Controversial UT study on gay parenting sparks debate

Jody Serrano

A new UT study stating children with gay parents turn out resoundingly different than children with heterosexual, married parents has spurred LGBT advocates across the nation into the offensive.

Led by associate professor Mark Regnerus, the New Family Structures Study appeared in the June issue of Social Science Research and sought to answer the question, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?” At the end of the study, Regnerus found that adult children who grew up with gay parents, particularly lesbian parents, fared worse socially, emotionally and in relationships than children who had married, heterosexual parents. One theme in the data was instability in LGBT households.

His findings sparked debate online Monday, and today four major LGBT organizations, the Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry group and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, issued a joint statement condemning Regnerus’ research for seeking to disparage LGBT parents.

“The paper is fundamentally flawed and intentionally misleading,” the statement read. “It doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring. Most of the children examined in the paper were not being raised by parents in a committed same-sex relationship, whereas the other children in the study were being raised in two-parent homes with straight parents.”

The Witherspoon Institute, a conservative research organization working to enhance public understanding of moral foundations, and the Bradley Foundation, which supports conservative principles and government, contributed funding to the New Family Structures study. In his findings, Regnerus said funding sources played no role in the study.

Regnerus and others in the UT Population Research Center, a research entity that focuses primarily on topics such as parenting, as well as partnering and human development, analyzed more than 15,000 people ages 18-39. Out of the total respondents, 248 indicated their mother or father had a same-sex relationship at some point while growing up.

In a piece for Slate, Regnerus pointed to findings in recent years suggesting homosexual parents are just as good as heterosexual married parents and in some studies, better. Regnerus said the drastic difference in his findings from those of other researchers was a result of better research methods, particularly his use of a random sampling approach rather than locating and surveying small minorities.

Regnerus said he is not claiming sexual orientation is at fault in these worse outcomes and does not know about any kids currently being raised by lesbian and gay parents.

“Their parents may be forging more stable relationships in an era that is more accepting and supportive of gay and lesbian couples,” Regnerus wrote. “But that is not the case among the previous generation, and thus social scientists, parents and advocates would do well from here forward to avoid simply assuming the kids are all right.”