We regularly hear that kids being raised by same-sex parents are nothing to worry about. In fact, we have long been told by elite media outlets that children raised by same-sex couples are actually “happier and healthier” than other kids. A brand-new study, published in a major British medical journal, claims the same thing.
But is this true? Do kids who are raised by same-sex couples really do better than children raised by their own mother and father? No, there is no reliable research indicating this conclusion and we will explain why.
There was no support for this assertion when outcomes of genderless families was beginning to be addressed in the scientific literature. It remained true years later as that body of research grew. And it remains true today.
That is primarily because, frankly, the research itself is so consistently poor in its methodology and the lack of rigor in which conclusions are drawn and reported. This new study is merely the latest demonstration of this fact. Let us see how.
This most recent study was just published in early March by the British Medical Journal. You can read it here. It is a meta-analysis, a summary overview of a larger body of previously published studies. It examines 16 studies, published between 2007 and 2021, comparing “family outcomes between sexual minority and heterosexual families.”
Meta-analyses are typically very useful in seeing the larger picture on a research question. But there is quite a bit that is seriously wrong with this study, easily apparent to the casual reader. Two major issues jump out immediately on the first page and are never addressed or resolved by these authors. Both are deeply concerning.
First, these scholars claim in their introductory abstract that children from “sexual minority families have even better outcomes in some domains” than those from heterosexual families. This claim has been made in previous research.
This assertion challenges all logic.
Before the topic of genderless families ever became a research topic, the social sciences over the last 50 years have consistently shown that children living with their own married mother and father do markedly better in all important measure of development and well-being compared with children living in any other family form studied to date.
But now, we are being asked to believe that intentionally removing child’s natural mother or father from them for life is not only not harmful, but is actually superior in important outcomes.
If this is to be believed, we must also conclude we are actually disadvantaging children by giving them their mother and father. Of course, this is ridiculous, but it is precisely what this conclusion indicates. It challenges all reason.
It also conflicts with other objective mainstream research published in 2003 which states that “children raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to exhibit poor outcomes than children raised by divorced heterosexual parents” (emphasis added). This research adds, “as previously indicated, children of divorce are at higher risk for many of these problems [school performance, behavior problems, emotional problems, early pregnancy, or difficulties finding employment] than children of married parents” (see page 7). This research is more sober and correct. Kids from divorced homes have consistently been show to suffer in deep and unexpected ways. This would mean outcomes for kids with same-sex parents are nothing celebrate.
Second, we must ask, what is actually being compared here? These authors explain, “This systematic review aims to compare the disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual parent families.”
The obvious problem here is these are two highly generalized categories that mean nearly nothing because they could mean so many very different things.
“Heterosexual parent families” are not one thing. Are these scholars looking at married biological families, cohabiting, divorced, single, widowed, or step-parent heterosexual families? Each of these different family forms show dramatically different child well-being outcomes. Astonishingly, the authors never admit the need for such distinction. They don’t even try.
They just lump them all together in a useless mish-mash and pretend they are measuring something specific and meaningful. That is because nearly every one of the previously published studies they examine make the same mistake.
They also generalize on the “sexual minority families” side, but more dramatically so.
On page one, the authors provide their operating definition of sexual minority families as “an umbrella term including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, gender nonconforming people and other populations whose sexual orientation or gender identity and reproductive development is considered outside cultural, societal or physiological norms.” Yes, it’s a dizzying mouthful. So many very different things treated as one thing.
Do these authors show how all these very different things in the “sexual minority” kitchen-sink differ from one another in child well-being outcomes? They do not.
Can they tell us whether lesbian-headed homes are more successful in important healthy child outcomes than intersex families? Are gender nonconforming-headed homes more or less successful compared to gay-headed homes? What about queer compared to bisexual? Where are they similar or different and by how much?
These are extremely pertinent questions in such investigations. But these scholars, and most of the studies they are analyzing, never bother with this kind of precise, analytic care. That is an absolutely damning oversight.
Science looks at specific, objective things that are measurably unique from one another and carefully compare them against one another. It does not work in overly broad generalities. It cannot. But this study admittedly does. Thus, it is clearly not science.
A first-rate introductory research methodology student could easily detect these serious problems by morning break. The only conclusion anyone could reasonably make from this study is this: Some unnamed forms of heterosexual-headed homes appear to have some similar outcomes with a dizzying array of new and experimental gender diverse families.
That is hardly news.
Remarkably, these authors never actually address how kids being raised by their own married mother and father – the uncontested gold-standard – fare in contrast to all these other new, experimental genderless forms. They know all too well what that would show.
That is why studies like this are practically useless and the reporting them is often deceptive.
Photo from Shutterstock.