"Same-sex couples can be effective parents, researchers find." This headline in USA Today in January has raised quite a few questions from those interested in family.
The story highlights a new study just published in the current Journal of Marriage and Family written by two respected -- but also well-known as revisionist -- sociologists, Judith Stacey of New York University and Timothy Biblarz of the University of Southern California. The article seeks to challenge the very basis of humanity's cross-cultural and consistent historical understanding of family and parenting: that the sustained cooperation of mothers and fathers is important for healthy child-development.
But fear not, this study does nothing to undercut this most basic and important human reality.
There are some very serious problems with their conclusions that students of the family should be aware of. It is a challenge knowing where to start, so I begin with the most egregious weaknesses.
The study demonstrates extreme ignorance of the current literature.
Regarding the idea that mothers and fathers both play essential roles in proper child development, the authors have this to say in the conclusion of their article:
"The entrenched conviction that children need both a mother and a father inflames culture wars.... Research to date, however, does not support this claim. Contrary to popular belief, studies have not shown that 'compared to all other family forms, families headed by married, biological parents are best for children.' Research has not identified gender-exclusive parenting abilities (with the partial exception of lactation).... At this point, no research supports the widely held conviction that the gender of parents matters for child well-being."
In reality, there are few things in the social sciences agreed upon so widely and backed by a larger body of reliable data. Note the language used by these authors: that the importance of mom and dad to children is merely an "entrenched conviction" to inflame the culture war and lactation is the only consequential "partial" difference in mothers and fathers.
Here are just two examples from mainstream sources, whose only partisan interests are child well-being.
The non-partisan, widely-respected research organization Child Trends concludes, "An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.... Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seem to support child development."
The more liberal Center for Law and Social Policy examined the same question on family status and child wellbeing, and their findings agree with Child Trends and contradict Stacey and Biblarz: "Over the past 20 years, a body of research has developed on how changes in patterns of family structure affect children. Most researchers now agree that together these studies support the notion that, on average, children do better when raised by two married, biological parents who have low-conflict relationships."
But contrast these two summaries with the conclusion the study cited by USA Today makes: "Thus, to be true to the best scientific evidence, one should say: Compared to all other family forms, families headed by (at least) two committed, compatible parents are generally best for children."
At LEAST two parents ... and no mention of either marriage or parental sex distinction!
Do you see where these authors are going? Moms and dads are optional and any nice couple or group can do the job. Thus the only thing that any child really needs from her mother is her egg and sperm from her father. Their necessary acts as parents end right there because anyone else can pick up the task without the slightest impact on the child, we are told. But it gets better. We see next how the article indicates that men actually serve their children best by being mere sperm-donors.
SOURCE: Crosswalk/Baptist Press - Glenn T. Stanton