The problem with Louisa Wall’s study on gay parenting

On TVNZ’s Q&A last Sunday (10 March) Labour MP Louisa Wall said (referring to gay adoption):

In the latest research from the UK, from the University of Cambridge, said that that’s not right, that the most important thing is for children to be brought up in loving families, and it’s about how they function. It’s got nothing to do with the gender of the parents.

What research was she referring to?

It was covered in The Independent (UK) and the website advertising it.

HERE’S THE PROBLEM – actually a number of them:

–This is not a peer-reviewed study published in an academic journal. It is a publication of a non-profit group that appears to engage in advocacy.

–Two of the authors, Fiona Tasker and Susan Golombok, are well-known, long-time researchers on (and advocates for) homosexual parenting. They are certainly not unbiased

–The sample size was 130 families in total, including gay male, lesbian, and heterosexual (no indication how many of each). This is a fairly small sample. The Mark Regnerus’ study screened over 15,000 people, obtained a sample of and surveyed nearly 3,000, including 274 with parents who had had a homosexual relationship.

–The study apparently focused ONLY on ADOPTIVE couples, whether gay or straight. Thus it did not dare a comparison with parents raised by their own BIOLOGICAL parents.

–The families surveyed had children between the ages of 4 and 8. This is very young–certainly too young for any long-term harms to be apparent.

–Although the news report did not make it clear, given the age of the children it would appear that the data was probably collected by interviewing the parents. Thus there is a serious risk of self-presentation bias–parents simply saying, “My child is doing fine!” This is not an objective outcome measure.

–The abstract says, “These findings contribute to the small amount of existing research suggesting that  adoptive gay and lesbian families provide highly positive parenting environments for children.” The admitted fact that there is only a “small amount of existing research” of this nature means that we should not draw any firm conclusions from it.

Here’s what to do with the study, Craig

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