What Media Outlets Should Know About The Latest Same-Sex Parenting Study
October 08, 2013 12:00 pm ET by Luke Brinker & Carlos Maza
Anti-equality figures are pouncing on a new study purporting to show that children of same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by married heterosexual parents. But the media should be aware that the study suffers from the same methodological flaws plaguing most right-wing research on same-sex parenting and its author has an anti-gay background.
Using data from the 2006 Canadian census, economist Douglas Allen of Simon Fraser University compared the high school graduation rates of children raised by same-sex couples with the graduation rates of children from married, heterosexual-headed households. Allen found that children of same-sex parents were only 65 percent as likely to complete high school as those of married heterosexual parents.
Before media outlets take Allen's findings seriously, they should bear in mind a few points about Allen and his research:
1. The Study Doesn't Examine Children Raised By Married Same-Sex Parents. As The New Civil Rights Movement noted, same-sex marriage wasn't legal Canada until 2005 - just one year before the census on which Allen bases his findings. As a result, his study actually compares the children raised by stable, married heterosexual parents with children almost entirely by unmarried same-sex parents.
In fact, when comparing children raised by same-sex parents to opposite sex common law parents - a more appropriate comparison - the children of gay parents actually perform better, with children of lesbian parents performing only slightly worse:
2. Allen Doesn't Prove A Causal Relationship Between Same-Sex Parenting And Negative Outcomes. Anti-equality activists are already using the study to claim that same-sex parenting is inherently bad for children, but Allen admits that his research can't establish a causal relationship between parents' sexual orientation and school performance. As he writes in his study:
Within the child development literature and pop culture, there is the belief that mothers and fathers provide different parenting inputs that are not perfectly substitutable. These results would be consistent with this notion, but further research is necessary to show any causality.
3. Allen Has Ties To Major Anti-Gay Organizations, History Of Anti-Gay Activism. Allen is a vocal opponent of LGBT equality. In 2012, Allen spoke at the National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) "It Takes A Family" (ITAF) conference, where participants learned that gay people are allegedly "dysfunctional," "inherently unstable," sinful, and perverted. Allen repeated the tired right-wing myth that gays are far more prone to pedophilia than heterosexuals, in a speech that well reflected the bigoted tenor of the conference. Allen also advanced the argument that lesbian couples are inherently unstable because lesbians' menstrual cycles will eventually become synchronized. He also sits on the board of NOM's Ruth Institute.
4. Allen Has A History Of Touting Flawed Same-Sex Parenting Research. When he's not busy promoting his own anti-gay research, Allen aggressively promotes other widely discredited studies about the alleged harm same-sex parenting poses to children. He's been a proponent of the notorious Regnerus study, which suffers from many of the same methodological flaws in Allen's research.