the sociologist establishes that children raised by homosexual parents—like all children raised by anything but a married mother and father—suffer risks that should not be overlooked or minimized.

Unique to Regnerus’s study is the data source: his New Family Structures Study, a new research instrument that yielded a data sample of 2,988 randomly selected Americans between the ages 18 to 39, including 175 adults with lesbian mothers and 73 with homosexual fathers. The cross-sectional study queried respondents about their social and economic behaviors, health behaviors, family of origin, and current relationships. Based upon their answers, the lone Texan quantified how the 248 adult children who reported parental homosexual behavior prior to age 18 differed from their peers from six other family-of-origin types.

And differ they do, especially the children of lesbian mothers, who represent the vast majority of children with homosexual parents. When compared to their peers from intact families, Regnerus found that these children suffered risks of less-desirable outcomes that reached statistical significance (p < 0.05) in twenty-five of the forty measures under consideration. In further analysis with a full set of demographic controls, the disparities remained significant in all but one of these measures. Among children with homosexual fathers, bivariate analysis revealed statistically significant differences with children from intact families in eleven measures.

The researcher’s use of specific comparison groups, a feature missing in other homosexual-parenting studies, reveals that children of lesbians face problems similar to those faced by children of single parents and stepfamilies. Among children from stepfamilies, the tests yielded twenty-four statistically significant differences, with and without controls, setting them apart from children of intact families. Among children from single parents, the tests yielded twenty-five statistically significant differences, twenty-one differences with controls.

Regnerus identifies a number of statistically significant risks of problems that haunt adult children of lesbian mothers, single mothers, and stepfamilies: all of these adults were more likely than peers from intact families to be from a family that had received welfare while growing up; to be currently on public assistance; to have been touched sexually by a parent or adult as a child; to consider themselves homosexual; to report being in counseling or therapy in the past year; and to have thought recently about suicide. They also reported lower levels of educational attainment, physical health, and household income. Moreover, these adults reported higher frequencies of being arrested as well as pleading guilty to a major offense. Meanwhile, adult women from lesbian-mother, single-parent, and stepparent families differed from peers from intact families in another statistically significant way: reporting more sexual partners (both same-sex and opposite-sex).

Like any careful scholar, Regnerus points out that his cross-sectional data cannot address issues of causality. He also, like any sensitive academic careful not to offend elite sensibilities, concedes that some children can indeed weather all sorts of challenging family environments. But the Texas sociologist is not afraid to articulate the implication of his study, a study which “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.” 

(Mark Regnerus, “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research 41 [July 2012]: 752–70.)

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