What You Need to Know About the New Family Structures Study

The "New Family Structures Study," a paper authored by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, has been widely discredited since its publication in June 2012. The paper, which was deemed "severely flawed" by an audit of the journal that published the paper, is being used this election season to disseminate untrue, misleading information about same-sex couples and children raised by gay and lesbian parents. Over 200 scholars and a coalition of leading organizations (including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, American Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics, among others) have repudiated the flawed methodology and misleading findings. Get the facts here, and read more about The Regnerus Fallout.

The paper does not actually measure what it says it measures

  • The sample size that Regnerus used to make his conclusions mean that the "New Family Structures Study" never actually measured the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples (see below, via The Regnerus Fallout)
  • The study found that stability in a child's family life is more important than whether their parents are gay or straight - despite claims by the paper's author and funders that it measures impacts of parental sexual orientation.
  • Reviewer William Saletan wrote that the study indicates: "Kids of gay parents, like kids of straight parents, did better in stabler families. ... Children raised by committed, financially secure gay couples turn out fine."
  • According to the American Sociological Society, “The Regnerus study…did not specifically examine children raised by same-sex parents, and provides no support for the conclusions that same-sex parents are inferior parents or that the children of same-sex parents experience worse outcomes.”

The paper wasn't "apples to apples" - it compared children from stable heterosexual families to kids from families that experienced transitions. 

  • Only two people out of the nearly 3,000 interviewed for the study were raised by a same-sex couple for their entire childhoods, Regnerus admitted in an interview
  • Judith Stacey, a sociologist at New York University, said, "He doesn't have an actual category of gay parents in the project that you can isolate and say the most important thing in this kid's childhoods is that they were raised by gay parents."
  • The paper inappropriately compares children raised by two heterosexual parents for 18 years with children who experience family transitions - like foster care - or who live with single or divorced parents, or in blended families. The limited number of respondents arbitrarily classified as having a gay or lesbian parent were lumped together regardless of their experience of family instability. 

The peer review process and the paper's methodology were flawed

  • An audit conducted by Social Science Research, the journal that published the Regnerus study, found that the article should have been "disqualified immediately" from publication. The audit also said, "scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process."
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education reported: "The peer-review process failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems with a controversial and widely publicized study that seemed to raise doubts about the parenting abilities of gay couples, accordining to an internal audit scheduled to appear in the November issue of the journal, Social Science Research, that published the study."
  • The auditor also criticized an accompanying paper by Loren D. Marks at Louisiana State University Baton Rouge. The auditor said that Marks didn't perform a true meta-analysis of the studies and instead simply wrote summaries of the results. The audit concluded: "Marks' paper is a lowbrow meta-analysis of studies" that was "inappropriate for a journal that publishes original quantitative research." 

The paper ignores statements from every major child welfare association concluding that gay men and lesbians make good parents

  • American Psychological Association: "Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents."
  • American Academy of Pediatrics: "The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual."
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: "There is no evidence to suggest or support that parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are per se superior or inferior from or deficient in parenting skills, child-centered concerns, and parent-child attachments when compared with heterosexual parents. There is no credible evidence that shows that a parent's sexual orientation or gender identity will adversely affect the development of the child."
  • American Academy of Family Physicians: "RESOLVED, That the AAFP establish policy and be supportive of legislation which promotes a safe and nurturing environment, including psychological and legal security, for all children, including those of adoptive parents, regardless of the parents' sexual orientation."
  • National Association of Social Workers: "Legislation legitimizing second-parent adoptions in same-sex households should be supported. Legislation seeking to restrict foster care and adoption by gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people should be vigorously opposed."

The paper ignores 30 years of research showing that children raised by gay parents are not markedly different from children raised by different-sex couples 

  • American Sociological Association: “The clear and consistent consensus in the social science profession is that across a wide range of indicators, children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents when compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.”
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote, "A considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment, and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual."  
  • Pennsylvania State University sociologist Paul Amato wrote, "If growing up with gay or lesbian parents were catastrophic for children, even studies based on small convenience samples would have shown this by now." 
  • Abbie E. Goldberg, a professor of psychology at Clark University, analyzed research from more than 100 academic studies in her book, Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children, which has the backing of the American Psychological Association. Goldberg found that children of same-sex parents do "just fine." The New York Times summarized Goldberg's findings: "In most ways, the accumulated research shows, children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents. They show no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school and have just as many friends. ... [N]either sex is more likely to suffer from gender confusion nor to identify themselves as gay."
  • Melanie L. Duncan, M.A. and Kristin E. Joos, Ph.D. of the University of Florida wrote in Sociologists for Women in Society (2011): "Extensive studies have been published looking at the fitness of LGBT individuals as parents and compare the children of 
LGBT parent(s) with those of heterosexual parents indicate that there are no significant differences in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation."
  • Sociologists Judith Stacey of New York University and Tim Biblarz of the University of Southern California conducted a review of nearly every study on gay parenting in 2010. They found that "Current claims that children need both a mother and father are spurious... At this point no research supports the widely held conviction that the gender of parents matters for child well-being."
  • The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study found in 2012 that "[t]he absence of male role models did not adversely affect the psychological adjustment of 17-year-old teens raised in lesbian-headed households... The study is part of a growing body of research that evinces the positive psychological well-being of children reared in planned lesbian families."
  • Henny Bos, Ph.D of the University of Amsterdam, the lead author of a June 2012 Gender & Society study, found "No differences were found in the well-being of those with and without male role models, or between girls and boys. There was no empirical evidence suggesting that boys require a same-sex parent, or male role model, to develop a healthy psychological well-being."
  • Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell found in 2010 that the only potential harm to kids done by same-sex marriage is society's reaction. He said, "Imagine being a child living in a state with two parents in which, legally, only one parent is allowed to be their parent... In that situation, the family is not seen as authentic or real by others. That would be the disadvantage."

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