Kids with two moms fare best. Oh snap?

Why does this baby appear so well-adjusted?: Difficult to say.
Why does this baby appear so well-adjusted?: Difficult to say.Courtesy Manda
A recently published, 25-year study suggests that children raised by two lesbian parents may actually be behaviorally and psychologically better adjusted than their peers.

The study tracked mothers from pregnancy or insemination, interviewing them and their children multiple times over their development, until the kids were 17 years old. The kids were asked questions focusing on their psychological adjustment, peer and family relationships, and academic progress. The research found that despite occasionally being stigmatized for their parents’ sexuality, the kids tended to rate higher than the average in “social, academic, and totally competence,” and displayed less problem behavior (rule-breaking, aggression, etc.).

The researchers behind the study propose that the difference may have to do with the fact that lesbian couples often choose to become pregnant later than most people, and, being older, are more mature and better prepared for parenting. Growing up in households with “less power assertion, and more parental involvement” is tied to healthier development, and more mature parents may fit this model better.

The research was funded by a variety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy groups, which some people consider to be evidence against its validity. Wendy Wright, the president of Concerned Women for America, “a group that supports biblical values,” says that the source of the funding “proves the prejudice and the bias of the study.”

Wendy Wright is, of course, wrong. There may or may not be aspects of the study that are biased or invalid, but the source of the funding doesn’t prove that at all. She’s seeing a causal relationship where there is none. Consider the following: JGordon buys a plum. Does this prove that JGordon will be eating a plum? Nope. Plums are frequently acquired for the purpose of being eaten, but there’s nothing about my getting a plum that necessarily means I’m going to eat it. Perhaps I will give it away. Or I might just be adding it to my plum collection.

The mystery of what JGordon does with all his plums, however, has far fewer social implications than a study on what makes for good parenting. So it’s important that we consider what actually “proves” what here.

Mrs. Wright also claims that the outcomes of the study “defy common sense and reality.” Common sense, though, may not be the best standard for judging scientific results. And, as for “reality,” how exactly do we figure that out? Careful observation, I suppose.

The study may still need more scrutiny, but it’s an interesting piece of potential evidence in the discussion of what constitutes a good environment for raising kids.

What do y’all think?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I should add that the study only focused on lesbian parents, and not on homosexual men. According to the article, "gay men becoming fathers is newer in comparison with lesbians," and men, obviously, can't become pregnant, and are limited to adoption or surrogacy. Male parents, I suppose, would have added variables, and so they were left out of this study.

Other research, however, suggests that kids with homosexual male parents turn out pretty much the same as kids with heterosexual parents.

posted on Mon, 06/07/2010 - 11:00am
Karen's picture
Karen says:

I find it a little odd that they did not find a way to factor out the age discrepancy.

And the comment on reality reminds me of the Bush years and the slur against "reality based" media.

Nice study.

posted on Tue, 06/08/2010 - 11:45am
SGG's picture
SGG says:

I appreciate the Science Museum posting this information. The idea of pure objectivity in any human conducted research is questionable and all science is paid for by some group or entity which has an interest in seeing the research carried out. However, scientific study is still considered valid by those who support rational study, so long as it follows the protocols of objective research. Certainly good evidence requires more than one study but remember, it is always easy to disregard the results of scientific study (or other kinds of evidence) which doesn't support our personal view of how the world works. Isn't the real question whether people are willing to consider the value of new ideas. I wonder if Ms. Wright finds validity in evolutionary theory?

posted on Wed, 06/09/2010 - 10:26pm
OMGaLlama's picture
OMGaLlama says:

Thanks for posting this, but the study seems to have a lot of holes. Too many variables, like the age factor especially. Did it ever occur to them to do a study with male parents too? And the fact that it was funded by LGBT groups gives room for bias. And obviously, since it's a social issue, it's hard to squeeze science into the picture. Ultimately, it just brings more debate about who is fit to raise a child. The bottom line: just let politics and the mentality of the people work its magic; which science is unfit to accomplish.

posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:24pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I'm sure it occurred to the authors of the study to use male parents as well, but, as the article points out, the study group there is smaller and trickier. The mothers they followed all gave birth to their kids, and they could study them from the very beginning, as it were. With men, seeing as how they have to adopt or find a surrogate mother, it gets more complicated, and—as you point out—variables probably needed to be eliminated wherever possible. That would have introduced some big variables.

As for bias... yeah, but whatever. The money has to come from somewhere, and there's "room for bias" with whoever the funders might be. I suppose we have to trust to the scientific integrity of the researchers.

I don't know that politics and the mentality of the people are divorced from each other or from science. And I wouldn't necessarily leave it up to either of them to decide what's right—they've repeatedly shown how they are just as capable of creating bad policy as good. Not that science is the same thing as ethics, but having more information is absolutely good for politics and the mentality of the people, and science can provide that.

posted on Thu, 06/24/2010 - 4:33pm

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