SBC Life Articles

Examining the Research on Homosexual Parenting

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced on Feb. 4, 2002, "a growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two gay or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual."1 Based on this, the AAP states it supports "legislative and legal efforts" to allow homosexuals to adopt their partner's children.2

Many in the media have used this statement from the respected AAP as a discussion-closer on whether heterosexual parenting is good or bad. The AAP says the gender of parents doesn't matter, so the media figure it must not really matter, either. The members of the AAP know better. An e-mail memo to select members of the Academy laments:

"the AAP has received more messages — almost all of them CRITICAL — from members about the recent Policy Statement on coparent adoption than it has EVER received on any other topic … . This is a serious problem, as it means that it will become harder to continue the work we have been doing to use the AAP as a vehicle for positive change."3

Pediatricians are responding so strongly against the Academy's statement because they know what the research says and what is best for children. Neither supports homosexual adoption.

The Research on Homosexual Parenting

Contrary to what the AAP claims, the research comparing outcomes from homosexual parenting and heterosexual parenting are notoriously inconclusive. There is a larger body of scientific literature showing children need a mother and father for proper socialization.

Consider the following:

• Drs. Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, professionals in the field of quantitative analysis, conducted a study for the Marriage Law Project looking at forty-nine empirical studies on same-sex parenting. The title of their study, "No Basis," is their conclusion, for they find no basis for the conclusion that children raised by homosexual parents look just like those raised by heterosexual parents. Why? As Lerner and Nagai explain, "The studies on which such claims are based are all gravely deficient." They found at least one fatal research flaw in each of the studies examined. The primary problem they found was the use of very small and unrepresentative study samples, with missing or inadequate comparison groups. In addition, most of the research subjects volunteered for the studies and some participants were allowed to recruit other participants. Each of the authors of these studies, with one exception, wish to influence public policy in support of homosexual families. Lerner and Nagai conclude, "For these reasons, the studies are no basis for good science or good public policy."4

• Steven Nock, professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, has also reviewed the full body of literature and arrives at the same conclusion. When asked what we can conclude from the current literature, Nock cautioned, "I don't think we can draw any conclusions in either direction. These studies, because of sample and methodological problems, just don't give us enough information to make any pronouncements. The literature is inconclusive."5 Nock says the only conclusion we can draw is that better research is desperately needed.

• Another recent study in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, analyzing the current research on homosexual parenting, finds "a persistent limitation of these studies, however, is that most rely on small samples of White, middle-class, previously married lesbians and their children. As a result, we cannot be confident concerning the generalizability of many of the findings … ."6

The American Sociological Review explains it is currently "impossible to fully distinguish the impact of parent's sexual orientation on a child" because most homosexual child-rearing homes didn't start out fresh from birth, but are clouded by the dynamics of divorce, re-mating, and step-parenting issues that are problematic in themselves and separate from issues related to gender of the parents. While the authors of this study are sympathetic with homosexual parenting, they "disagree with those who claim that there are no differences between the children of heterosexual parents and children of lesbigay parents … ."7 They indicate that problems of gender identity and sexuality might be greater for children raised by homosexual parents than any of the studies recognize.8

• Specifically, the American Sociological Review study reports 64 percent of young adults raised by lesbian mothers reported considering having same-sex relationships. Only 17 percent of young adults in heterosexual families reported the same thing.9

• The Academy even admits in its own report that "the small and non-representative samples studied and the relatively young age of children suggest some reserve." But they ignore their own caution and state that everything works out great for children raised by homosexual parents.

Why Children Need a Mother and a Father

There is an absolute mountain of social science research showing that children who are raised with their married mother and father do far better in every measure of well-being than children who grow up in any other family situation.10 Rarely is the social science literature as conclusive as it is on this point.



1 Ellen C. Perrin, MD, "Technical Report: Coparent and Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents," Pediatrics, Vol. 109 No. 2, (2002) p. 341.
2 "Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents," Pediatrics, Vol. 109, No. 2, (2002) p. 339.
3 Email memo from Ellen Perrin, MD, dated February 15, 2002.
4 Robert Lerner, Ph.D., Althea Nagai, Ph.D. No Basis: What the Studies Don't Tell Us About Same Sex Parenting, Washington DC; Marriage Law Project/Ethics and Public Policy Center, 2001.
5 Phone interview with Dr. Steven Nock, February 1, 2002.
6 David Demo and Martha Cox, "Families with Young Children: A Review of Research in the 1990s," Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62 (2000), p. 889.
7 Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz, "(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" American Sociological Review, 66 (2001) 159-183.
8 Stacey and Biblarz, 2001, p. 167.
9 Stacey and Biblarz, 2001, p. 170.
10 Glenn T. Stanton, Why Marriage Matters: Reason to Believe in Marriage in Postmodern Society, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997); David Popenoe, Life Without Father, (New York; The Free Press, 1996); Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Helps, What Hurts, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

"Examining the Research in Homosexual Parenting" by Glenn Stanton, as seen on www.family.org. (c) 2002 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

    About the Author

  • Glenn T. Stanton