Monday, February 03, 2014

Do lesbians make good parents?

Most of the concerns people have about children raised by "two mommies" are social and psychological.  But psychology and sociology are playgrounds of the Left.  I have taught in both psychology and sociology Departments of Australian universities and find sociologists in particular to be almost amusingly Leftist.  Karl Marx is still their chief inspiration.

So you know what to expect when you find studies by social scientists that tell us anything about homosexuality.  Homosexuals these days are a positively revered class who can do no wrong.  So finding out what is actually going on from such sources is a major challenge.  It is however a challenge I often took on in my own research career.  If you read the "small print" (usually the "Results" section of a research report) you get at least a hearty laugh.  The statistics obtained in the course of the research often contradicted the conclusions drawn by the researcher.  But statistics frighten people so they get away with it. I actually used to teach statistics, however, so I had a ball.

And it all comes back to me when I read the latest article in an obsessively Leftist newspaper  about homosexual parents.  The article pulls no punches.  It is headed Study finds same-sex parenting is not harmful for children".  No nuances there!  An excerpt:

Children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well in their education, emotional and social development as those raised by heterosexual parents, new research shows.

The report on same sex-parented families in Australia, commissioned by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), found "there is now strong evidence that same-sex-parented families constitute supportive environments in which to raise children''.

The findings are at odds with Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi's recent comments that the "gold standard" for children's development is having a biological mother and father who are married.

Report author Deb Dempsey, who reviewed all the research on same sex-parented families, said there was a wealth of evidence that showed the children were doing fine."

Well, author Cosima Marriner is right about a conflict of findings.  Conservative authors generally come to much more adverse conclusions.  So what is going on?  I did my usual trick and looked up the original research report.  I immediately found that Cosima had been a very naughty girl.  The research was about lesbians only.  The authors concluded that there was too little research about male homosexuals available to draw any conclusions.  So Cosima definitely over-generalized.

The real fun of the fair however came in a section of the report that was rather forbiddingly titled "Methodological issues and studies of children's wellbeing".    I reproduce a couple of paragraphs from it:

"Evaluating the effects of family structures upon children's wellbeing and development is complicated, particularly when the population of interest is a very diverse, stigmatised, numeric minority. Some questions have been asked about the methodological rigor of research studies on the wellbeing of children raised in same-sex parented families, by scholars who (implicitly or explicitly) have political or moral objections to same-sex parenting (see Marks, 2012; Regnerus, 2012; Schumm, 2012) and by those who do not. For instance, Tasker and Patterson (2007), two respected psychologists who support the rights of lesbian and gay parented families and have published widely on various aspects of the wellbeing of children raised by lesbian and gay parents, commented that the field would benefit from a wider variety of data collection methods. They noted that most of the data collected about children raised in lesbian and gay parented families comes from self-reports by their parents, supplemented with psychometric testing of children by the research team. Few studies have been blind, or made use of psychometric tests administered independently of the researchers. That said, many researchers emphasise the importance of contextual, qualitative studies in learning about the family experiences and processes in same-sex parented families from the point of view of parents, children and other family members (Biblarz & Savci, 2010; Dempsey, 2012b; Goldberg, 2010; Goldberg, Kinkler, Richardson, & Downing, 2011; Lindsay et al., 2006; Riggs, 2007).

Researchers in this field have noted a range of limitations with regard to how their samples of participants are drawn. Although this is beginning to change, many studies are based on small and homogenous samples of highly educated and middle-class participants. Many of the comparative studies conducted to date on children or young adults raised in same-sex parented families are based on volunteer samples of participants rather than random samples. This means that it is unknown how representative and generalisable the studies' results are. Further to this, many researchers in this field note that their participants were mostly white and well educated, which does not reflect the likely socio-economic, ethnic and racial diversity of the same-sex parenting population. That said, it is important to emphasise all research designs have limitations and not to dismiss the cumulative findings from many small scale or volunteer sample studies, as some critics of this literature attempt to do (see Marks, 2012; Regnerus, 2012; Schumm, 2012). Amato (2012) indeed pointed out that if there were noteworthy harms accruing to children resulting from parental homosexuality per se, which is often the concern of those scholars who criticise research designs and methodology, these would be revealed in research on high socio-economic, ethnically homogenous samples of parents and children."

So there you have it.  The data was mostly what lesbians say about themselves and their children:  Self report studies.  Does anybody sniff bias there?

But it gets worse.  Most of the studies were of high status parents:  Richer and better educated.  So the studies were  not even a fair sample of lesbians.  ANY children of high status parents should have done better at school etc.

And if you look at it with my perverse eye you see a suppressed correlation.  If the studies showed (which they mostly did) that the children of such parents only did "as well as" the children of heterosexual families that means that something has been suppressing the status advantage that the Lesbian children should have had.  And what could that be?  Would it be the fact that they had no daddy?  That's what it looks like.  Once you control for education in homosexual/heterosexual comparisons, the homosexual children come out looking disadvantaged.  Some studies did apparently control for education but it seems that most did not.

So where do we go from there?  Is it just too difficult to examine fairly the questions involved?  I think it is  -- but only if we  rely on social science research.  Demography is informative too.  What if we interview actual prison inmates, drug addicts etc.  And what if we find that a higher than proportionate percentage of them do not come from a normal heterosexual family with both a mommy and a daddy regularly present?  That is what we find and that is what the redoubtable Senator Bernardi was referring to.

But no research involving people will ever be watertight so in the end we always have to draw our conclusions on a balance of probabilities.  And our conclusions will always be influenced by our other beliefs.  Cautious conservatives, for instance, will shudder at the thought of experimenting on children -- while  Leftists will always think that the existing state of society is so unsatisfactory that anything which might improve it should be tried.  It would be nice if Leftists would admit to uncertainty on some occasions though.  I just did. Are you listening, Cosima? -- JR.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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