Large-n study comparing child emotional problems of various family structures, including same-sex parentage

7 May

Several non-random small-n studies (experimental designs usually) have found no differences between the children of same-sex parents vs opposite-sex parents.  But any experiemental, non-random (subjects are non-randomly selected for participation) small-n (just a few cases) suffers from what social scientists call “external validity” problems (the ability to extrapolate to other times/settings/subjects).  Non-experimental large-n designs are able to do that much better.  What do they say?  No one is more family with this area of same-sex parentage research than Sociologist Dr. Donald Paul Sullins. Recently he published a massive (large-n; 207k) study on differences in child-well being (emotional problems) between various family structures, including same-sex parentage.  Summary of findings by Sociologist Donald Sullins.

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.

“Child emotional problems in opposite-sex
families are highest for single parent families and
lowest with married joint biological parents.
Compared to single parents, children with samesex
parents have less than twice the risk of
emotional problems (1.8 times), but they are at
almost four (3.6) times the risk of emotional
problems when compared to children residing
with married biological parents. However, risk
with same-sex parents is lowest relative to
opposite-sex single parent arrangements, not
cohabiting or step-parent families and after
adjusting for controls, is significantly higher
relative to any opposite-sex family form. Risk of
child emotional problems is 1.9-2.2 times greater,
significant at .01 or better, with same-sex parents
than with opposite-sex cohabiting parents or
step-parent family. Therefore, the hypothesis that
restrictions on parentage or married status
explain the higher risk of emotional problems in
same-sex families must be rejected.

The reduced risk of child emotional problems
with opposite-sex married parents compared to
same-sex parents is explained almost entirely by
the fact that married opposite-sex parents tend to
raise their own joint biological offspring, while
same-sex parents never do this. The primary
benefit of marriage for children, therefore, may
not be that it tends to present them with
improved parents (more stable, financially
affluent, etc., although it does do this), but that it
presents them with their own parents.

This is the case for all children with married joint
biological parents—which most successfully fulfill
the formal civil premise of marriage, which is
lifelong and exclusive partner commitment—
compared to less than half of children in any
other family category and no children in samesex
families. Whether or not same-sex families
attain the legal right, as opposite-sex couples
now have, to solemnize their relationship in civil
marriage, the two family forms will continue to
have fundamentally different, even contrasting,
effects on the biological component of child wellbeing,
to the relative detriment of children in
same-sex families. Functionally, opposite-sex
marriage is a social practice that, as much as
possible, ensures to children the joint care of
both biological parents, with the attendant
benefits that brings; same-sex marriage ensures
the opposite.”

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