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 

Mired in Gloom: The Depressed Adult Children of Homosexual Parents


Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King


Especially during the abruptly terminated national debate over same-sex “marriage,” progressives assured one and all that homosexuals parent their children just as well—or even better—than do heterosexual parents. But evidence continues to grow casting doubt on such assurances. The latest evidence comes from sociologist D. Paul Sullins of Catholic University of America, author of a troubling new study of the long-term psychological consequences of homosexual parenting. Despite all the reassuring claims about homosexual parenting, it seems that children reared by homosexual parents are all too likely to spend their young-adult years under a shadow of depression, partly traceable in many cases to earlier exposure to domestic violence.

Sullins prefaces his sobering report on the effects of homosexual parenting with a frank acknowledgement that he is sailing into a stiff wind. “In research and policy settings,” he admits, “children in unique distress with same-sex parents are not supposed to exist.” Those who assert that such distressed children do not exist buttress their assertions by referring to “several dozen studies alleging ‘no differences’” between children reared by homosexual parents and those reared by both biological parents.

The number of ‘no differences’ studies might seem impressive. But Sullins counsels skepticism in assessing these studies, which generally suffer from glaring methodological deficiencies—including reliance on small, non-representative samples of homosexual parents, numerous errors in identifying parenting arrangements, dubious statistical interpretation of data, and open ideological commitment to the homosexual cause on the part of both the researchers and study participants. No wonder, then, that Sullins reports that “uniformly benign findings [in research on homosexual parenting] . . . have recently been challenged . . . by several original research efforts, the rediscovery of older studies, and the reanalysis of studies long thought to support ‘no differences’” between being reared by homosexual parents and being reared by both biological parents.

And Sullins intensifies that challenge to the benign view on homosexual parenting with his own new study of depression among young adults raised by homosexual parents. 

To assess the long-term risk of depression among children reared by homosexual parents, Sullins parses data collected between 1995 and 2008 from a national representative sample of 12,288 young men and women tracked from adolescence into adulthood. Using a statistical model that accounts for differences in family socioeconomic status, Sullins finds that at the beginning of the study period the risk of depression actually ran “lower than for the general population” among children reared by homosexual parents when these children were still adolescents. However, the picture had changed dramatically by the end of the study period, when these same children were young adults: by 2008 “the risk ratio for depression had increased to 2.6” for study participants reared by homosexual parents.

In other words, the risk of depression among young adults reared by homosexual parents came in over two-and-a-half times higher than the risk among peers reared by heterosexual parents.

Beyond the clear evidence that homosexual parenting heightens children’s long-term risk of depression, Sullins sees other reasons to question the supposed beneficence of such parenting. Citing earlier research documenting “greater levels of intimate violence in same-sex partnerships” than is found among heterosexual couples, he adduces evidence from his own set of data that such violence was “notably high” among the homosexual parents in his study. Sullins’ data indicate that “ninety percent of the same-sex parented children reported parental abuse [when interviewed in 2002], dropping only to 85% [when they were again interviewed in 2008].”

Sullins interprets this explosive finding in conjunction with an earlier study reporting that “children with lesbian mothers (including those temporarily in a lesbian relationship) reported a substantially higher rate of sexual abuse, at 23%, than did those with consistently heterosexual parents.”

No doubt aware of the kind of controversy his findings might spark, Sullins believes they should be “interpreted with caution and balance, . . .  neither exaggerated nor dismissed out of hand on preconceived ideological grounds.” But anyone not wearing ideological blinkers will recognize the justice of Sullins’ characterization of “the inattention of research and policy to the problems of children with same-sex parents . . . [as] unwarranted.”

“Unwarranted” seems like a mild word for the dangerous insouciance of those who see nothing to worry about in homosexual parenting.  

(D. Paul Sullins, “Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with Same-Sex Parents,” Depression Research and Treatment 2016: 2410392, Web.)

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