Sociologist Faces Backlash for Unfavorable Study on Kids With Gay Parents

A professor of sociology has come under intense attack after releasing a study that is damaging to gay-parents-headed households.

Mark Regnerus, an associate professor at the University of Texas, led the study, "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the new family structures study," which was published in the professional journal Social Science Research last month. The study immediately became a lightning rod for controversy with its finding that children of gay parents were worse off financially, mentally, and relationship-wise than those with married heterosexual biological parents.

A random sample of 15,000 Americans aged 18-39 – an enormous amount of raw data – were used in the study. By comparison, similar studies usually use a non-random and much smaller sample because of the difficulty in finding children of gay parents.

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"[T]he scholarly community has often been treated to small, nonrandom 'convenience' studies of mostly white, well-educated lesbian parents, including plenty of data-collection efforts in which participants knew that they were contributing to important studies with potentially substantial political consequences," writes Regnerus in an article for the Slate. "This is hardly an optimal environment for collecting unbiased data."

Results from the study called into question the popular notion that there are "no difference" between the children of married, biological heterosexual parents and same-sex parents. Children of same sex parents were more likely 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, reported more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things," writes Regnerus in the Slate.

But opponents called the study bias for not having enough data on children whose gay parents are still together. In his defense, Regnerus said he tried to find such families but it was difficult to locate them.

Regnerus said that while the data don't explain the findings, he suspects that children raised by same-sex parents fare worse in life because their household is less stable.

The study's conclusion flies in the face of similar studies, which have mostly promoted the idea that there is no big difference between the children raised by gay parents and those cared by married heterosexual parents.

Scott Rosensweig, a freelance writer that writes on LGBT issues for the blog The New Civil Rights Movement, has sent a complaint to UT President Bill Powers alleging scientific misconduct by Regnerus in the study. The writer complained that the study is "designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory," according to The Austin American-Statesman.

Furthermore, Rosensweig highlighted that the study was funded by two conservative groups: the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. UT, as a result of the allegation, is conducting an investigation into the sociology professor's study that will be completed within 60 days from June 21, the date of the complaint.

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