[Paleopsych] NYT: Experts Dispute Bush on Gay-Adoption Issue
checker at panix.com
Sat Jan 29 16:31:15 UTC 2005
Experts Dispute Bush on Gay-Adoption Issue
January 29, 2005
By BENEDICT CAREY
Are children worse off being raised by gay or lesbian couples than by
Responding on Thursday to a question about gay adoption, President
Bush suggested that they were.
"Studies have shown," Mr. Bush said in an interview with The New York
Times, "that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family
with a man and a woman."
But experts say there is no scientific evidence that children raised
by gay couples do any worse - socially, academically or emotionally -
than their peers raised in more traditional households.
The experts, who cross the political spectrum, say studies have shown
that on average, children raised by two married heterosexual parents
fare better on a number of measures, including school performance,
than those raised by single parents or by parents who are living
together but are unmarried.
But, said Dr. Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at New York
University, "there is not a single legitimate scholar out there who
argues that growing up with gay parents is somehow bad for children."
Dr. Stacey, who published a critical review of studies on the subject
in 2001 and has argued in favor of allowing adoption by gays, added,
"The debate among scientists is all about how good the studies we have
Since 1980, researchers have published about 25 studies comparing
children from same-sex households with peers in traditional families,
using measures of social adjustment, school performance, mental health
and emotional resilience. Some of the studies have focused on
elementary-school children, others on those not quite teenagers, a few
on adolescents; a handful have followed children for years. Uniformly,
the authors have reported that there are no significant developmental
differences between the two groups of children.
Yet the field is still highly controversial, in part because the
research on gay households with children has so far tended to be
small; usually no more than a couple of dozen families have been
"You can't force families to participate, and there aren't that many
of them out there to start with," said Dr. J. Michael Bailey, a
professor of psychology at Northwestern University who has studied gay
men raising boys.
"There is also a strong volunteer bias: the families who want to
participate might be much more open about sexual orientation" and
eager to report positive outcomes, Dr. Bailey said.
Critics of the studies have more often charged that it is the
researchers who are biased, failing to probe aggressively enough to
"In many of these studies, they simply aren't asking hard questions,"
said Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University who has
agued against adoption by gay couples.
The researchers, Professor Wardle said, ask the families about the
children's self-esteem, "about whether they have friends - soft and
fuzzy questions - but not about sexual behavior, sexually transmitted
disease and drug use."
Dr. Stacey said one small survey of people raised in lesbian
households, published in the late 1990's, did pointedly address sexual
development and identity. In it, she said, two English researchers
reported that of 30 young adults raised by lesbian parents, 6 had had
a gay sexual relationship by the time they reached their 20's.
She added that other small studies had also suggested that children
raised in same-sex families might be more open in their attitudes
toward gay relationships, if not gay themselves.
"To me, it is plausible that their attitudes toward homosexuality
would be more open, but here again the studies are not large enough to
say anything for certain," she said, adding that a vast majority of
these children grow up to be heterosexual.
A more reliable finding, Dr. Stacey said, is that children in same-sex
families tend to be more communicative with their parents.
One undisputed reality for children raised by gay parents is that they
tend to face teasing, discrimination and bullying in the schoolyard
because of who their parents are. That many of these children can
navigate such nastiness, on top of the usual social and emotional
squalls of growing up, and still be found as well adjusted as their
peers on standard psychological tests is remarkable in itself, some
As the political debate over same-sex parents becomes more
contentious, the quality of the research appears to be getting better,
some social scientists say. Last month psychologists at the University
of Virginia and the University of Arizona published a study of 44
adolescents from all over the country being raised in female same-sex
The families, with a variety of income levels, were drawn from a huge,
continuing national family survey. The survey was random, and
therefore unaffected by the sort of volunteer bias created when, say,
families with good stories to tell respond to advertisements placed by
investigators. In addition, the interviews were conducted by a team of
government researchers who were interested in a wide array of social
and demographic factors, all but eliminating the researcher bias that
some critics point to. The survey's results, published in the journal
Child Development, confirmed some previous findings: the 44 girls and
boys were typical American teenagers, the researchers found, no more
confused or moody than a comparison group of 44 peers from similar but
"They even reported being more involved at school, in clubs,
after-school activities, things like that," said the report's senior
author, Dr. Charlotte Patterson, a professor of psychology at the
University of Virginia. "I have no idea what that means, but we sure
didn't expect it."
More information about the paleopsych