Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Parenting should be a nonissue in gay marriage debate

Los Angeles Times article "Parenting should be a nonissue in gay marriage debate" (June 16th, 2010) concerns itself with the issue of gay marriage. However, it cites a study that is incapable of properly identifying what the Times suggests it identifies.

And a key reason, one of the lawyers said, is that children fare best when raised by a married couple of opposite genders.

The premise itself is dubious. A longitudinal study published online this month in the journal Pediatrics found that the adolescent children of lesbian couples fare very well. In fact, they 'rated significantly higher in social, school/academic and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive and externalizing problems' than others their age.

The study in question, "US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents" in June 2010 Pediatrics, by Gartrell and Bos, examines sons and daughters from 154 volunteer lesbian couples. The note that the children rated significantly higher should raise some alarms for the people at the Times, especially given the study's 7% attrition rate. Why would we assume volunteer lesbian couples would be representative of marginal lesbian couples who get married and have children because of a change in law?

That is to say, if we are to evaluate public policy, we should evaluate the individuals whose decision would change due to the law. However, we are by definition not examining these individuals in this study, and we are not identified. We might further imagine that a change in the law will change the "rules" under which the data was observed, further rendering the study irrelevant.

The Times is better served by its next, well-made point, that "The premise is also irrelevant," rather than unidentified studies.

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