The news: A major study conducted by University of Melbourne researchers has concluded that same-sex parents actually raise children slightly better than straight couples.
The new research is a major blow to social conservatives who argue that gay and lesbian couples will raise gender-confused, worse-off children and blows the lid off the argument that every child "deserves" a father and a mother.
The study: The research team surveyed 315 same-sex parents and 300 children, the largest such study on non-heterosexual parenting ever conducted. Multidimensional measures of child health and well being were performed, with the children of gay couples scoring about 6% higher than kids in the general population on measures of health and family cohesion. The results line up with previous international research taken on smaller sample sizes.
"That's really a measure that looks at how well families get along, and it seems that same-sex-parent families and the children in them are getting along well, and this has positive impacts on child health," lead researcher Simon Crouch told ABC. He elaborated that the study found same-sex parents "take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes," and the result is a "more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well being."
The team noted that stigmatization of LGBT parents still plays a role and is associated with worse mental health scores. Crouch says these effects range from bullying in the playground to "negative rhetoric spoken about same-sex parent families and this has a negative impact on child health in this context." In other words, the main challenge same-sex parents and their children face is actually bigotry.
The "counterpoints." This research probably won't faze social conservatives, who point to their own research to justify their support of traditional marriage. The state of Utah, for example, cited a study funded by a conservative religious think tank that purportedly showed the opposite outcome of this larger study.
The archconservative Family Research Council claims studies by researchers Mark Regnerus and Loren Marks show there is legitimate "concern about the consequences of 'homosexual parenting'" (scare quotes theirs). But ThinkProgress notes that Regnerus didn't study gay marriages, but instead "'failed heterosexual unions' where one parent had a 'romantic relationship with someone of the same sex'" in the 1970s-'90s, long before marriage rights were available to gay couples. The American Sociological Association says the study cannot be interpreted as leading to credible conclusions about gay parents. What's more, Regnerus himself often writes from the perspective of Christian sexual morality.
In response to the latest study, a Family Voice Australia spokeswoman said the research didn't track the children into adulthood and further implied that the results couldn't be taken seriously because Crouch himself is gay. Not the best argument.