Sunday, June 10, 2012

Right Wing Think Tank Funds Ant-Gay Parenting Study

It appears that the tactics of Paul Cameron are alive and well in conservative circles when it comes to cooking the data to get the result that one wants.  This study seeks to prove that children of raised in homes with same sex couples do not fair as well as those in the homes of heterosexual couple homes.  Never mind, of course, that a happy heterosexual headed home isn't an option for millions of children.  With a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute and a supplemental $90,000 grant from the Bradley Foundation, ultra-conservative  Mark Regnerus has produced a made to order study for the Christofascists to further denigrate gay and lesbian parents.  As Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin notes, there are many methodological problems with the study even when puts aside the likely agenda of the study's author and financiers.  Moreover, while the study gushes over the "elevated stability and benefits of a heterosexual households" it ignores the decreased stability of same sex households that stems directly from the strenuous efforts to deny gays and lesbian legal protections taken for granted in the straight world.  Nor does it look at the consequences faced by children who constantly hear their parents maligned and described as perverts, would be child molesters or worse.  

Not surprisingly, the folks at NOM are in near orgasm over the studies anti-gay findings as is the Mormon Church owned Deseret News (The New Civil Rights Movement looks at this disgust rejoicing) . Frankly, it's more of the same old blame the victim for the adverse consequences of the tormentor.  Here are highlights from Jim Burroway's review of the problems with the study:

Problem #1: Identifying a Same-Sex Relationship Doesn’t Tell Us Anything About the Nature of the Relationship.
But this is where we run into the first problem with this study. Identifying a parent who has had a same-sex relationship is not the same as identifying a parent who is gay, lesbian or bisexual in a functional relationship.  .   .   .   .  What criteria does he use to judge whether those relationships are “gay or lesbian in content”? We don’t know. I can’t find any indication that the duration of the relationship played any factor in its identification.

[Y]ou can see where this is headed, can’t you? We will be asked to accept as legitimate the comparison of children raised by parents in those less stable and unenduring situations with stable, longtime married heterosexual parents without knowing the answers to those question. So already, Regnerus puts that comparison in starkly unequal footing.

Problem #2: Arbitrary Decisions in Dealing with Overlaps Between Categories Make the LM [lesbian mother] and GF [gay father] Categories Heterogeneous While the Other Categories Remain Relatively Homogeneous.

Regnerus’s decision to arbitrarily force his sample into non-overlapping categories results in a method is based solely on a desire to increase the size of the smaller group, a goal which has nothing to do with the study’s larger goal of comparing children of gay and lesbian parents to those of intact biological families. In fact, he makes choices which, by their very nature, run explicitly counter to that goal. With each transfer of a subject from the Divorced, Step Families, Single Parent or “All Others” categories into LM or GF, the less those LM and GF groups are designed to look like intact biological families.

I understand Regnerus’s problem with having a sample of lesbian mothers and gay fathers that is too small to make statistical comparisons with the control group. But the proper solution to that problem would have been to go back to Knowledge Networks for another round of sample recruitment. Then perhaps he could have compared children of gay and lesbian parents who had been brought up in a stable environment with children of heterosexual parents in a stable environment. He could have also compared children of gay and lesbian parents in unstable environments with their heterosexual counterparts.

But instead, he undertakes a manipulation which I believe represents the fatal flaw of this study. If one wanted to intentionally create Lesbian Mothers and Gay Fathers groups which were least likely to look like an intact biological family, I can’t imagine a better way to do so than to take the steps Regnerus has taken here. 

And now having done this, he’s about to compare two deliberately heterogeneous categories (LM and GF) to a deliberately homogeneous category. Well of course there will be differences once you do that!

Problem #3: It Doesn’t Study Children Who Grew Up In Gay- or Lesbian-Led Households.Marriage equality proponents will trumpet this study as proof that children raised by loving, committed, married same-sex couples will have more problems than those who are raised by both biological parents in a heterosexual household. But the samples that Regnerus put together to compare to the ideal heterosexual household cannot make such a claim because it says almost nothing about committed same-sex couples who, together, decide to become parents via adoption, in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy.

[T]o have a legitimate comparison, you’d have to look at children whose experience in that same-sex family was, for all intents and purposes, in place for their entire or almost entire childhoods. After all, that is the experience of children from intact biological heterosexual families.  But in this study, only 57% said they had lived with their mother and her partner for at least four months before the age of 18, and only 23% reported living with their father and his partner for the same length of time. Only 23% of LM children and 2% of GF children reported living with their parents and their parents’ same-sex partners for three years or more.

Problem #4: This Study Makes The Wrong Comparison.
When you look at the data, the study’s real findings become obvious. Children of parents who have had a same-sex relationship — a group that includes very large numbers of children of divorced parents, single parents, adopted parents, step-parents and “other” family structures — have developmental outcomes which are remarkably similar to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and “other” family structures overall when compared to intact, non-adoptive heterosexual families. Regnerus designed his study to show this result by constructing samples which mimicked these characteristics. By constructing his LM and GF samples the way he did, the only legitimate comparison he could make would be to children of divorced, single, adopted, step-, and “other” family structures. But that’s not the comparison he made. He focused the study on making the wrong comparison, and then concluded that children of gay and lesbian parents have more negative outcomes than children of straight parents in intact households.

Instead of making an apples to apples comparison, he compared apples to elephants and concluded that there was a difference. To which anyone with a minimal understanding of design of experiments would answer, Duh!

But when you make the right comparison — compare children of divorced gay parents to children of divorced straight parents, compare children of single gay parents to children of single gay parents, compare children of long-term committed gay parents to children of long-term straight parents — there is nothing in this study to suggest that children of gay parents are at any disadvantage whatsoever to children of straight parents. And when you make the right comparison, the study goes much further toward confirming that conclusion than the one Regnerus arrives at.

Once again, I find myself stunned by the deliberate dishonesty of  Christianist enemies of LGBT individuals and our families.  They gush about their religiosity and piety but in the end prove themselves to be pathological liars who make the Pharisees in the Bible look like pillars of righteousness.  These people truly make me physically sick.  And then there's this on the financing for the "study":

I made a brief mention of the huge amount of money that was spent on this study, a sum that comes to $785,000. The lion’s share came from the Witherspoon Institute, a think tank in Princeton, New Jersey (and not affiliated with Princeton University). Members of the Institute include Robert P. George, who drafted the Manhattan Declaration and whose recent paper in The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy on same-sex marriage was critiqued at length by BTB’s Rob Tisinai. The Withersoon Institute reportedly has close associations with such organizations as the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the secretive Catholic order Opus Dei. George also sits on the board of directors for the Bradley Foundation, which also provided funds for this study. The Bradley Foundation is considered one of the country’s largest and most influential right-wing foundations, although its contribution to this study is “only” $90,000.
This is like having the KKK finance a study on African Americans that - surprise, surprise - finds blacks are inferior.  One can only hope that this study is quickly ripped apart and totally discredited.

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