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Bad LGBT Parents? Bad UT study, audit finds

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Mark Regnerus


Are kids raised by gay and lesbian couples bound to struggle more in life than those raised by straight parents? Drawing from the small body of research compiled by the American Psychological Association, the general consensus has stood that kids raised in same-sex households turn out pretty much the same as those with heterosexual parents. Then UT Austin sociology professor Mark Regnerus dropped a bomb in June in a study published by the prominent journal Social Science Research, arguing otherwise and saying gay and lesbian parents had too much “household instability.”

Naturally while Regnerus' study, “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?” enraged the gay-rights crowd, same-sex marriage opponents embraced the work as proof that gay and lesbian couples don't stack up to “traditional marriage.”

Almost immediately after publication social scientists, including a crew of Regnerus' own UT colleagues, surfaced to bash the research for apparent top-to-bottom flaws. The study, many said, was rushed to publication, and some of the reviewers of the paper, closely connected to and even paid as consultants on the Regnerus study, already harbored strong anti-gay marriage views. Perhaps more problematic, some said, was that Regnerus failed to really study what he claimed — Regnerus had in fact labeled parents “gay” and “lesbian” when all he had was data on children of divorced parents that had ever had a single gay or lesbian encounter.

And then there was the study's funding source: The hard-right Witherspoon Foundation, dedicated to “scholarly research and teaching that enhance understanding of the crucial function that marriage and family serve in fostering a society capable of democratic self-governance,” chipped in some $700,000 for the study — a breathtaking sum for social science research. Witherspoon appears to have connections to the anti-gay marriage group National Organization for Marriage (Witherspoon's president has been a NOM board member since the organization's founding).

Above the din of equality activists and anti-gay marriage opponents trading barbs over the study and its impact, social science researchers had another nagging question: how could such junk get published in something like Social Science Research?
SSR sought to find out with an internal audit slated to appear in the journal's November issue, as first reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education last week. This week SSR editorial board member and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale sociology professor Darren Sherkat, tapped to conduct the audit, sent the Current a draft of his findings.

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