Opponents of same-sex marriage often argue that such relationships are detrimental to children.  Advocates of same-sex marriage point to a litany of studies showing that children raised by same-sex couples fare just as well, if not better, as other children. The American Psychological Association referred to 59 such studies when they announced in 2005 that children raised by same-sex couples fare just as well as children raised by opposite-sex couples.

Recently, Dr. Loren Marks from Louisiana State University examined those 59 studies (ranging from 1980 to 2005) the APA cited in support of their conclusion.  He concluded that they were all fraught with methodological problems that undermined their results.  According to the Science Daily report “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 extend beyond childhood such as intergenerational poverty, educational attainment, and criminality, which are a key focus of studies on children of divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation.”[1]  Dr. Marks is careful to point out that this does not mean children raised by same-sex couples do, in fact, fare worse than other children: “The jury is still out on whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children, however, the available data on which the APA draws its conclusions, derived primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way.”[2]

Texas university professor of sociology Mark Regnerus disagrees that the jury is still out.  He has found positive evidence that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than other children.  Using data from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), Regnerus compared “how children raised in eight different family structures fared on 40 social, emotional, and relationship outcomes.”[3]  Of the 2,988 children in the NFSS[4], he found that “children of mothers who have had same-sex relationships were significantly different as young adults on 25 of the 40 (63%) outcome measures, compared with those who spent their entire childhood with both their married, biological parents. For example, they reported significantly lower levels of income, more receipt of public welfare, lower levels of employment, poorer mental and physical health, poorer relationship quality with current partner, and higher levels of smoking and criminality.”[5]  According to Regnerus, “The most significant story in this study is arguably that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”[6]

Professor Cynthia Osborne from the University of Texas at Austin cautions against rushing to judgment.  Correlation does not necessarily imply causation.  She notes that “children of lesbian mothers might have lived in many different family structures and it is impossible to isolate the effects of living with a lesbian mother from experiencing divorce, remarriage, or living with a single parent. Or, it is quite possible, that the effect derives entirely from the stigma attached to such relationships and to the legal prohibitions that prevent same-sex couples from entering and maintaining ‘normal relationships’.”[7]

Perhaps.  One thing is certain: There are no good studies demonstrating that children raised by same-sex couples fare just as good as children raised by opposite-sex couples, and at least one good study that may provide good evidence for concluding that the two parenting environments are not equitable.


[1]“New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents”; available from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151302.htm; Internet; accessed June 10, 2012.
[2]“New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents”; available from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151302.htm; Internet; accessed June 10, 2012.
[3]“New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents”; available from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151302.htm; Internet; accessed June 10, 2012.
[4]According to the Washington Times, this number included 175 adults who had been raised by lesbian mothers and 73 adults who had been raised by gay fathers.  See http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/10/study-children-fare-better-traditional-mom-dad-fam/?page=1.
[5]“New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents”; available from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151302.htm; Internet; accessed June 10, 2012.
[6]“New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents”; available from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151302.htm; Internet; accessed June 10, 2012.
[7]“New Studies Challenge Established Views About Development of Children Raised by Gay or Lesbian Parents”; available from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120610151302.htm; Internet; accessed June 10, 2012.