You’ve all seen the headlines by now: “Children of lesbian parents do well.” These headlines are based on a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. I actually read the study, which is my custom before commenting. I also read the letters to the editor on this study.
Here are 8 reasons why this study does not prove anything about the functioning of the children of lesbians.
1. The sample is extremely small: 78 children of lesbian mothers and 93 children in the control group.
2. The sample of lesbian mothers is unlikely to be representative of the general population of lesbians. This is a sample of people who volunteered for the study, not a random sample. The most motivated and high-functioning people are the most likely to volunteer for a politically charged study.
3. The “results” are intrinsically unreliable. The results are nothing but the mothers’ reports of their childrens’ behavior and functioning. There is no cross-checking with objective outcomes, such as actual school achievement or teacher’s reports of behavior problems.
4. The results for the lesbian moms show no difference in any indicator between boys and girls. This is highly unusual, and supports the possibility that the lesbian mothers are under-reporting difficulties.
5. The children of lesbian moms do just as well, whether or not the couple had separated. This too, is highly unusual. Most studies show that children are harmed by disruptions in the parental relationship.
6. This study makes no attempt to control for possibly confounding factors, such as socio-economic status. According to previous reports on this sample of lesbian mothers, 67% were college educated, and the median household income was $85,000. The children’s high functioning could be due to the fact that these lesbian mothers have more resources than the average family.
7. The study does not report on how the control group of 93 children was selected. We have no way of knowing who these 93 children are, or how representative this control group really is.
8. The most detailed part of the study was devoted to showing that any problems the children of lesbians experienced were due to homophobia. But the causal link between the mother’s reports of homophobia and the mother’s reports of aggressiveness could run the opposite way: kids might dislike those who are aggressive, and this dislike could be interpreted as homophobia.