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What About That Australian Study About Same-Sex Parenting?

jsc-redbgThe latest “research” about same-sex parenting was published in Australia to considerable fanfare because it “found” that children’s well-being with homosexual parents was as good or better than with heterosexual parents. Any problems faced by the children were attributed to the “stigma” associated with homosexual parenting. The lead author, Simon Crouch, claimed in the Conversation, “It is liberating for parents to take on roles that suit their skills rather than defaulting to gender stereotypes, where mum is the primary caregiver and dad the primary breadwinner. Our research suggests that abandoning such gender stereotypes might be beneficial to child health.”

Homosexual activists have been jubilant and have engaged in a public relations campaign, conveniently blurring the lines between fact and fiction. For instance, the activists imply that children actually participated when, in fact, the parents answered for the children and the children had no involvement in the responses. Further, any stigma reported was perceived by the parents as well. Is anyone surprised that the homosexual parents reported that their children are happier and healthier than children in heterosexual families?

Then, there are the questions about the study’s methodology. The authors advertised in homosexual publications and on websites to get participants; it was not a random sample. The study participants knew before going into the study that its purpose was to make homosexual parenting look successful. All of these factors made it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately assess the study’s findings.

Ironically and in contradiction of his own research, in 2012 Crouch was promoting same-sex parenting by quoting “longitudinal research from the United Kingdom” that supposedly shows that children with lesbian mothers have “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families; he also suggested that studies from the United States showed that children with lesbian mothers “were more connected at school.” The contradictions continued in his 2014 study when Crouch emphasized concerns “about the impact that stigma and discrimination could potentially have… in countries where there’s a lot of perceived stigma — most notably, the United States.” He went on to assert, “Children face definite challenges coping with homophobic attitudes.” (Yet, he claims, they suffer no ill effects!)

Boston University Professor of Pediatrics Benjamin Siegel also claims that the gender and “sexual orientation” of parents is irrelevant to children’s well-being, saying that “many studies have demonstrated” that children are much more affected by the “relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.” Such statements raise the question: If homosexual parents in the Crouch study perceive a lot of stigma, how can their children have higher outcomes in some categories than children from heterosexual families? If the parents feel an overwhelming sense of stigma, and if they believe other people and the culture are stigmatizing their children, how can they report such a strong sense of security in their children?

The Crouch study, “The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families” (University of Melbourne), is “a convenience sample of 390 parents from Australia who self-identified as same-sex attracted and had children aged 0-17 years. Parent-reported, multidimensional measures of child health and wellbeing and the relationship to perceived stigma were measured.” The self-identified volunteers for the study — some 315 parents — represented 500 children, 80 percent of them with female index parent and 18 percent with a male index parent. Crouch compared his study subjects to those in the Victorian Child Health and Wellbeing Survey (VCHWS) of 5,025 randomly selected Victorian children under the age of 13 (again by parent interviews), as well as to those in another study — the Health of Young Victorians Study (HOYVS), a “school-based epidemiological study of the health and wellbeing of children aged 5-18 years” of “5,414 children.”

Crouch declared, “Children in same-sex parent families had higher scores on measures of general behavior, general health and family cohesion compared to population normative data.” In addition, he found, “no significant differences between the two groups for all other scale scores. Physical activity, mental health, and family cohesion were all negatively associated with increased stigma and the presence of emotional symptoms was positively associated with increased stigma.”

In his discussion of the findings, Crouch notes (without providing evidence) that same-sex parents “construct their parenting roles more equitably than heterosexual parents.” He admits that convenience samples “are fraught with problems” (though his fans get livid at the suggestion that there might be problems associated with the study) and notes that the parents’ level of education is skewed to higher education — 73 percent have at least an undergraduate degree, with nearly half (46 percent) holding graduate degrees. Income level, too, is skewed, with 81 percent earning at least $60,000 and more than a quarter earning more than $100,000, nearly 20 percent earning $150,000 to $249,999, and 14 percent earning $250,000 plus. The author notes the significance of the differences in education and income; both he and others note that having more lesbian index parents and a shortage of male ones also significantly skews the data.

Another troubling aspect of the study is the moral dimension. The male index parents almost certainly engage in buying children. In Australia, commercial surrogacy is illegal and altruistic surrogacy is not common; therefore, the children of male index parents (born primarily in the United States and India) likely were purchased.

It is significant to note that the author admits (even though his fans angrily attack critics who make similar observations), “The self-selection of our convenience sample has the potential to introduce bias that could distort results.” Amazingly, Crouch also caveats his final conclusion; he summarized, “It is clear that there are aspects at play in our sample of same-sex families that allow improved outcomes in general behavior, general health, and in particular family cohesion.” Crouch admits that while “there is no evidence to suggest that any group of parents would systematically respond in a particular way on any given scale,” such a conclusion “cannot be discounted entirely.” He recommends that further research be based on reports from the children, “as well as contextual analysis of qualitative data drawn from family interviews” with a goal of eliminating “any bias that parental reporting might have.” Crouch concludes his study by expressing appreciation for a father in Gay Dads of Australia for his “guidance on community engagement” during the study.

The author’s own words provide ample reason to question the study’s findings — notwithstanding the over-the-top promotion and defense of the study by the homosexual activists in the United States.

This article was originally published on The American Spectator.

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