Adults try to give kids every advantage. We try to limit their sugar intake; get them into early childhood education; place them in Suzuki music classes; send them to computer camp; sign them up for sports; and tell them to drink their milk and brush their teeth. We do all this so that our children will be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. It’s a big, and sometimes never-ending, job, but they’re worth it, right?
According to some activists, we could skip all this hard work and focus on an elixir that has enabled young people to excel, according to Time, “on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, [do] better academically and [be] less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.”
What has produced all these benefits? Is it religious faith? A private-school education? A new drug? Actually, the activists say, the answer is growing up in a home where “Heather has two mommies.” And they say they have studies to prove that two lesbian parents are better for kids than having a mom and a dad.
The U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), which was published in 2010 by the journal Pediatrics, tracked 84 lesbian families created via donor insemination to see how the children do as measured by several developmental markers. It has received glowing reports in a mainstream press eager for evidence supporting the development of “alternative families.”
“The NLLFS adolescents,” the study claims, “are well-adjusted, demonstrating more competencies and fewer behavioral problems than their peers in the normative American population.” This means families with moms and dads.
However, the study itself seems to be riddled with problems, according to Glenn Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and author of The Ring Makes All the Difference. “This study is not a sophisticated, dispassionate academic investigation,” Stanton says, “but rather an orchestrated persuasion piece conducted and funded by gay-rights activists.”
Let’s look at each of these charges in turn.
Orchestrated persuasion piece. The study authors claim that it is “the largest, longest running, prospective, longitudinal study of same-sex-parented families.” But Stanton, also author of Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting and Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity, notes that the collection of subjects over its 15-year history is hardly representative. Quoting from the study, Stanton says, “Lesbian couples—all in process of getting or currently pregnant through donor insemination—were collected through ‘informal networking and word of mouth referrals’ but participation was also ‘solicited via announcements at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores, and at lesbian newspapers.’ The couples were recruited—not from representative samples—but from three metropolitan areas: Boston, Washington and San Francisco.” They were 92 percent white, 82 percent upper class, and 67 percent college graduates.
“These are highly motivated lesbian mothers,” Stanton says, “gathered through what researchers call snowball or convenience samples via the political lesbian culture, they are told the nature of the study—allowing each respondent to easily ascertain the social, political and academic importance of the effort—and all interested callers volunteered and were adopted into the study. It begs considering whether these realities have any impact on the fact that the study has maintained a remarkable 93% retention.”
W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Projects notes, “You just cannot draw strong conclusions one way or another from these studies, given their methodological limits.”
Stanton says that the NLLFS not only says that children do better with two mommies than with a mom and a dad—flying in the face of 40 years of research that shows the indispensability of a father’s contributions on a host of social markers—but that those whose parents had split up, which happens at a much higher percentage than among heterosexual couples, did as well as those with two mothers who stayed together.
Bias? What bias? Clearly, the NLLFS is a partisan advocacy piece, not an objective piece of research. What of its researchers and funders?
Conducted and funded by homosexual rights activists. “The investigators of the NLLFS are not scholars in the field of child development,” Stanton points out. “They are not scholars in the field of family formation. Their professional research has been solely in the field of lesbian research. Examine the bibliographies offered in each of their published studies to date. They offer the reader no survey of the vast literature on how various family forms impact child development and well-being in varying degrees. They consult—nearly exclusively—only published studies that examine gay or lesbian issues.”
One of the researchers, he says, “has a long and award-winning history in lesbian-research activism. In 2001, she published Everyday Mutinies: Funding Lesbian Activism, a handbook showing how to grow and fund lesbian activism.”
Regarding funding, Stanton notes, “The study is . . . funded primarily by well-known and highly partisan groups such as The Gill Foundation, the world’s largest and most influential funder of GLBT political and social causes, the Lesbian Health Fund of the Gay Lesbian Medical Association, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, The Arcus Foundation and the Roy Scrivner Fund.”
Getting back to the results in the lives of children, Stanton points out that young people raised in homes with homosexual parents are more likely to be homosexuals later in life and to engage in risky sexual behaviors.
“Another study showed that 64 percent of young adults from lesbian homes ever considered same-sex erotic relationships, while only 17 percent from heterosexual families did,” Stanton says. “The lesbian-parented girls are also remarkably more likely to have used emergency contraception (35 percent vs. 5 percent) indicating a higher prevalence of careless and opportunistic sexual activity.”
Stanton says that young adults raised by lesbian mothers are
• More than twice as likely to have same-sex attraction;
• Twice as likely to identify as gay/lesbian/bisexual;
• Three times as likely to consider same-sex relationships;
• Seven times as likely to have considered same-sex relationships in the past; and
• Six times as likely to have had same-sex relationships.
Aside from the many valid religious and moral objections to so-called same-sex parenting, the much-ballyhooed NLLFS and other studies are fatally flawed. As Stanton says, “A serious public policy topic like [this] is drastically deserving of more careful, less partisan research, especially when it involves the lives of children.”
And they’re worth it, right?
Stan Guthrie is author of All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and coauthor of The Sacrament of Evangelism. He blogs at http://stanguthrie.com.