Until recently, a long-standing conviction of sociologists is that children do better — as measured by their educational achievement, behavior problems, and emotional well-being — in married, heterosexual, two-parent households, when contrasted to single mothers, cohabiting couples, adoptive parents, divorced parents, and same-sex parents.
But supporters of same-sex marriage insist that children of same-sex parents don’t do any worse than children of opposite-sex parents. Due to the Tyranny of Political Correctness, as well as flawed research methodology (e.g., small sample size), there’s been a scarcity of scientific data on how children of same-sex parents fare.
Sociologist Paul Sullins of the Catholic University of America, however, has gone against the Tyranny of Political Correctness. In 2014, his research found that children of same-sex parents have more than twice the emotional problems as children of opposite-sex parents. In another study he found that ADHD is also twice as common among these children.
Carolyn Moynihan reports for MercatorNet, July 4, 2016, that Sullins has followed up that research with the first ever study following a cohort of children with same-sex parents into adulthood. Published as “Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression Among Adults with Same-Sex Parents” in the journal Depression Research and Treatment, the study confirmed Sullins’ previous research. In adulthood, by the age of 28, children of same-sex parents have more psychological problems than children of opposite-sex parents, including:
To explain the surge in depression from adolescence to adulthood among children of same-sex parents, Sullins points to three things that were much more prominent among the same-sex parented group: suicidal thoughts, obesity, and missing a parent. Absence of a father during adolescence has been associated in many studies with negative outcomes, including depression.
Sullins went to the largest, most representative database of its kind, the U.S. National Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), analysing information from four waves of the Add Health survey conducted between 1995 and 2008.
From a sample of US high schools, Add Health initially interviewed 20,745 teenagers (13- to 19-year-olds) and their mothers. By Wave IV, in 2008, the cohort had reduced to 15,701. When Sullins came to do his study, missing data or lack of relevant data reduced the usable sample to between 8,762 and 12,288 people, depending on what he wanted to measure.
Among those thousands of adolescents, Sullins could confidently identify only 20 with same-sex parents – 17 lesbian partners and three gay male partners. This is an occupational hazard for same-sex parenting researchers: representatibve population data yields only very small samples. Of the children, 72% were girls, and 80% were white.
While Sullins recognizes that such a small sample means that his findings should be interpreted with caution, they nevertheless should not “be dismissed out of hand on preconceived ideological grounds,” especially given the paucity of scientific data on such children to begin with.
Sullins comments on the importance of this study:
First, this study makes clear that some of the problems children have with same-sex parents do not appear until they are in early adulthood. Just like, for many people, what they internalized about family roles from their childhood family does not appear or become important until they themselves are married, and try to do things like their parents did. Though they may look the same at age 15, by age 28 the children raised by same-sex parents are much more likely to be depressed, obese, isolated from their parents and lacking a stable intimate relationship. So it is not enough just to look at whether the children are “no different” as children, we have to look at how they turn out in adulthood. This is often true for children who have been abused in some way; the full harm of the abuse does not appear until they are somewhat older.
Second, this study confirms my earlier study which suggests that having two parents of the same sex conveys difficulties to their children related to the unavoidable fact that the child does not experience the care of both a man and a woman. In both studies, so far as we can tell, the same-sex parents are as warm, caring and loving as any other sets of parents, and are probably good parents as individuals, but they cannot supply for the child the emotional or psychological benefits of the missing father (if lesbian parents) or mother (if gay male parents).
Third, this study is important for a technical reason. It re-analyzes the data from what is often cited as the strongest study showing “no differences” (the Wainright and Patterson 2004 study cited in my article), correcting errors in their sample (which mistakenly included a majority of heterosexual parent couples) showing that, when the sample is properly specified and children are followed into early adulthood, important negative differences emerge.