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Family researcher: The evidence is clear that opposite-sex parents have better parenting outcomes

A Catholic University of America marriage researcher says that while same-sex couples can be loving, caring parents — they are different “by definition.”

In a presentation at the Values Voters Summit, Dr. Paul Sullins – a Catholic priest – told dozens of attendees that his recent large-scale study of parenting styles showed that children who are raised by both of their biological parents are least likely to have emotional issues.

And since it is impossible for children raised by same-sex sexual couples to have both biological parents raising them, changing the legal definition of marriage won’t help America’s children.

“I don’t have any evidence that two persons of the same sex are any less loving or caring, or extend themselves any less in lots of ways for their children than do two parents of the opposite sex,” said Sullins. “…[H]owever, if for whatever reason, the greatest benefits for child well-being come only from when they are the biological offspring of [opposite-sex] parents, and since same-sex relationships cannot achieve that, no matter how loving and committed they may be, no matter how great they may be in their parenting, two partners of the same sex can never replicate the bundle of benefits for child well-being that’s possible for opposite-sex partners.”

In his study, published earlier this year, Sullins examined the National Health Interview Survey’s results from 1997 through 2014. The survey, which has been done since 1957, gave Sullins 1.6 million people as his total sample size, including 207,000 children and 512 same-sex couples raising children.

Sullins said that the size of his study gave it a specific strength that other studies on the issue lack. He pointed to 47 studies that say children raised by same-sex couples are not worse off than children raised by opposite-sex parents, all done prior to 2010. “The mean sample size of all of these studies was only 39 children.”

“Only four studies used a probability sample….And the largest of these probability samples was only 44 female same-sex families,” said Sullins. Sullins cited Canadian researcher Doug Allen, whose work has famously showed that children are better off when being raised by parents of the opposite sex, to highlight another flaw in those studies — that the participants are often recruited through the LGBT community via ads and other methods, and therefore have tremendous biases.

The results of Sullins’ study are clear — 7.4 percent of children raised by opposite-sex parents have emotional issues, while 17.4 percent of kids raised by same-sex parents have similar issues. Similarly, 10.2 percent of kids raised by opposite-sex parents have ADHD and other emotional issues, while 19.3 percent of kids raised by same-sex parents have the same issues.

More than 10 percent of opposite-sex parents get their children treated for emotional issues, while more than 17 percent of same-sex parents do the same. And 6.9 percent of kids raised by opposite-sex parents are prescribed medication, compared to 21 percent of children raised by same-sex parents.

“Parent education and income makes no difference” in how children turn out, said Sullins, nor does “family stability” or “age, race, and sex of the child,” or emotional issues that parents have.

Sullins also criticized the popular idea that the children of same-sex parents are bullied and otherwise ill-treated compared to their counterparts raised by opposite-sex parents. He pointed to the National Health Survey (NHS), which he noted has “several good measures” related to such  matters. When he looked at the NHS survey, Sullins found that children “with opposite-sex parents were stigmatized at a higher rate,” and that “the differences were augmented — it didn’t explain the differences, it aggravated the differences.”

Sullins acknowledged that many things cause issues for children’s emotional health, but “if I include that variable, biological parenthood, in the statistical models, it explains all of the variation between opposite-sex and same-sex parents. And all the other causal factors…are rendered insignificant.”

“Biological parentage is both necessary, and sufficient to account for the higher rate of emotional problems that’s observed…among children with same-sex parents.”

Of the various possible parenting scenarios, Sullins says having both biological parents in the home is best. He said that 4.3 percent of children with both biological parents in the home have emotional problems, while 10.3 percent of children with one biological parent in the home have emotional problems. Meanwhile, 21.3 percent of kids without either biological parent have emotional problems.

Sullins said his study shows kids who are raised by same-sex parents they are unrelated to by biology have fewer emotional issues than do their opposite-sex counterparts, 21.1 percent to 19.1 percent. However, with one biological parent in the home, the rate goes down to 14.8 percent for a same-sex parental situation.

Sullins pointed out that since same-sex couple-led homes can’t raise kids in an environment with both biological parents, the benefit of opposite-sex couples to children is clear. His slide presentation summarized his argument, on Page 19:

“Since same-sex partners cannot, at least at present, conceive a child that is the biological offspring of both partners, in the way that every child conceived by opposite-sex partners is such, it is hard to conceive how same-sex parents could ever replicate the level of benefit for child well-being that is the case in opposite-sex relationships involving two biological parents.


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