What you need to know about the Mark Regnerus study of homosexual parents
University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus sparked a firestorm of criticism from pro-homosexual activists when his peer-reviewed scholarly article on children raised by homosexual parents was published in the journal Social Science Research in June. Using a large, population-based sample, Dr. Regnerus found that children whose parents had a same-sex romantic relationship while the child was growing up suffer deficits compared to children raised by their own married biological mother and father.
Because the study undermined the politically correct claim that such children are “no different” from children with heterosexual parents, and because it reinforced a key point made in defense of the natural definition of marriage as the union of man and woman (namely, that kids need both a mom and a dad), it became urgent for pro-homosexual activists to discredit the study and, if possible, destroy Regnerus.
That effort, thus far, has failed. When a liberal blogger who uses the pen name “Scott Rose” filed a complaint with the University of Texas charging Regnerus with “scientific and scholarly misconduct.” Although Rose had little standing to bring such a charge, the University convened a four-person faculty committee (and hired an outside expert in “research integrity”) to conduct an “inquiry” into whether the charges merited in-depth investigation. The conclusion was clear: “Professor Regnerus did not commit scientific misconduct . . . None of the allegations . . . put forth by Mr. Rose were substantiated.” (This was hardly a surprise; as the journal article itself stated, “Both the study protocol and the questionnaire were approved by the University of Texas at Austin’s Institutional Review Board”–before the research was even undertaken.)
Because of the importance of the Regnerus study–and the viciousness of the attacks upon it and him–I have written about it several times since its release in June. I am here posting links to each of these papers and posts, to provide the reader with convenient one-stop access to all of them.
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THE “HOMOSEXUAL PARENTING” DEBATE
My first Issue Brief explained the importance of this study in the context of the debates over homosexual parenting and what the research shows. It explained why Regnerus’ methodology was superior to that of virtually all previous studies on this subject–as demonstrated by the article which accompanied Regnerus’s, by Loren Marks, which showed the serious weaknesses of other “gay parent” studies usually relied upon by those who claim “no differences” from heterosexual parents. It also briefly summarized Regnerus’s findings.
Peter Sprigg, “New Study on Homosexual Parents Tops All Previous Research: Children of Homosexuals Fare Worse on Most Outcomes,” Issue Brief; online.
FINDINGS IN DETAIL
In response to requests for a more thorough summary of the actual findings in the Regnerus study, I prepared a second Issue Brief. This piece is shorter than the first, because it contains less narrative explanation, but it actually includes more detailed data on the findings, as well as a response to some of the key criticisms of the study. One of its key points is that the New Family Structures Study did not just compare children of homosexual parents to children of married, biological parents. It also compared them to children of heterosexual parents from several other (less stable) family forms–and found the children of homosexuals at a disadvantage in those comparisons, as well:
Peter Sprigg, “Homosexual Parent Study: Summary of Findings,” Issue Brief; online.
THE MEDIA: GETTING THE STORY WRONG
The pushback against Regnerus was so immediate and so intense that even conservative media outlets made mistakes in covering it. One such outlet was The Weekly Standard, which criticized FRC’s summary of the study (a single sentence taken out of the context of the first Issue Brief, although The Weekly Standard did not mention that). In response to this article, I wrote a two-part blog post. The first explained why The Weekly Standard criticism of FRC was unjustified:
Peter Sprigg, “The “Homosexual Parent” Study and The Weekly Standard, Part 1: Making Mountains out of Molehills,” FRC Blog; online.
Part 2 of this blog post pointed out errors which author Andrew Ferguson made in the Weekly Standard article which were far more deserving of criticism than FRC’s summary:
Peter Sprigg, “The ‘Homosexual Parent’ Study and The Weekly Standard, Part 2: Making Molehills out of Mountains,” FRC Blog; online.
AN “AUDITOR’S” WEAK CRITIQUE
Finally, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article summarizing findings (not yet published) by a critic of the study who was appointed to “audit” it by the Social Science Research journal’s editor. The Chronicle’s headline labeled the study “severely flawed,” and the article quoted the auditor, Darren Sherkat, describing the Regnerus paper as “b***s***.” However, the actual criticisms described in the article ranged from weak to completely implausible, as I wrote on the FRC Blog:
Peter Sprigg, “An Obscenity and a Headline Can’t Discredit Study of Homosexual Parents,” FRC Blog; online.
FRC will continue to monitor the reactions to the Regnerus study. However, I remain convinced that far from being “discredited,” the New Family Structures Study will stand as the gold standard for research in this field for years to come.
Reprinted from Family Research Council.