August 5, 2010

When Do Children Do the Best?

This week a United States district court ruled against California’s Proposition 8 which specified marriage as being between one man and one woman. Among other problematic statements, the court asserted in it’s “finding of facts” that “Children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology” (finding #70, p. 95). This is a misleading and incorrect assertion.  Children with same-sex parents are statistically much more prone to have behavioral and psychological problems compared to children being raised by two biological parents.

Numerous studies have consistently shown that children do best when being raised by two biological parents.  This is documented “not in tens or hundreds but in thousands of published studies over the past decades.”1 For example, Timothy J. Biblarz and Greg Gottainer in the Journal of Marriage and the Family report that “Evidence over the past 30 years shows that children raised in single-parent households generally have lower average levels of psychological well-being and socioeconomic achievement than those raised by two biological parents.”Sociologist James Q. Wilson wrote, “Almost everyone—a few retrograde scholars excepted—agrees that children in mother-only homes suffer harmful consequences: the best studies show that these youngsters are more likely than those in two-parent families to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse, and take drugs.” Although some of the difference can be explained by income, “[T]he rest of the difference is explained by a mother living without a husband.”3

Same-sex advocates often point to a 2002 technical report made by the American Academy of Pediatrics which stated that, “a growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.”4  However, this report produced by an eight-member committee received the strongest negative reaction from its members on any issue. The report also cautioned that, “The small and non-representative samples studied and the relatively young age of most of the children suggest some reserve.”

Importantly, although the AAP report states that these children do “as well as” children in heterosexual homes, the comparison is actually being made between children in same-sex households and “stepfamilies formed after heterosexual couples divorce”.5 Thus it is highly misleading to give the impression that children raised in same-sex households do as well as children raised with their biological mother and father.

There are exceptions, but unfortunately stepfamilies are statistically associated with a host of serious behavioral and emotional problems, equal to or greater than the problems of children in single-parent families. One researcher concluded, “The best strategy for dealing with them is to do everything possible to minimize their occurrence.”6 Judith Wallerstein, in her twenty-five-year study concluded that children from divorced and remarried families are more aggressive toward parents and teachers, experience more depression, have more learning difficulties, have more problems with their peers, are two to three times more likely to be referred for psychological help, more often end up in mental health clinics and hospital settings, have earlier sexual activity, more children out of wedlock, less marriage, and more divorce.7

If children raised in homes with same-sex parents “closely resemble stepfamilies formed after heterosexual couples divorce” this does not indicate a healthy environment for these children. On the contrary, the sharp difference between stepfamilies/same-sex families and families with intact biological parents is so striking that the AAP report actually confirms that strengthening heterosexual marriage is in the best interest of children. We must remember, “It is not just marriage between any two adults that benefits children, but the marriage of their own mothers and fathers.”8

Since it is to the benefit of society for marriages to be strong since children do best in all aspects of life when raised by their natural father and mother, it would be wrong for society not to treat these unions specially. As Allan Carlson comments:

To extend the same honor and special benefits [of marriage] to gay and lesbian couples (or, by logical extension, to bisexual arrangements and ‘polyamorous’ households) undoes, by definition, the very point of granting special status. If all group living arrangements enjoy equal ‘honor’ and ‘special benefits,’ then no arrangement has recognizable honor or special status. And in this case, the only proven, effective incubator of new and healthy human life would be cast aside as merely another lifestyle choice.9
Although advocates of same-sex marriage insist that same-sex marriage would not devalue heterosexual marriage, James Spiegel likens this to giving the purple heart to all military personnel who see battle, not just those who are wounded or killed. Whatever the intent, this would necessarily devalue the special significance of the Purple Heart. Spiegel argues that to deny the special social value of what has special social value is unjust; therefore, gay marriage is unjust.10 There is something special about the time-honored arrangement of marriage as being a man and a woman. We are not doing children or our country a service by devaluing it.

1 Glenn T. Stanton and Bill Maier, Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 73.
2 Timothy J. Biblarz and Greg Gottainer, “Family Structure and Children’s Success: A Comparison of Widowed and Divorced Single-Mother Families,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (May 2000): 534.
3 James Q. Wilson, “Why We Don’t Marry,” City Journal, Winter 2002, <>
4 Ellen C. Perrin, “Technical Report: Coparent and Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents,” Pediatrics 109, no. 2 (2002):341.
5 Perrin, “Technical Report,” 341.
6 David Popenoe, quoted in Stanton and Maier, Marriage on Trial, 83.
7 Judith Wallerstein, quoted in Stanton and Maier, Marriage on Trial, 86.
8 Stanton and Maier, Marriage on Trial, 109. Emphasis added.
9 Allan C. Carlson, Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2007), 112. Carlson also states, “. . . public policy on marriage must be built on this ideal family structure, and not on some lowest common denominator” (44).
10 James S. Spiegel, “Why Gay Marriage is Unjust,” Paper delivered at the National Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, New Orleans, Louisiana, November, 2009.

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