Monday, June 07, 2010

This Can't Be Happening

A new study out finds that the children of lesbian couples actually turn out better than those raised by heterosexual couples (fun fact: the baby whose picture graces the CNN story is adorable). I'd be interesting in seeing what variables the researchers controlled for (particularly income). Nonetheless, I find hilarious the response of outraged conservatives who can't stand the fact that science doesn't back up their prejudices:
"You have to be a little suspicious of any study that says children being raised by same-sex couples do better or have superior outcomes to children raised with a mother and father," [Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright] said. "It just defies common sense and reality."

"Common sense" is silly enough here, but "reality"? The whole point of a study like this is that it tells us what "reality" is. All Wright is showing is that her beliefs are unfalsifiable. The point isn't to protect children, the point is to protect Wright's ability to maintain her prejudices with as little cognitive dissonance as possible.


chingona said...

If I were just taking a stab in the dark, that's what I would guess for the children of both lesbians and gay men. Gay men and women aren't going to just fall into parenthood. They're not going to have an "oops." So, on average, I'd expect them to be a little more prepared and a little more dedicated, as well as being financially better off in order to afford adoption or the requisite technological assist (though lesbians need less of this than gay men).

PG said...

Aren't these studies supposed to control for things like socioeconomic status and age of parents at the time of the child's birth? Admittedly, "oops" pregnancies inevitably occur even among well educated, well off heteros, but there are probably better average outcomes among heteros who are at the same age and status as lesbians who can afford insemination, than among the hetero population as a whole.

As for the CWA spokeswoman, her reaction is wholly predictable. She hasn't worked out yet that what's important is whether the child has the same 2 parental figures present throughout childhood, not the gender of those parents, and she probably never will figure it out.

chingona said...

Aren't these studies supposed to control for things like socioeconomic status and age of parents at the time of the child's birth?

I'm sure they do, but I think even beyond age and socioeconomic status, there's the way that having kids is seen as the logical next step for a hetero, married couple, and we can go with the flow by continuing to do what we're doing anyway, just without birth control.

If I knew ahead of time that having kids would require doctor's visits, hormone treatments, social worker's visits, etc., not to mention tens of thousands of dollars, there's a decent chance I wouldn't have bothered. It's not just a matter of waiting until you're financially and emotionally ready. Gay couples really do have to want it more.

Matthew said...

I suspect that chingona is on to something, and if so, it's something worth taking note of because it may well be worse news for CWA and other "family values" sorts than just the result that lesbians make good parents. If the trouble with heterosexual couples is that they view child-rearing as a next-step rather than a serious and costly decision, than maybe it makes a little less sense to promote the nuclear family as an institution which everyone should attach tons of moral and social importance to. Not in the sense that it's unimportant, but in that it's not something all (maybe most?) people are really cut out for, and that a healthy percentage of straights would be better off doing what many gays and lesbians do: not having kids and finding other ways to contribute to society.

joe said...

PG, is two really a magic number for parental figures? I mean, it's a societal norm, sure, and it's something the CWA would probably say is essential. But who's to say three or four wouldn't be better? The reason we think of two parents as better than one is that it's more help sharing the burdens of child-rearing, right?

(I'm not trying to get into the "slippery slope to polygamy" debate on SSM, just wondering if there's like a scientific basis for two parents as being "just right.")

N. Friedman said...

Thanks, David, for finding this interesting study. The evidence at hand is one more factual thing to throw at the homophobic bigots.

Assuming the results' validity - which I do, having observed wonderful, well adjusted children raised by married lesbians I know -, I think they raise the issue of the origins of homophobia. Was homophobia ever utilitarian? This study suggests otherwise, unless, of course, having well adjusted kids was not as useful to the ancient world as it is to our world.

In the ancient world, opinions evidently varied about homosexuality. The classical Greeks are believed to have different views than, say, the Jews of that period. I am not sure what to make of that fact other than to note that such variance suggests that homophobia has origins unrelated to utility.

PG said...


More than two people to assist with childrearing is great. It was certainly the situation in my family, where my aunt and grandmother helped to raise my siblings and myself.

But I think that considering how often just two people will disagree on matters like whether to use corporal punishment; whether to move to a different city; where the child should attend school; etc., it's reasonable to cap at two the number of people who can legally hold sway over the child's existence.

Moreover, it's going to be more difficult to maintain the same people over 18 years of life if there's a larger group to consider. My parents were always with me, but my aunt had to move away in accordance with her own husband's and child's needs; my grandmother had obligations to her other grandchildren once they were born. And stability of parental figures has been shown to be important in a child's well-being; a parade of different step-parents, even if the child has two parental figures fairly continuously throughout, is not as good as having the same two people present continuously.