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June 18, 2010

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The study's authors conclude

Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother
families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment.
The authors offer evidence.

The post claims

... families are not socially constructed but divinely designed. And when human beings function outside of God's design they don't do well, rather they break down. Hurt, pain, and dysfunction follow.
The post offers no evidence. Instead the post attacks the study. Supposing even that all the criticisms are true the most the poster can hope for is to keep the question open.

But really, does the poster have any interest in the answer to the question? I see no sign of interest.

RonH

RonH

The post offers no evidence.

A collection of some good evidences here.

http://www.thinkingchristian.net/spirituality-and-life-outcomes/

It does seem a little unlikely that couples who had kids with problems would volunteer for the study as readily as couples with healthy kids, and that could skew the results.

Y'all,

Suppose the things listed as faults of the study were taken care of. Suppose more studies were done. Larger ones. Etc. And, suppose these studies confirmed the conclusion of the current authors - that "Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment." Then, would you accept the conclusions?

Steve,
I searched the page you linked to for 'lesbian, 'parent', 'child'. Only 'child' found anything at all on that page - an had to do with child abuse. Can you point a bit more precisely? Also, do you mean these are good evidences of the poster being right or of the authors of the study being wrong or of something else?

Sam,
From the article:

Because it is a prospective study, the findings are not skewed by overrepresentation of families who volunteer when it is already clear that their offspring are performing well.

RonH

RonH,

I searched the page you linked to for 'lesbian, 'parent', 'child'. Only 'child' found anything at all on that page - an had to do with child abuse. Can you point a bit more precisely?
You didn't ask about this. You asked for evidence supporting this statement:

"... families are not socially constructed but divinely designed. And when human beings function outside of God's design they don't do well, rather they break down. Hurt, pain, and dysfunction follow."

Also, do you mean these are good evidences of the poster being right or of the authors of the study being wrong or of something else?
These are good evidences that support the conclusion that the statement above is a reasonable one. That the statement is not a matter of blind faith.

Why would anyone intentionally deny a child life with a father? Isn't that just mean?

Suppose the things listed as faults of the study were taken care of. Suppose more studies were done. Larger ones. Etc. And, suppose these studies confirmed the conclusion of the current authors - that "Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment." Then, would you accept the conclusions?
I would.

Sam,
Logic forces you to accept the conclusion because RonH built into the premise when he said, "And, suppose these studies confirmed the conclusion of the current authors".

Not a very interesting question.

I didn't think so either, SteveK.

I acknowledge that I haven’t read the study, but determining that kids “do well,” is pretty flimsy at best. How do you measure “doing well” anyway? And how do you know how these kids would have turned out had they had a mother and father?

Sounds suspect. Not just statistically, but qualitatively suspect.

KWM, are you saying that it's impossible to do this kind of study, or can you think of a better way to have done this study?

Sam,

Good question. I think that there are variables that the study not dare touch. I think certain things can be measured, don't get me wrong. Grades for instance. There are other things to consider outside of measurable data when assessing such a thing (ie "done well").

I look at the role I play in my kids' lives, and the role my wife plays. They are profoundly different roles, yet complementary. I think of my parents; I look at my son and his wife; the same pattern.
Kids need both.

Beckwith's point is being overlooked.

"Good" is the enemy of "best", and best is having a mother and a father (as in one male and one female).

Kids are resilient and many do well in all kinds of circumstances (no doubt, even having homosexual parents).

But it still begs the question, why are we aiming for anything other than the bulls eye when it comes to raising kids?

Ed,

Because the bull's eye is bigoted. Who cares if it's ideal? Homosexuals suffer if they can't have kids, therefore it's worth a bit of compulsory sacrifice on the kids part for the greater good.

KWM,
You're talking nonsense here. First you say the bulls eye is bigoted, which means it is much, much less than the ideal. Then you say "who cares if it's ideal".

Make up your mind.

So the complaints here seem to be born out of ignorance. The study is online. Read first, then criticize: the socioeconomic confounders, for example, just don't exist (the control group are, if any thing, even wealthier than the lesbians).

The presumption here is that a) gay parenting is bad for kids or b) even if it's okay it still ain't as good as a traditional family. All current research disagrees. More objective measures have been looked at before, and show no difference between kids raised by straight couples, and kids raised by gay couples. These prospective studies merely put another brick in the wall. Insofar as your prejudices regarding gay parenting are concerned, reality simply disagrees.

Gregory,

The presumption here is that a) gay parenting is bad for kids or b) even if it's okay it still ain't as good as a traditional family.

The point of this post is to list several reasons for doubting the reported conclusions of this one particular study. The reasons here seem reasonable at first glance.

Your presumption that it's all the same, when taken to it's logical conclusion, means that an all-gay society would be equally morally good. I don't see any evidence for that in traditional Christian teaching.

All current research disagrees.

I don't know if that is true or not. Could be. Call me skeptical.

Even so, it doesn't nothing to answer the moral question we are all trying to answer. Christian morality and purpose is not grounded in scientific consequentialism so I don't really care for the title of the post to begin with. You can't measure or study spiritual consequences in the scientific sense and that is what we are concerned with. Christianity says life purpose and morality are grounded in the nature of God.

SteveK,

It's far from nonesense. It's sarcasm.

Gregory,

My skepticism, in total, is of the criteria used and its interpretation. Perhaps the child of a lesbian couple turns out to be a great artist. Perhaps they score 36 on the ACT. How do we measure "done well"?

KWM,
Oh, I see. Honestly, I couldn't detect it. Gotta get my sarcasm meter checked and recalibrated this weekend.

SteveK,

Haha. No, it's my fault. Sometimes it comes out due to frustration.

KWM: Assessment criteria are in the paper:

http://www.nllfs.org/publications/pdf/peds.2009-3153v1.pdf

The relevant citations about how they made these evaluations are there too. Making these sorts of assessments are difficult, but such difficulty is commonplace whether mental health or adjustment needs to be evaluated. Psychologists are pretty good at making tests which are at least reliable, with good factor structure etc. and this was used here. Many of the 'criticisms' being used here apply to entire fields of inquiry.

#

What bugs me is that you guys seem to be skeptical of this work, not because of its methods, but because of its conclusions. If I said 'all professional bodies psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, family doctors etc. etc. think gay parenting is fine' you'd shout me down about argument from authority and its all a liberal homosexualist conspiracy. Yet when the sort of evidence base these bodies *use* are presented, you prefer not to engage with it and instead recite a laundry list of frankly ignorant and misleading criticisms.

The same is true of other work. There are tons of studies that look at explicitly objective rather than interview outcomes for children of gay parents. You look at standard mental health metrics for anxiety, stigma, self-esteem and so on and so forth. Or you look at scholastic attainment, incidence of adverse events like drug misuse or juvenile detention, and so on and so forth. Across all these metrics, the work has shown that children of gay parents are similar to straight parents. If you don't believe me (nor the relevant experts) survey the literature for yourself. Even if this study *was* awful, these mountains of evidence remain.

Yet you don't. I think the reason why you don't can be summed up as lazy prejudice of your conclusions. The OP itself said "but, this isn't what Christianity says, it must be mistaken!" and similar sentiments arise in the comments "if this is right, the traditional Christian view of the family is wrong, so this is wrong". Allow me to make a radical suggestion: the traditional Christian view of what makes a good family (particularly, that gay parents don't make a good family) is *wrong*. So says the mountains of evidence collected on the topic. If Christianity really entails sticking your head in the sand to modern science whenever it contradicts you, so much the worse for Christianity!

KWM,

How do we measure 'done well'?

We pick objective criteria to stand in for the concept of 'doing well'. We should pick them ahead of time avoiding the sharpshooter's fallacy. If possible, these criteria should have a track record of being used to measure the same thing in other contexts - reducing the chances we're cleverly designing the criteria to get what we want.

Certainly more than one set of stand-in criteria can be imagined for any an everyday concept like 'done well'. If multiple sets of stand-in criteria were to agree, well, the evidence mounts.

In other words is is possible to do valid social science data.

There's a bigger problem than defining 'done well' that might be a factor here. Suppose the lesbian-raised kids had been shown do 'do poorly' by this study. Further, suppose the authors were biased in favor of lesbian parents. They might simply have shelved the results. Depending on the situation we might never know. Privately funded studies provide the greatest opportunity for this to happen. (Think of drug companies if you like.) Our main protection against the problem is multiple studies: the truth eventually comes out. Of course, much damage can be done in the meantime.

RonH

Gregory,

What bugs me is that you guys seem to be skeptical of this work, not because of its methods, but because of its conclusions.
Proper thought and understanding requires that both are executed well. Are you not bothered by the likes of non sequiturs, equivocation of terms and scientism? I am.

If I said 'all professional bodies psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, family doctors etc. etc. think gay parenting is fine' you'd shout me down about argument from authority and its all a liberal homosexualist conspiracy.
Incorrect. Christianity would ask by what authority and what measure do you say it is "fine"?
So says the mountains of evidence collected on the topic. If Christianity really entails sticking your head in the sand to modern science whenever it contradicts you, so much the worse for Christianity!
Explain to everyone here what *wrong* looks like in scientific terms. Take your time.

SteveK and All,

Check out Jennifer Roback-Morse's "8 reasons why the study does not prove anything about the functioning of the children of lesbians".

Now, few (if any) individual social science studies prove anything. So she should really be saying the study isn't evidence about the functioning of the children.

Be that as it may, let's assume, for discussion, that in some sense all 8 reasons are valid criticisms of the study.

Each of the 8 reasons could be converted into a suggestion. So let's take all the suggestions and do a new study. Because reason #1 says the study was too small, we'll make the new study bigger. And so on, for all 8.

We'll ask Jennifer Roback-Morse to verify that we've taken all her suggestions adequately on board. By leveling such specific criticism at the current study, Jennifer Roback-Morse implies that obtaining this verification is possible. So let's assume that we can actually get that verification.

Now suppose this improved study gets the same results, more or less, as the first one.

What will Jennifer Roback-Morse do then?

RonH

RonH,

Now suppose this improved study gets the same results, more or less, as the first one.

Same question you asked before, just rephrased.

What will Jennifer Roback-Morse do then?

I don't know. Ask her. I already commented on this so you know what I think.

"Why would anyone intentionally deny a child life with a father? Isn't that just mean?"

That depends on one's reasons.

It would be interesting to see how your principle would apply in cases in which a single woman is pregnant. Is it mean in all such cases for her not to marry a man if there is one available and willing? Think of recent widows.

Let’s say, out of a 100% (known and unknown) of the factors that determine “done well,” this study hits .003%.

Until someone can make the case that it's more...

Also, can’t one “do well,” and still be in a world of hurt?

RonH,

As long as we are arguing by wishful thinking...

What would you say if a well designed study showed that the moon really is made of cheese?

The fact of the matter is, there are no shortage of bad studies on this subject. Why do advocates like the authors of this study continue to churn out yet more badly flawed studies instead of correcting the flaws in past studies like you imagine?

I think that Ron H continues to ask an important question: "what would we, as Christians, do if the definitive study was done and the data showed that children raised in homosexual homes did as well as children raised in heterosexual homes?" Would we spend a great deal of energy trying to find a minor confounding factor in the study so as to cast doubt on the data and make ourselves feel better or would we reexamine our beliefs about raising children. Perhaps our beliefs about the extent of God's sovereignty and the reach of His grace might be adjusted to include children raised in homosexual homes.

On the other hand Ron, what I noticed was lacking in your many responses is a clear acknowledgment that there does indeed appear to be several confounding factors that make the interpretation of these data very difficult. I've been performing and publishing biomedical research for about 18 years and have yet to read or perform a definitive study. That's one reason we replicate studies, as you suggest, to confirm findings and extend the data to other populations. But let's be honest, being a prospective study does not make up for all the other potential confounding factors (non-random sample, small sample size, etc).

However, brothers and sisters, let's be honest on our side as well. In my opinion, Ms. Roback-Morse is incorrect in several of her criticisms. Criticism #3 - the results are intrinsically unreliable. They rely on a parent's response. The authors used a commercial questionnaire, as it was designed to be used, that has been shown to be reliable and valid. (I actually read the reliability and validity data for the questionnaire used) Criticisms 4&5 - the results are unusual so they can't be correct. Stop and think about that criticism. Go back to just about any scientific advancement - say atomic theory - and you'll find the advancement is based upon some very unusual results. "What, the atom is not a solid thing like a cherry, but actually made of multiple particles - no that's unusual and counter intuitive. Solid things, like the chair I'm sitting on, is made of atoms that are actually mostly....space. No way, can't possibly be". It's the unusual that cause us to keep pursuing what actually is. If every result came out the way we already knew it "should", then why do any research?

I think the biggest issue is the sample size. These questionnaire measures are not very precise (confirmed by reliability data for the questionnaire used), so you need a large sample size to make sure you have the statistical power to see any differences as well as to protect against false-positives (finding a difference when none really exist). The non-random sample is also a huge issue in epidemiological studies.

A summary of 15 findings from a recent study, "My Daddy's Name is Donor" also supports the OP.

http://www.familyscholars.org/assets/Donor_15findings.pdf

Brian: Perhaps our beliefs about the extent of God's sovereignty and the reach of His grace might be adjusted to include children raised in homosexual homes.

If you truly believe they are not already included, then you should not wait for the fantasized study before you make adjustments. I do not know any Christian that puts any limits at all on God's Grace or sovereignty, and I don't know of any scientific study that does, either.

Criticism #3 - the results are intrinsically unreliable.

You state as much yourself later in your reply: "These questionnaire measures are not very precise (confirmed by reliability data for the questionnaire used),..."

Go back to just about any scientific advancement - say atomic theory - and you'll find the advancement is based upon some very unusual results.

And those "unusual results" were confirmed in ever more exacting experiments before they were believed. The majority of "unusual results," like those of Pons and Fleischmann, turn out to be fiction rather than fact. In the words of Carl Sagan, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Op Ed, Thanks for responding. My first point was simply that Ron H continues to ask a simple question. If further data support the findings of Gartrell et al, then would what would we as Christians do with that information? Would we ignore it? Would we contort our reasoning so as to come up with some feable alternative explanation? Or would we use this information to take a refreshing look at our beliefs? My suggestion as to the outcome is not based on my best understanding of Biblical doctrine but rather on my interpretation of many of the responses to this and other blogs.

Regarding reliability - are you a reliable person? I'll assume you are. Are you perfectly reliable? Can someone count on you every time without fail to come through to the absolute best of your ability? Probably not. So while you are in general a reliable person, there are those time when you (and I) just don't come through. So both you and I are reliable people but there is some there is some "slop" or "lack of precision" as I said in my earlier post. Each set of questions in the questionnaire return similar answers when given multiple times (reliability) but they don't give the exact same answer (lack of precision). Therefore, to deal with a lack of precision, as I'm using the term, one must study larger numbers of people to make sure you have the ability to see a difference if one exists.

Lastly, both Ron H and I are in agreement regarding your last comment that more and better studies must be done before we can feel confident as to which direction the cumulative data are pointing. However, I don't think Sagan is correct. Extraordinary claims (which these are not claims - these are data) require extraordinary evidence. I agree with Greg that claims, extraordinary or otherwise, require adequate or appropriate evidence. Your example of Pons and Fleischmann is an excellent example. They claimed (provided no evidence) they had induced a fusion reaction as room temperature. What evidence would be necessary for us all to believe that "cold fusion" is possible. Nothing extraordinary. In fact, these simple experiments were carried out in response to the claims of Pons and Fleischmann. You know the results - not a photon, no heat, nothing. The evidence would not have had to be overwhelming, just adequate enough to satisfy the physicists that fusion was actually taking place.

Brian: My first point was simply that Ron H continues to ask a simple question.

As did I. I did not see your answer, however.

If further data support the findings of Gartrell et al...

False premise, and likely to stay that way. The best "further data" available contradicts the opinions (what you call "findings") of "Gartrell et al." There is nothing to be gained by hypothesizing the outcome of not only a false scenario but an unlikely one.

...but rather on my interpretation of many of the responses to this and other blogs.

"This" blog? I didn't see any comments here that would lead me to make the assumptions you did. Perhaps you could provide a direct quote.

Each set of questions in the questionnaire return similar answers when given multiple times (reliability)...

That sounds more like repeatability than reliability. A broken clock may provide repeatable answers, but not one I would rely on for an important appointment. That answers to its questions are repeatable by a given participant doesn't make a survey acceptable for a self-selected population. Activists and others attempting to skew survey results are perfectly capable of repeating themselves.

...your last comment that more and better studies must be done before we can feel confident as to which direction the cumulative data are pointing.

You misstate my comment. The "cumulative data" from responsible research all points in the direction of children being raised by their natural parents in a low conflict relationship. Beyond simply calling their opinion piece a "study," nothing these authors provide calls that "direction" into question. While some might find attractive the notion that we as adults can make decisions based on our own self interests without consequence to the (perhaps future) children in our care, experience, and therefore science, does not support that notion.

...which these are not claims - these are data...

Earlier you acknowledged they were "findings," not data.

Your example of Pons and Fleischmann is an excellent example.

There is much inaccuracy in what you have to say about Pons and Fleischmann, but as they are not the topic here I will not go down that road. Nor am I here to defend or correct your interpretation of Sagan. It is enough you agree the conclusions reached by these authors can't be accepted based on their proffered data.

I'll bit on the simple question.

Might I offer that my answer serves for Christian and non-Christian alike.

Marriage is not hetero v homo. You are likely to find that children raised in broken hetero homes do fair as well as children raised in broken homo homes. You are likely to find that a home where one sex is represented, children do as well as where only one person (and thus one sex albiet of a heterosexual person) is represented.

These findings of "turn out just as well" drawn along orthoganol lines of orientation, are just as well entirely thrown out by Christians and non-Christian humanitarians alike. They answer neither the need nore the value of the marriage institution.

What institution can explicitely meet the needs of marriage equality, when redrawn based on the social struggle of homosexuals? How can an institution name, and protect, the rights and responsibilities of the man, woman and child they potentially create together -- something that can only happen when their relationship is kept in-tact and in mutual support of each other -- if we legislatively take our eye off the ball and start worrying about some adult concern entirely?

As one author noted about drawing family lines along the adult-centered needs of orientation, it takes the adults and casts them as needy victims, and casts children as the strong and resilient.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704324304575306851423563346.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion

Op Ed

“...I did not see your answer, however.”

The reason you didn't see an answer is that you did not ask a question in your comment of June 22.

"I didn't see any comments here that would lead me to make the assumptions you did. Perhaps you could provide a direct quote"

I cannot provide a quote. This is simply my impression of the responses as a whole. I used the phrase "my interpretation" in my comment, but impression is probably a better word.

"that sounds more like repeatability than reliability."

Reliability is repeatability. Validity means that the instrument actually measures what it is supposed to measure. In research you want to use tools that are both valid and reliable.

"You misstate my comment. The "cumulative data" from responsible research all points in the direction of children being raised by their natural parents in a low conflict relationship."

I apologize if I misstated your comment. However, I think you are being disingenuous when you state that "the cumulative data from responsible research all points in the direction of children being raised ..." According to you and others there are no responsible studies regarding children raised in homosexual families. (I have little doubt there are few well-done studies in this area.) Since this blog post began discussing the Gartrell study who’s general purpose was to compare children raised in homosexual families to those raised in heterosexual families, then the cumulative data must speak to that point. We apparently have “responsible research” regarding children raised in heterosexual families, but none in homosexual families. Therefore we do not have any “cumulative data” regarding this question at all.

“Earlier you acknowledged they were "findings," not data.”

Data is information. (Gartrell provide the data in the paper) The author’s “findings” or conclusions are their interpretation of the data. (This is also in the paper) So I don’t fully understand you point here.

“Beyond simply calling their opinion piece a "study,"…”

Did you know that there is an actual definition of what constitutes “research”? According to 45 CFR46 Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. I believe the Gartrell paper meets this definition in every sense. Therefore, putting the word study in quotes and calling it an opinion piece betrays your bias

Brian: The reason you didn't see an answer is ...

... is because you didn't provide one. You still haven't.

We apparently have “responsible research” regarding children raised in heterosexual families, but none in homosexual families. Therefore we do not have any “cumulative data” regarding this question at all.

We also don't have any "responsible research" about children being raised by wolves. That doesn't mean wolves are likely to fair better than other non-biological parents when compared against a child's biological parents. While it may technically be possible that such a study may come out in the future, the fact is it hasn't yet, there is good reason to believe it won't, and that does not preclude us from drawing conclusions based on the existing research.

So I don’t fully understand you point here.

I'll use smaller words:

You said "these are not claims - these are data." But earlier you admitted that the authors extrapolated "findings" (i.e., claims) from their "data." Even here you admit "findings" are not mere "data." Let me know if you are still having trouble seeing the contradiction.

According to 45 CFR46 Research means...

A scientist would not have had to look to politicians to know what research was. Political definitions are more the stuff of political activists. A political activist would also only selectively quote CFR 46.102(d) and leave off the part where it says this definition applies "for purposes of this [protection of human subjects] policy" only and that other activities may by "considered research for other purposes."

Even granting your politicized definition of research, the Gartrell paper would not qualify. Gartrell's "research" is intended to promote a position rather than to "develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge." It is more the quality of "research" that tells us what peanut butter choosy moms choose, what gum 4 out of 5 dentists recommend, and the percentage you could save if you spent 15 minutes on your car insurance.

Therefore, putting the word study in quotes and calling it an opinion piece betrays your bias [sic]

No, it shows my findings. My bias would be more like announcing I had some overall "impression" but then couldn't provide any data to back up that "impression." That would be the veritable definition of a bias.

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