New Research on Children with Same-Sex Parents

New social science research on the effects of same-gender parenting on children is coming to light. D. Paul Sullins, researcher and professor at the Department of Sociology at Catholic University in Washington D.C. has recently published some important literature on children with same-sex parents.

In his work "Emotional Problems among Children with Same-sex Parents: Difference by Definition," published by the British Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, February 2015 (Forthcoming), which is available at SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2500537 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2500537, Sullin’s research points out that children with same-sex parents in the United States suffer twice as many emotional problems as do children with opposite-sex parents, and four times the emotional problems of children raised by their own joint biological parents.  Since no same-sex partners can be joint biological parents, such families cannot, by definition, achieve the aggregate level of child benefit that is the case in (non-adoptive) opposite-sex intact marriages.

This empirical study was designed to test whether small non-random sample findings that children with same-sex parents suffer no disadvantage in emotional well-being can be replicated in a large population sample; and examine the correlates of any differences discovered.  Using a representative sample of 207,007 children, including 512 with same-sex parents, from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, prevalence in the two groups was compared for twelve measures of emotional problems, developmental problems, and affiliated service and treatment usage, with controls for age, sex, and race of child and parent education and income. Instruments included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Kessler Scale of Psychological Distress (SPD). Bivariate logistic regression models tested the effect of parent psychological distress, family instability, child peer stigmatization and biological parentage, both overall and by opposite-sex family structure. The results revealed that emotional problems were over twice as prevalent (minimum risk ratio (RR) 2.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.7-3.0) for children with same-sex parents than for children with opposite-sex parents.  Risk was elevated in the presence of parent psychological distress (RR 2.7, CI 1.8-4.3, p (t) < .001), moderated by family instability (RR 1.3, CI 1.2-1.4) and unaffected by stigmatization (RR 2.4, CI 1.4-4.2), though these all had significant direct effects on emotional problems.  However, biological parentage nullified risk alone and in combination with any iteration of factors.  Joint biological parents are associated with the lowest rate of child emotional problems by a factor of 4 relative to same-sex parents, accounting for the bulk of the overall same-sex/opposite-sex difference.  The study concluded that joint biological parentage, the modal condition for opposite-sex parents but not possible for same-sex parents, sharply differentiates between the two groups on child emotional problem outcomes.  The two groups are different by definition.  Intact opposite-sex marriage ensures children of the persistent presence of their joint biological parents; same-sex marriage ensures the opposite.  However, further work is needed to determine the mechanisms involved.

In another study entitled, “Child Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Same-sex Parent Families in the United States: Prevalence and Comorbidities,” to be published by the British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research 6(10):987-998, January 2015, available at http://www.sciencedomain.org/abstract.php?, Sullin’s research found that ADHD is twice as prevalent among children with same-sex parents than in the general population.  That empirical study presents the first population data on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children raised by same-sex parents with the aims 1) to test whether residence with same-sex parents is associated with higher ADHD prevalence, and 2) to observe and assess any clinically significant aggravators or comorbidities.  The study looked at aggregate data for 1997-2013 from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey
yielded a representative sample of children from 207,007 households, including 512 with same-sex parents, permitting inferential comparisons.  The results revealed that ADHD was more than twice (OR 2.4, 95% CL 1.6-3.4) as prevalent among children with same-sex parents than in the general population, after controlling for age, sex, ethnicity and parent SES. Comorbidities with general emotional problems and defiance behavior were standard. ADHD risk with same-sex parents was reduced among adopted children (OR 0.54 95% CL .27-1.1 ), null in the presence of parent psychological distress, and substantially elevated in the presence of stigmatization (OR 7.3 95% CL 1.4-38.1). In same-sex families, children with ADHD were over seven times (OR 7.5 95% CL 1.2-46.8) more likely to suffer stigmatization due to impaired interpersonal coping skills.
Conclusion: Diagnostic intake for ADHD should include parent sexual orientation, and treatment
programs should include resources to bolster anti-victimization skills, particularly for children with
same-sex parents. Results suggest the presence of shared genetic factors for same-sex attraction and ADHD, though more research is needed to confirm.

In a third study, “Bias in Recruited Sample Research on Children with Same-sex Parents Using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ),” published by the Journal of Scientific Research and Reports 5(5): 375-387, January 2015, available at http://www.sciencedomain.org/abstract.php?iid=751&id=22&aid=7750, Sullins found that sample bias in studies of same-sex parenting is large and pervasive.  There were no results based on random population samples--but four-fifths of results from studies using non-random recruited samples--have been favorable to children with same-sex parents.  The objective of that study was t
o test for the presence of bias on use of a common psychometric instrument, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), in studies of children with same-sex parents using a recruited convenience sample.  The design of the study used non-parametric quasi-experimental two-group comparison, working with results from five qualifying studies, two with random samples and three with recruited samples, were compared with normative population data, assessing the percent of comparisons favorable or unfavorable to children with same-sex parents for six subscale measures.

This study revealed that in the recruited samples 79.3 % (range: 75-83) of comparisons were favorable to children with same-sex parents, compared with no favorable comparisons (0%, range 0-0) in the random samples. Two additional random samples with related measures were also adduced, also with no favorable comparisons (0%, range 0-0).  What this means is that the evidence suggests a strong bias resulting in false positive outcomes for parent-reported SDQ in recruited samples of same-sex parents.

Each of these three studies are ground-breaking in a very controversial field of study.  Children need parents, both a mother and a father. Indeed, Rethinking Mom and Dad (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2462112 )  is a most significant aspect of family restoration.

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