By Glenn T. Stanton, Director, Family Formation Studies
The simple answer is “yes,” but the more precise question is “disadvantaged compared to what?”
There is a wealth of solid social, medical and psychological research indicating that children who grow up without their own married mother and father in the home face significant disadvantages in all important measures of well-being: physical and mental health, educational attainment, general happiness, confidence and empathy development, as well as protection from poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence and sexual abuse and avoidance of unmarried child-bearing.
Children who grow-up in any other family form — single-parent family, divorced, step-family, or cohabiting parents – don’t do as well by up to half in these measures compared to children living with their own married mother and father.
Said another way, none of the changes to family form over the last four decades has improved any important measure of child well-being, and no evidence to date indicates that same-sex parenting would be an improvement on any of these other forms.
Three points must be considered in understanding this reality.
Research Indicates Children Do Best When Raised By Married Mom & Dad
Quotes from leading scholarly summaries of this research:
• “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents. … Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support child development.” (Kristin Anderson Moore, et al., “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): 1.)
• “Most researchers now agree that together these studies support the notion that, on average, children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents.” (Mary Parke, “Are Married Parents Really Better for Children?” Center for Law and Social Policy, Policy Brief (May 2003): 1)
• “Overall, father love appears to be as heavily implicated as mother love in offsprings’ psychological well-being and health.” (Ronald P. Rohner and Robert A. Veneziano, “The Importance of Father Love: History and Contemporary Evidence,” Review of General Psychology 5.4 (2001): 382-405)
• Health scores are 20 to 35 percent higher for children living with both biological parents, compared with those living in single or stepfamilies. (Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-being: Data from the National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53 (1991): 573 -584)
• “When young boys have primary caretakers of both sexes, they are less likely as adults to engage in woman-devaluing activities and in self-aggrandizing, cruel or overly competitive male cults.” (Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, My Brother’s Keeper: What the Social Sciences Do (and Don’t) Tell Us About Masculinity, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 121)
• “We should disavow the notion that ‘mommies can make good daddies,’ just as we should disavow the popular notion of radical feminists that ‘daddies can make good mommies.’ …The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary – culturally and biologically – for the optimal development of a human being.” (David Popenoe, Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence That Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable of the Good of Children and Society, (New York: The Free Press, 1996), p. 197)
Sara McLanahan of Princeton University, one of the world’s leading scholars on how family form impacts child well-being, explains from her extensive investigations:
• “If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent family ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it would provide a system of checks and balances that promote quality parenting. The fact that both adults have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.” (Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 38)
No Reliable Research Indicates Children in Same-Sex Homes Do As Well
Same-sex advocates are quick to explain that many professional health organizations have explained that children in same-sex homes do just as well in important health measures as children in heterosexual homes.
Their statements neglect a vital point of comparison. One must examine exactly what they have said, and what they have not said in order to understand what this actually means for child welfare.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the leading medical organization to make such a statement, and which most other organizations followed, simply said, “a growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.”
So curious people must ask, do the children with two gay or lesbian parents look like children with heterosexual intact, married parents? Do they look like children with hetero-divorced parents? Single parents? Hetero stepparents? Cohabiting parents?
Nowhere in the AAP’s research, nor in any of the studies they cited, are we told. If the AAP’s statement is going to tell us anything objectively useful, then the family structure of the heterosexual homes being compared is essential because the outcomes for each is dramatically different in nearly every important measure of child AND adult well-being.
This oversight deems the AAP statement utterly meaningless in providing any kind of decisive information on how helpful or harmful same-sex families could be to children. It essentially claims, “Kids from lesbian-parented homes look like children from some kinds of heterosexual-parented home.” It says nothing specific about the quality or health-outcomes of lesbian- or gay-headed homes because some forms of heterosexual-parented homes are healthy and some are not.
Same sex parenting advocates have made no attempt in any professional literature to clarify this by specifically saying what kind of hetero-homes the same-sex homes in the studies were compared to.
It is Unethical To Subject Children To an Untested Social Experiment
No human culture anywhere, at any time, has ever raised a generation of children in same-sex homes. This is an experiment upon children to fulfill adult wishes to parent.
The family changes over the last four decades — with its baggage of no-fault divorce, cohabitation, unwed childrearing and fatherlessness – have shown beyond doubt that these changes have been a wholesale negative for child well-being.
Consider the research on just one of these previous experiments.
Similar to the same-sex family experiment, we entered our national divorce experiment with all the best of hopes and intentions. Advocates pushing the divorce experiment called forth a few authorities who assured us that children are resilient and they would adjust to living apart from their parents. “Love would see them through” we were told, much like same-sex family advocates seek to assure us today.
Well, the millions of children who were subjected to this experiment tell us a different story, as witnessed by multiple studies:
• The American Academy of Pediatrics, the same organization that tells us the same-sex family will work out just fine, now tells us that divorce “is a long, searing experience…characterized by painful loses.” (Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, “The Pediatrician’s Role in Helping Children and Families Deal with Separation and Divorce,” Pediatrics 94 (1994): 119)
• “Divorce is usually brutally painful to a child,” and 25 percent of adult children of divorce continue to have “serious social, emotional, and psychological problems.” Meanwhile, only 10 percent of adult children from intact families had such problems. (E. Mavis Hetherington, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002), p. 7)
• “Children in post-divorce families do not, on the whole, look happier, healthier, or more well-adjusted even if one or both parents are happier. National studies show that children from divorced and remarried families are more aggressive toward their parents and teachers. They experience more depression, have more learning difficulties, and suffer from more problems with peers than children from intact families. Children from divorced and remarried families are two to three times more likely to be referred for psychological help at school than their peers from intact families. More of them end up in mental health clinics and hospital settings.” (Judith Wallerstein et al., The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study, (New York: Hyperion, 2000), xxiii)
Also, a convincing body of research shows us that children do not do as well when their mothers or fathers marry other people. And since it is biologically impossible for a child living in a same-sex home to be living with both natural parents, all same-sex homes are either literally step-families – formed after the end of a heterosexual relationship – or step-like, in that only one parent has a biological connection to the child.
• “Social scientists used to believe that, for positive child outcomes, stepfamilies were preferable to single-parent families. Today, we are not so sure. Stepfamilies typically have an economic advantage, but some recent studies indicate that the children of stepfamilies have as many behavioral and emotional problems as the children of single-parent families, and possibly more. …Stepfamily problems, in short, may be so intractable that the best strategy for dealing with them is to do everything possible to minimize their occurrence.” (David Popenoe, “The Evolution of Marriage and the Problems of Stepfamilies,” in Alan Booth and Judy Dunn, eds., Stepfamilies: Who Benefits? Who Does Not? (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), 5, 19.)
• Children from stepfamilies, where the biological father is missing, are 80 times more likely to have to repeat a grade and twice as likely to be expelled or suspended, compared to children living with both biological parents. (Nicholas Zill, “Understanding Why Children in Stepfamilies Have More Learning and Behavior Problems Than Children in Nuclear Families,” in Alan Booth and Judy Dunn, eds., Stepfamilies: Who Benefits? Who Does Not? (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), p. 100.)
A wise and compassionate society always comes to the aid of children in motherless or fatherless families, but a wise and compassionate society never intentionally subjects children to such families. But every single same-sex home would do exactly that, for no other reason than that a small handful of adults desire such kinds of families.
There is no research indicating such homes will be good for children. In fact the data show us that the family experimentation we have subjected children to over the past 30 years has all failed to improve human well-being in any important way. What makes us think more of it will make the situation any better? It will only make life for our children dramatically worse.