Media hype and same-sex parenting studies

by christiannewsjournal

Early this week, the Washington Post and several other media outlets reported on a study from the University of Melbourne in Australia that examined how children in same-sex homes compared to children in opposite-sex homes on several measures of health and well-being.

As the Post put it, “Children from same-sex families scored about 6 percent higher on general health and family cohesion, even when controlling for socio-demographic factors such as parents’ education and household income.”

If this seems surprising to you, well, you’re not alone. It’s important for you to know that several folks, including my friend Glenn Stanton, the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, looked at the study and found a number of serious and fatal flaws.

The first problem is the study’s sketchy methodology which significantly biased its results. And this isn’t just Stanton’s opinion. The authors themselves admitted that they used a small non-representative sample. It is what’s known as a “convenience sample,” derived by recruiting self-motivated families in gay-themed publications. They even allowed the parents to know they were participating in a major study on the well-being of same-sex families which biases the results, and they relied on these motivated parents’ self-reports about their own children’s well-being.

These methodological flaws are no small matter. As Stanton notes, the authors of this study (as well as in all the other studies to date) fail to appreciate that the same-sex parents being studied are fully aware that they’re participating in a study that could influence social stigma and public policy.

This obviously creates a conflict of interest, because some of the participants will have a strong reason to be more positive in their self-reporting.

And there’s another serious problem worth mentioning. The kinds of opposite-sex homes in this study aren’t defined. We don’t know if comparison children are growing up in intact, married-mother-and-father homes, or in homes of divorce with live-in boyfriends and non-married partners.

Stanton writes: “Given this, the study’s conclusion is useless, as it essentially finds that kids growing up in same-sex homes look like kids that grow up in some kinds of heterosexual homes.”

How, then, are we supposed to respond to studies like this that make such extraordinary claims?

The first step is to realize that the normalization of same-sex marriage and family is part of a larger cultural shift more concerned with establishing a public narrative than with an open, honest pursuit and discussion of the facts. Also, it’s clear that the mainstream media walks in lockstep with those working to redefine the family.

For example, two years ago, professor Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin conducted a comparison of children of same-sex households and those of married mother and father homes.

His study, while also self-admittedly very limited, was of 15,000 randomly selected people. He found that children raised by parents involved in same-sex relationships “were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, and report…more sexual victimization.”

But for challenging the well-crafted same-sex family narrative, Regnerus was viciously attacked, even charged with academic misconduct. Mainstream media outlets largely dismissed his study due, reportedly, to methodological limitations. He almost lost his job. And though in the end, as I discussed on BreakPoint, he was vindicated, what happened to him shows that the ground is not level in this very important discussion.

And that means, if we’re to be strong witnesses for God’s truth and for sound social science, it might cost us.

But if we earnestly desire the restoration of healthy families and strong families and communities, it’s a price we may have to pay anyway.

John Stonestreetby John Stonestreet

John Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint, a radio commentary that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.

Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries

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