Katy Faust, an American blogger who has become a spokeswoman for traditional marriage, appeared on the Australian program Q&A last week. Her views are particularly interesting as she is the daughter of a lesbian couple. Facing a largely hostile audience and partial questioning from the moderator, she still held her own when she was interrogated about the benefits of marriage between a man and a woman.

Afterwards The Conversation, a website funded by the government and Australian universities, looked into the conflicting claims made in the Q&A episode. The FactCheck editor, Sunanda Creagh, asked Simon Crouch, of the University of Melbourne, and Jennifer Power, of  La Trobe University, to fact-check her assertions.

The two experts concluded that Faust was wrong: “the overwhelming body of scientific research suggests that children develop well when growing up with same-sex attracted parents”.

Dr Paul Sullins, an American sociologist, decided to fact-check the fact-checkers. Here is a letter that he wrote to Sunanda Creagh.

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Dear Ms Creagh,

Some folk from Australia have pointed me to your alleged “fact check” response to Katy Faust’s claims. It is highly questionable for several reasons. 

Dr Crouch, the author of the “fact check”, is starkly partisan on this issue.  He is the author of one of the studies which Faust and my follow-up criticize for its poor sample; his “reviewer” is one of the co-authors of that study; he has published editorials before in favor of marriage equality; and he teaches at University of Melbourne, with which your site has a financial relationship. 

Could you be biased, perhaps inadvertently, and be presenting only one side of this admittedly controversial issue?

The odd thing is that, although Dr Crouch acknowledges the criticism of his study, you don’t publish the summary of the criticism of his study that we sent you. 

Further, many of Dr. Crouch’s claims are simply wrong, and effectively rebutted by the evidence contained in my former email to you, copied below.  You have published his points, but not mine (although you did put links to many of the sources I cited at the bottom of Katy’s response). 

This results in a highly uninformed discourse.  For example, you have published Crouch’s denial that the UN Convention references a child’s right to his/her parents; but you have not published our citations, shown below, of the articles on which we base that claim.  Why, in a so-called “fact check”, would you not want to show the facts from both sides?

Perhaps you will agree that to present just one side of a conflicted question, from a partisan source, and call it “fact”, is not an altogether fair way to promote full and informed discourse.  May I respectfully request that you publish the responses (to your very good questions) below in full or substance, as editing makes possible, so that your readers can have the opportunity to learn both sides of the question and decide for themselves?

Thank you for your consideration,

D. Paul Sullins   
Research Professor of Sociology   
The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC

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Question: Where in the UN Convention on the rights of the child does it say that children have a right to a mother and a father?

Articles 7, 9, and 18, as highlighted in boldface below:

Article 7

1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and. as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

Article 9

1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child’s place of residence.

2. In any proceedings pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present article, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings and make their views known.

3. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.

Article 18

1. States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child.

What studies show that non-biological parents from same-sex parented families are more transitory, invest less time and energy and resources into kids and be more dangerous to kids? We would like to link to them in the article.

Sullins, Donald Paul, “Emotional Problems among Children with Same-Sex Parents: Difference by Definition” (January 25, 2015). British Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science 7(2):99-120, 2015.

Finds emotional and developmental problems to be twice as prevalence with same-sex parents.  The graph below is taken “adjusted findings” from Table 3, p. 11.

Sullins, Donald Paul, “The Unexpected Harm of Same-Sex Marriage: A Critical Appraisal, Replication and Re-Analysis of Wainright and Patterson’s Studies of Adolescents with Same-Sex Parents” (August 2015).

See Table 4, showing higher depression, anxiety, fearfulness, and rates of parental sex abuse with same-sex parents compared to opposite-sex ones, on the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health.  Duration of family arrangement (the time the child has been with this particular set of parents) is 10 years with unmarried opposite-sex parents, only 4 years with unmarried same-sex parents. 

Schumm, W. 2010. “Comparative Relationship Stability of Lesbian Mother and Heterosexual Mother Families: A Review of Evidence,”  Marriage and Family Review 46: 499-509

Schumm concludes: “A careful review of the literature suggests that … , on average, [lesbian] relationships tend to be less stable than those of married heterosexual parents.

There are a number of other studies that document the shorter duration or higher transience of homosexual relationships.  Rather than list them all, I am going to refer you to a 2003 review of them by the Washington Times, a conservative US newspaper.

Finneran and Stephenson (2012) conducted a systematic review of 28 studies examining interpersonal violence among men who have sex with men. The authors concluded that, “The emergent evidence reviewed here demonstrates that IPV – psychological, physical, and sexual – occurs in male-male partnerships at alarming rates” (p. 180). (Finneran, C., Stephenson, R. 2012. “Intimate Partner Violence Among Men Who Have Sex With Men: A Systematic Review,” Trauma, Violence and Abuse, 14: 168-185.) IPV is highly correlated with child abuse and fosters an unhealthy home environment for children.

Can you tell me which studies of same-sex parented kids do not use random samples? Can you tell me which studies of same sex parented kids derive their participants through recruited and volunteer studies?

It’s much easier to tell you which studies have used a random sample. 

Two reviews of the literature, one sympathetic and one critical of the idea that gay parenting is innocuous, agree that only four studies in the entire field have used a random sample of non-recruited participants.  The two reviews are found in Rosenfeld MJ. “Nontraditional Families and Childhood Progress through School”. Demography. 2010;47(3):755–75 and Allen D. “High school graduation rates among children of same-sex households”. Review of Economics of the Household. 2013;11(4):635–58.

The four studies that actually use a non-recruited random sample are Rosenfeld’s study already cited, plus three by Wainright and Patterson that all use the same sample: 

Wainright JL, Russell ST, Patterson CJ. “Psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships of adolescents with same-sex parents”. Child Dev. 2004;75(6):1886-98.

Wainright JL, Patterson CJ. “Delinquency, victimization, and substance use among adolescents with female same-sex parents”. J Fam Psychol. 2006;20(3): 526–30.

Wainright JL, Patterson CJ. “Peer relations among adolescents with female same-sex parents”. Dev Psychol. 2008;44(1):117.

The sample of these three studies is what the “Unexpected Harm” article (above) rebuts.  The 44 “lesbian mothers” of the sample actually include 26 pairs of male-female heterosexual parents, due to a specification error.

The study below compares recruited convenience with truly random samples of same-sex parents on a standard measure of child emotional problems, finding large bias in the former.  Eighty percent of recruited, non-random samples show favorable outcomes for same-sex parents, compared to zero percent of random samples, even by homophile researchers.  It may be especially of interest because it engages in an extensive critique of what is probably the best convenience sample yet gathered, the ACHESS study in Australia, showing that it is nonetheless highly biased.

Sullins, Donald Paul, “Bias in Recruited Sample Research on Children with Same-Sex Parents Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)” (January 10, 2015). Journal of Scientific Research & Reports 5(5): 375-387, 2015.

The conclusion agrees with the position of the Australian National GLBTI Health Alliance on the research question involved.  Here it is:

Scientific inference eventually becomes self-refuting as its bias becomes more generally known, and may actually hinder the development of more enlightened health and social policy regarding children in same-sex families. This point is made best, perhaps, by the Australian National GLBTI Health Alliance, a coalition of groups devoted to the health of the same-sex population that has already been mentioned above. This national organization complains:

“An understanding as to whether LGBTI Australians are disproportionately affected by specific health issues can only at present be deduced from individual, often small, research studies which do not cover the population as a whole” —such as the ACHESS study and other small recruited sample studies. As a corrective, the National GLBTI Health Alliance calls for the collection of comprehensive, large-scale random-sample data by means such as “[t]he inclusion of questions on  sexual identity and gender identity in the Census, the National Health Survey and other official statistics data collection” as well as government-funded grant research and funding for a large sample national study of same-sex Australians.

Like the present study, the Australian National GLBTI Health Alliance advocates representative (random-sample) population data which “would provide irrefutable evidence about whether or not sexuality is itself a social determinant of health”. In so doing, they recognize that small studies with biased samples, which may tend for political purposes to understate health problems among same-sex persons, are not the best means to serve the genuine health needs of this population. Researchers as well as all parents, both OS and SS, should be able to agree that the goal of public health investigation in this area should be accurate, unbiased information that will best serve the health and welfare of all children involved.

On Katy’s claim that children are found to do much better with biological parents, there are many sources that could be cited.  Here are a few.

The graph below is from the report to the US Congress from the National Incidence Study (Number 4) in 2010, a periodic surveillance of child physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  It is very clear that the rates of abuse are far lower with “married biological parents” (the only category where both parents are the child’s biological parents) than any other category.  The full report is at  https://www.nis4.org/index.htm

Below are similar findings from the US Centers for Disease Control, study titled “Family Structure and Children’s Health” based on the National Health Interview Survey.

Here are two classic statements (from dozens of options) of the repeated finding that two biological parents are best for children:

“First, research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes than do children in intact families headed by two biological parents.”

Kristin Anderson Moore, Susan M. Jekielek and Carol Emig, “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children, and What Can We Do about It?”, Child Trends Research Brief, June 2002.

“Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents” regardless of the parents’ race, education and marital status, including remarriage.

McLanahan, Sara, and Gary D. Sandefur. 1994. Growing up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Harvard University Press. Page 1. 

Fr. Paul Sullins (M.Div.; Ph.D. Catholic University 1998), a tenured Associate Professor, has written over 100 journal articles and research reports on issues of faith and culture, including analyses of...