Regnerus Admits He Lacks the Data to Critique Same-Sex Parenting (*so why is he doing it?)

This is getting uglier.

Prof. Mark Regnerus has been giving interviews about his study on parents who’ve had same-sex relationships, saying things like this:

Well, in the generation that are adults now, kids raised in a same-sex household were more likely to experience instability and shifting household arrangements. For example, 14 percent of kids whose moms had a lesbian relationship reported spending more time in foster care, well above the average of 2 percent among all respondents.

That leapt out at me because the error is obvious: The second sentence in no way supports the first. Children whose “moms had a lesbian relationship” weren’t necessarily “raised in a same-sex household” — the children might have never even met their mother’s lesbian partner, much less have been raised by her. Jim Burroway has done some great work pointing this out, and I’d like to extend it. In fact, I’d like to go so far as to show that Regnerus himself admits that he has, well, nothing.

Regnerus’s team interviewed 15,058 people. Few of them had a gay parent; even fewer lived with their gay parent’s partner for a significant time; and fewer still came from what Regnerus calls a “‘planned’ gay family.”

Respondents who:

“Lesbian” mother

“Gay” father

Had a parent in a same-sex relationship



Lived with parent’s same-sex partner more than 3 years



Came from “planned” gay families (estimated)

30 – 45

less than 1

A couple points:

  • Regnerus is fond of talking about “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers,” but he defines them as adults who have ever had a same-sex romantic relationship, even if it only happened once, even if it only lasted a few days.
  • Regnerus has no data on “planned gay families.” He derived those numbers from looking at “respondents who claimed that (1) their biological parents were never married or lived together, and that (2) they never lived with a parental opposite-sex partner or with their biological father.” The numbers are a guess.

Back to those numbers, though. Regnerus obviously can’t draw any conclusions male same-sex parenting based on a sample of less than 1. How about lesbian same-sex parenting? Is his sample of 30-45 respondents enough to significantly describe the broader population?

No. Not unless the total nation-wide population of adults raised by two lesbian parents is about 50 or fewer. And I suspect it’s more.

Here’s the kicker: Regnerus agrees with me. His article bemoans the low sample sizes of studies that offered up good results for same-sex parenting:

It is not surprising that statistically-significant differences would not emerge in studies employing as few as 18 or 33 or 44 cases of respondents with same-sex parents, respectively…Even analyzing matched samples, as a variety of studies have done, fails to mitigate the challenge of locating statistically-significant differences when the sample size is small.

Look at the numbers in that quote. Now look back at the numbers in the table. This is Regnerus telling us he’s got, as I said, nothing.

Now here’s why this is so ugly.

  • In the study’s introduction, Regnerus frames it as an examination of same-parenting and a corrective to flaws in earlier, positive studies on same-sex parenting.
  • But Regnerus’s data on same-sex parenting contains the same sample-size flaws for which he which criticized those other studies.
  • So once he leaves his introduction and enters analysis, he abandons all pretense of studying same-sex parenting and focuses instead on parents who have ever had a same-sex romantic relationship, regardless of whether they raised a child with that same-sex partner.
  • Nevertheless, he does not correct his introduction in order to frame the issue properly.
  • And finally, he grants interviews to conservative outlets, claiming that his study shows the harm of same-sex parenting, even though his own words, in his own study, demonstrate that he knows his sample size is just too damn small to say anything with confidence.

Am I wrong to call this ugly? I hope Prof. Regnerus supplies us with an explanation and justification for his statements to the press.

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18 comments to Regnerus Admits He Lacks the Data to Critique Same-Sex Parenting (*so why is he doing it?)

  • 1
    Scott Rose says:

    NOM’s Robert George funded Regnerus’s study to the tune of $750,000.  Regnerus’s hit-and-run anti-gay political propaganda was published simultaneously with the work of another faith-based gay-basher, Loren Marks.  Note that the editor of the journal that published these two blatantly anti-gay political studies, James Wright, has written favorably about “Covenant Marriage.” In one study Wright did, he wrote about “the threat of gay marriage as a potentially destructive influence on the institution of marriage.” Wright is refusing to tell me who peer-reviewed the Regnerus and Marks anti-gay studies he published. His publications’ website admits that he sometimes allows study authors to recommend the “referees” of their own studies.  It just cannot be a coincidence that a religious gay-basher, Robert George, paid $750,000 to another religious gay-basher to carry out a gay-bashing study, simultaneously published with the work of another faith-based gay basher, by a publisher who has previously exhibited anti-gay bias in his writings, and that then, the bigot who funded at least one of the studies goes running all over the place promoting the anti-gay results of the studies.  Note additionally that the LDS Church’s Deseret News has been involved in breathless promotion of Regenerus’s anti-gay junk.  Not only does Deseret News not mention that Robert George funded the study; they don’t mention that Robert George also is on the Deseret News editorial board. 

  • 2
    Spunky says:

    Aside from the questionable title and misguided applications of the study, it does seem that this study does offer some good results. As Regnerus points out, this study indicates that instability within the family leads to a negative consequences for the children in said family. We can always say “we knew that,” but it is good to have good, unbiased confirmation of such beliefs.
    What I would like to know is: is his study representative of children who have same-sex parents? That is, out of all kids who have gay parents, what proportion of those parents a) were adoptive, b) used artificial insemination or surrogacy, b) divorced and had the child from a previous marriage?
    So even if the study can’t conclude the effectiveness of gay parenting, can it at least paint a picture of the average family involving gay parents? And if so, I think this would be useful. Of course, I am doubtful because his definition of “gay parents” may not reflect what I am referring to.

  • 3
    Hunter says:

    Spunky:  In answer to your question, no.  At least, as pointed out in the post, not in any way that anyone refers to “parents” in the context of family.  Essentially, from what Tisinai has said here and from what Jim Burroway said in his analysis, Regnerus broke his study population into two groups, families headed by opposite-sex couples who had been married for at least 18 years, and everyone else — and came to his conclusions about same-sex parents based on the results from the “everyone else” category.
    Which is pretty dishonest “scholarship,” to be blunt about it.
    As for what the study does indicate, it makes a good argument in favor of same-sex marriage, which would contribute to the stability and longevity of same-sex relationships and thus, of their families.

  • 4
    candide001 says:

    OK.  So what’s the plan?  Lamenting this bogus study all over the gay blogosphere has very limited utility from a political point of view.  Where is the will and political organization of the pro-equality advocacy groups to RELENTLESSLY pursue and expose all the dirty details behind this intellectual fraud so that the MSM will have little choice but to cover it?  Such an exposé will show the high-powered, well-funded, unscrupulous forces if bigotry which LGBTs are up against.  It has the potential of winning sympathy for our cause.  But are our advocacy groups geared up to make sure this doesn’t turn into the swift boat episode that doomed Kerry?  Judging from past performance, I rather doubt it. 
    The right-wing sociopaths are expert at this tactic.  Plant a lie at a critical time before an important election and count on the left to mount an inadequate, ineffective response.  Are our representatives organizing important social scientists to attack the study?  Are they crafting a unified strategy so that the organizations in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota will know how to counteract these lies which will inevitably be featured in anti-gay ads once NOM’s propaganda campaign goes into high gear?  Robbie George is truly an “evil genius” and we, unfortunately, are like high school students running a campaign for class secretary.  We are always on the defensive and two steps behind.  It’s about time our advocacy groups start going on the offensive.  Otherwise, we will continue to lose and to lose and to lose, even though our cause is just.

  • 5
    Russ says:

    Candide makes a great point.  Most clueless straight people have already seen the headline to the effect that “Study shows gays are bad parents” – so who the fuck is going to correct that in their heads?  Is anybody even trying to get this exposed and refuted in the MSM?  The clueless types don’t read our gay blogs.

  • 6
    Rilian says:

    Why does it say “or with their biological father”?  It’s only talking about gay women having kids??

  • 7

    […] same-sex parents, but it is so small that it represents no improvement on previous studies, and by Regnerus’ own statement is too small to offer statistically significant […]

  • 8
    AC says:

    Mentally ill sexual deviants = bad parents. Always.

  • 9
    robtish says:

    AC, what does that have to do with same-sex parenting?

  • 10
    Julian PK says:

    If the study wanted to actual draw some conclusion on what it claims to be measuring, besides the fact they didn’t actually measuring children growing up in the situation this is meant to be applicable to, they also did not compensate for more important variables such being adopted, past abuse, stability added through married, the cultural perceptions and acceptance of homosexuals and homosexual couples etc etc. This study can conclude no causation only correlation with homosexuality and as I’ve pointed out above it does not appear to be the most important factor does it? I sincerely hope this research is withdrawn, he disregards that the controlled data in past studies is partly controlling from the effects of the above mentioned variables. Of course there is the same bell curve or worse, when they live in a homophobic world it’s impressive that despite that, when these factors are partly removed lesbian couples are proven to be better despite that they can’t have the added stability of marriage. It’s irresponsible research period, obvious misconclusions can be made, that should be pointed out and misconclusions are made in the paper.

  • 11
    Dana Pille says:

    One thing people keep glossing over, or totally ignoring. Is in the original study, out of 15,000 respondents, with 14,645 adult children being raised in “normal” families. 8% or 1,172 children were molested while living in these “normal” familes. These pedophiles were straights. The religious nuts like scott lively, and others want everyone to beleive that only and all Gay’s are pedophiles. Or maybe they think that heterosexual pedophilia is acceptable.

  • 12

    […] by telling the world its very best bestest evidence against same-sex parenting is a study that, as it turns out, did not report on same-sex parenting. . . . and with the United States Supreme Court deciding to […]

  • 13

    […] Regnerus did not report outcomes for this group of 30 kids, and even if he had, he tells us in his own study that a number this small does not allow for solid conclusions. […]

  • 14
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  • 16

    […] marriage law across states, or just the other day when NOM falsely claimed once again that the Regnerus and Sirota studies were about same-sex […]

  • 17

    […] marriage law across states, or just the other day when NOM falsely claimed once again that the Regnerus and Sirota studies were about same-sex […]

  • 18

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