Jun 18 2010

The science is settled! Er, maybe not

Category: familyharmonicminer @ 8:41 am

 No, this isn’t yet another global warming expose.  The question here is simple:  DO Children of lesbian parents do better than their peers?

The children of lesbian parents outscore their peers on academic and social tests, according to results from the longest-running study of same-sex families.

The researchers behind the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study say the results should change attitudes to adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples, which is prohibited in some parts of the US.

The finding is based on 78 children who were all born to lesbian couples who used donor insemination to become pregnant and were interviewed and tested at age 17.

The new tests have left no doubt as to the success of these couples as parents, says Nanette Gartrell at the University of California, San Francisco, who has worked on the study since it began in 1986.

Compared with a group of control adolescents born to heterosexual parents with similar educational and financial backgrounds, the children of lesbian couples scored better on academic and social tests and lower on measures of rule-breaking and aggression.

A previous study of same-sex parenting, based on long-term health data, also found no difference in the health of children in either group.

“This confirms what most developmental scientists have suspected,” says Stephen Russell, a sociologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Kids growing up with same-sex parents fare just as well as other kids.”

Some comments:

1)  The story doesn’t say if the children of lesbian couples were compared to hetero-couples who stayed together the entire time.  It doesn’t say what criteria were used to eliminate couples as the study went on.  Surely they didn’t continue to “count” couples that broke up well before the study was done.  Or did they?  They mention a “93% retention rate,” without saying what the criteria were.

2)  I read the study that is referenced and down-loadable here.  Take a look at the site, and the study.  It is clear that there was a very strong agenda from the beginning.  More to the point:  there is no mention of the “control adolescents” in any level of detail.  In fact, they appear to have used something called the ” Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth”, and there is no info about whether that represents a cross section of American youth (with many single parent families, sadly, in the modern world, as well as many divorced and separated ones).  If it does indeed represent a true cross-section of American youth, with all the disfunction averaged in, it may indeed be possible that lesbian couples who stay together produce a “better” outcome in some measures than the “norm,” when the “norm” includes so many in very bad situations.

3)  What is clear is that they did not compare the outcome of adolescents from married heterosexual families who stayed together throughout the study to adolescents from lesbian parents who stayed together throughout the study.  Instead, they used a “scale” that makes it essentially impossible to directly compare having two lesbian parents in the home for all of childhood with having two heterosexual parents in the home for all of childhood, in the same economic and social class, etc.  The
” Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth” appears to include people from all social classes and family situations….  how else could it be “normative”?

4)  The study admits that the lesbian couples involved had the financial resources to seek donor insemination, which already puts them, economically, above the average American family.  As we all know, economic status often affects the outcome for children, including academic performance and social adjustment.

5)  And now, a critical point:  sperm donors are genetically a cut above, on average.  The role of genetics in intelligence and personality is less and less disputable, even among the former adherents to the “blank slate” theory of human development.  How to eliminate the fact that the father of every child in the lesbian parent sample was certainly more intelligent, successful, and well-adjusted, than the average father of the children of the ” Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth”?

What is needed is an actual control group that eliminates all the other variables.  So, if you could get anyone to do this, here’s the way.

Start with 100 lesbian couples and 100 hetero couples, of the same average age, social status, educational background, etc.  Try to select couples that seem likely to stay together…  if you can figure that out.  Maybe use only the ones who met on eHarmony’s website.  Just kidding…   I think.

Try to identify hetero couples where the man would be an acceptable donor to a typical “sperm bank.”

Then track the couples and their children through 20 years and see what happens.

Until something like this is done, “research studies” like the clearly agenda-driven one reported here will continue to persuade those who simply want to be persauded, and be ignored by the rest of us who can read, and have some idea about what research does and doesn’t prove.