Category archives: Family Facts

We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”-TRUE

by Peter Sprigg

October 17, 2014

On Sunday, October 12, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins appeared on Fox News Sunday to debate the redefinition of marriage with Ted Olson, a prominent Republican attorney and advocate of giving civil marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

At one point in the discussion, Olson began to argue that we should redefine marriage because it would benefit children who are being raised by same-sex couples. Perkins replied, “We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”

Within hours, the “fact-checking” website PolitiFact posted an analysis of the statement—and rated it “False.”

Unfortunately, the PolitiFact article itself gets a failing grade.

That is, unless they think the non-partisan, non-profit research group Child Trends was also telling a “falsehood” when they reported, “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”

Presumably, they also think it was “false” when the anti-poverty group the Center for Law and Social Policy reported, “Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step- or cohabiting-parent households. Compared to children who are raised by their married parents, children in other family types are more likely to achieve lower levels of education, to become teen parents, and to experience health, behavior, and mental health problems.”

And I guess they would also rate as “false” the statement by the Institute for American Values, which declared (as one of its “fundamental conclusions” about “what current social science evidence reveals about marriage in our social system”), “The intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States, insofar as children are most likely to thrive—economically, socially, and psychologically—in this family form.”

I suppose PolitiFact would also say it was false when the American College of Pediatricians said that “the family structure which leads to optimal child development is the family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.” The ACP added details:

A growing and increasingly sophisticated body of research indicates that children with married parents (both a mother and a father) have more healthful measures of:

  • thriving as infants
  • physical and mental health
  • educational attainment
  • protection from poverty
  • protection from antisocial behavior
  • protection from physical abuse


The PolitiFact article put much emphasis on “peer-reviewed” literature. Are they actually suggesting that the conclusions of every single one of the sources cited in the following passage (adapted from my book Outrage) are “false”?

Children raised by opposite-sex married parents experience lower rates of many social pathologies, including:

  • premarital childbearing (Kristin A. Moore, “Nonmarital School-Age Motherhood: Family, Individual, and School Characteristics,” Journal of Adolescent Research 13, October 1998: 433-457);
  • illicit drug use (John P. Hoffman and Robert A. Johnson, “A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60, August 1998: 633-645);
  • arrest (Chris Coughlin and Samuel Vucinich, “Family Experience in Preadolescence and the Development of Male Delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58, May 1996: 491-501);
  • health, emotional, or behavioral problems (Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, August 1991: 573-584);
  • poverty (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key Indicators of Well-Being 2001, Washington, D.C., p. 14);
  • or school failure or expulsion (Dawson, op.cit.).

PolitiFact must also not trust federal government survey research—such as that published just a few months ago which said, “Children in nonparental care were 2.7 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had at least one adverse experience, and more than 2 times as likely as children living with one biological parent and about 30 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had four or more adverse experiences.” (Note that if you turn this around, it is saying that “children living with two biological parents” are at least fifteen times less likely “to have had four or more adverse experiences” than children in any other living situation with which they were compared.)

Finally, the Mapping America series produced by FRC’s own Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) has documented (based primarily on federal government survey data) literally dozens of outcome measures for which, on average, children raised in an intact married family do better than those in other family structures.

There are certainly other things PolitiFact could have said to put Perkins’ comment in perspective. They might legitimately have pointed out, for example, that relatively few studies have been conducted to date which makes direct comparisons between children raised by their married, biological mother and father and children raised by same-sex couples. While it is certainly true, not false, that there is a large and robust body of social science evidence indicating that “children do best with a mom and a dad,” as Perkins indicated, most of the studies involved in that body of research compared children raised by their married, biological mother and father with children raised in alternate family structures such as single-parent, divorced, or step-parent households—but did not include direct comparisons with the (relatively tiny) population of children raised by same-sex couples.

For example, the New Family Structures Study spearheaded by sociologist Mark Regnerus resulted in dramatic (and statistically powerful) results demonstrating the strong advantage held by the “intact biological family” over numerous other family forms. However—as Regnerus made clear from the beginning—even his comparison with “gay fathers” or “lesbian mothers” was only based on the adult respondents having said that at some point between birth and age 18, their father or mother had a same-sex romantic relationship. It was not a comparison with children raised by same-sex couples living and raising the children together (of which very few could be found, even in Regnerus’ large sample).

A key illustration of how the PolitiFact article lacked objectivity is that its description of the Regnerus research sounds as though it were simply cut and pasted from the talking points of “gay” bloggers. It is true that his research was sharply criticized in a variety of quarters—that is to be expected, given that academia is now dominated by liberal elites who are unwilling to tolerate the slightest dissent from the pro-homosexual orthodoxy. It is also true that among his fellow sociologists who distanced themselves from the study were members of the sociology department at his own university, the University of Texas.

However, it is false to say (as PolitiFact did) that the university itself “denounced” Regnerus’ research. On the contrary, the university conducted a full investigation of charges brought by a “gay” blogger who uses the pen name “Scott Rose,” and concluded, “Professor Regnerus did not commit scientific misconduct… . None of the allegations of scientific misconduct put forth by Mr. Rose were substantiated …” The New Family Structures Study continues to be hosted by the Population Research Center within the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.

The journal which published two Regnerus articles based on the New Family Structures Study, Social Science Research, also published extensive critiques of his work. Its editor designated a sharp critic of Regnerus, Darren Sherkat, to conduct an “audit” of the publication process. Since PolitiFact was dismissive of a book-length scholarly work because it was not subject to “peer review” like academic journal articles, it is worth noting what Sherkat said about peer review of Regnerus’ work: “Five of the reviewers are very regular, reliable SSR reviewers, and all six were notable scholars. Indeed, the three scholars who are not publicly conservative can be accurately described as social science superstars.” Most importantly, as editor James D. Wright points out, “all reviewers of both papers agreed that the papers warranted publication. The unanimity of reviewer opinion is notable in this case and is also fairly unusual.” A more thorough description of the Regnerus study can be found here, and a more detailed analysis of its actual findings can be found here.

One early study which did make a direct, couples-to-couples comparison was a 1996 study by an Australian sociologist who compared children raised by heterosexual married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, and homosexual cohabiting couples. It found that the children of heterosexual married couples did the best, and children of homosexual couples the worst, in nine of the thirteen academic and social categories measured.

More recently, studies based on U.S. and Canadian census data have allowed couples-to-couples comparisons using much larger sample sizes, but with respect to only a single outcome measure. Canadian economist Douglas W. Allen and two co-authors analyzed data from the 2000 census in the United States and reported, “Compared with traditional married households, we find that children being raised by same-sex couples are 35% less likely to make normal progress through school.” Another study by Allen using the 2006 Canada census found, “Children living with gay and lesbian families [i.e., a “same-sex married or common law couple”] in 2006 were about 65% as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families.”

Advocates for homosexual parenting and the redefinition of marriage sometimes argue (as PolitiFact did in a similar article challenging a Ralph Reed comment in April 2014), “What studies really show is that children are better off with two parents. Those studies do not focus on gender.” This statement by PolitiFact is clearly false. Most of the studies cited above focused on the presence of two biological parents—which by definition includes both the mother and the father. At best, same-sex couples resemble a step-parent situation, in which at most one of the caregivers is the biological parent of the child. The Child Trends publication cited above noted:

Children growing up with stepparents also have lower levels of well-being than children growing up with biological parents. Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.”

(Note: FRC believes that adopted children also benefit from the gender complementarity in parenting provided by an adoptive mother and father. However, the bulk of the research has focused specifically on households headed by the married, biological mother and father.)

On the other hand, the research that has been done specifically on children raised by same-sex couples has usually compared them only to children of “heterosexual” parents—including single-parent or divorced households—rather than comparing them directly to children raised by their married, biological mother and father (the “intact biological family,” as Regnerus refers to it).

The Center for Law and Social Policy report, cited above, summarized the implications of this succinctly:

Children of gay or lesbian parents do not look different from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families regarding school performance, behavior problems, emotional problems, early pregnancy, or difficulties finding employment. However, … children of divorce are at higher risk for many of these problems than children of married parents [emphasis added].

The PolitiFact article seemed to be devoted to debunking things that Tony Perkins did not say, rather than what he actually did say. If Perkins had said, “We know from the social science that children do better with a mom and a dad than with two moms or two dads,” PolitiFact might legitimately have challenged it—not because it is “false,” but because there is insufficient research on that direct comparison to assert we can “know” it as a social science certainty.

If Perkins had said, “We know from the social science that children do better with heterosexual parents than with homosexual parents,” then PolitiFact might also have challenged that—again, not because it is “false,” but because family dysfunction among heterosexuals (such as out-of-wedlock births, divorce, and cohabiting parents) is clearly harmful to children as well.

However, Perkins was clear, precise—and accurate—in what he did say, that “children do best with a mom and a dad.”

If, though, the social science research has not provided us with true, apples-to-apples comparisons between children raised by same-sex couples and children raised by their mother and father, was it legitimate for Tony Perkins to bring this truth about the general parenting research into a debate specifically about same-sex “marriage?”

I believe it was, because of the significant difference in quality and quantity between the two bodies of research at issue. As indicated by the summary statements quoted above, the research showing that children raised by their married biological mother and father do better than any other family structure with which they have been compared is extensive, methodologically sound, and convincing.

On the other hand, the research focused specifically on children raised by same-sex couples, most of which has been reported as showing that they do just as well or show “no differences” in comparison with children raised by “heterosexual parents,” suffers from serious methodological flaws.

Much of it has relied on small, non-random “convenience samples”—obtained, for example, by advertising in “gay” media. These samples may not be truly representative of the population of same-sex couples raising children. Parents whose children have significant problems may be less likely to volunteer, and parents who do volunteer may have an incentive (including a political one, knowing the significance of the research in public debates) to downplay any problems their children have (many such studies rely on the parent’s own report of child well-being).

In addition, arguments touting the large number of published studies supporting the “no differences” claim are misleading, because many of those studies are based on a single data set, from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS). The NLLFS website lists 21 publications which have been directly based on this study, and five more related to it.

A 149-page book published in 2001 did a detailed analysis of the homosexual parenting research up to that point. The result was:

We conclude that the methods used in these studies are so flawed that these studies prove nothing. Therefore, they should not be used in legal cases to make any argument about ‘homosexual vs. heterosexual’ parenting. Their claims have no basis.”

A similar analysis was conducted by researcher Loren Marks and published in the same 2012 issue of Social Science Research as the first Regnerus article. Marks analyzes the 59 previous studies cited in a 2005 policy brief on homosexual parents by the American Psychological Association (APA). Marks debunks the APA’s claim that “[n]ot a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.” Marks also points out that only four of the 59 studies cited by the APA even met the APA’s own standards by “provid[ing] evidence of statistical power.” As Marks so carefully documents, “[N]ot one of the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 APA Brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children.”

So, the research supposedly showing “no differences” between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexuals (remember, they are not usually compared with children raised by their own mother and father) is simply unreliable. The research showing that children do best when raised by their own, married, biological mother and father, when compared with numerous other family structures, is robust and clear-cut.

Essentially, homosexual activists (and PolitiFact) are claiming that children raised by homosexual couples are, remarkably, the lone exception to the overwhelming social science research consensus regarding the optimal family structure for children.

We rate their claim, “Highly Implausible.”

Leslie Morrison: World traveler. Life saver. Hero.

by Robert Morrison

June 12, 2014

I can still remember when Pop woke me up before dawn. Big news in the world: Stalin had died. I was just seven years old, but my dad interpreted the world for me. He had spent 17 years in the Merchant Marine; he sailed to every continent, visiting 47 countries in all. Whenever there was a story about a rare rhino in Africa or an unusual Boa in Brazil, or a shakeup in Russia, Pop could explain it all. He had been there.

Like most World War II vets, he never bragged about what he had done in the war. Only much later did I learn that he had made several dangerous crossings of the U-boat infested North Atlantic. There, if your ship went down, the other ships in the convoy had strict orders not to stop. Pop told us about the time his ship was sunk by a U-boat sixty miles due east of Durban, South Africa. With the ship sinking, Pop ran back to get his camera and took the only pictures of the lifeboats. Only a decade after he was gone did I learn from a surviving shipmate that Pop had run around the deck of the stricken freighter unlatching the pelican hooks that griped down the rubber boats. Had he not done that, his shipmate told me, most of the crew would have died. They could not have survived 18 hours in those frigid waters. Instead of talking about his role as a lifesaver, Pop always told us how nice it was to be put up in a five-star hotel for six weeks and to be able to play tennis daily with the South African women’s champion!

From the day Pop returned from the sea in 1952 until the day he died in 1998, we knew where he was every night of his life. He was the one we turned to when neighborhood bullies threatened. He taught me to defend myself and only call on him if my tormentor brought a gang or a knife to the fight. But if I had to call on Pop, the whole neighborhood knew to watch out.

My father taught me what it meant to be a man. Today, 48% of first-borns in America are born out-of-wedlock. Who will teach those dear children what it means to be a man?

UN, Please Note that Abortion is not Maternal Health Care

by Arina Grossu

April 14, 2014

The UN Commission on Population and Development held its annual meeting last week. Wendy Wright (C-FAM) delivered a statement jointly submitted by the Family Research Council, C-FAM and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG).

We must continue to hold the U.N. accountable for keeping maternal health as the priority in the agenda and not conflating it with abortion services. Here are some excerpts:

Now better than ever before, we know what it takes to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers. It takes investment in education, skilled birth attendants, prenatal and antenatal care, clean water and sanitation, adequate nutrition and vitamins, antibiotics and other healing medicines, and emergency obstetric care.

Making abortion legal doesn’t improve maternal health in any way.

Maternal health care strives to make pregnancy safer for both mothers and their unborn children. Preventing births by aborting the unborn child, or preventing the human embryo from implanting in the mother’s womb does not improve the health of the mother or her unborn child.

We know what it takes to make pregnancy and childbirth safe. Maternal health care, must remain a distinct and urgent priority in the post-2015 development agenda. This cannot be confused with elective abortion, which destroys the life of innocent unborn children and places the lives of mothers in jeopardy.”

Let’s work on real solutions to improve maternal health care around the world. Abortion is not the answer.

Economic and Human Inequality: The Contradictions of Barack Obama’s Vision

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 23, 2013

In a compelling piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, economist and Chris Christie advisor Robert Grady describes that he calls the President’s “obsession with equality” and argues that the real solution to our bumpy economy is economic growth. As Grady notes, if Mr. Obama really wants to end economic disparity in the nation, “Accomplishing this worthy goal requires growth, not redistribution.”

Three thoughts:

(1) We cannot have the kind of growth Mr. Grady rightly calls for unless we have enough people. The sad but indisputable fact is that our quantity of workers is shriveling. My colleagues at FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute have demonstrated this is several key studies . The American family is in crisis due to divorce and cohabitation; abortion claims about 3,000 unborn lives each day. We cannot sufficiently manipulate federal tax and spending policy to redress these trends. The only way is for one man and one woman to marry, for life, and have three or more children. This is consistent with FRC’s view of the value of human personhood and the centrality of the traditional family unit, yes - but it is also demonstrated by the undeniable facts.

(2) That many Americans are struggling cannot, and should not, be denied. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what constitutes inequality, prosperity, and opportunity; the bottom line is that most ordinary families are faring relatively well. Pounding on the theme of “inequality” creates a measure of social resentment that will provoke unwarranted and dangerous federal intervention into the private marketplace, already too prey to the intrusions of the state (e.g., Obamacare, a confiscatory tax regime, etc.).

(3) It is ironic that Mr. Obama is so fixated on what he views as income inequality given his denial of the essential premise of the American republic, that all men are created equal. “The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe,” he said in his December 4 speech on the economic disparity theme. As noted above, Mr. Obama both misstates the case and proposes policies that will only increase the power of the government at the expense of private enterprise and personal achievement. Yet beyond his rather standard “enlightened” critique stands a devastating paradox: If unborn persons have value independent of their mothers, if they are, in fact, persons, how does advancing a grim and relentless pro-abortion agenda, as does our President, assure the equality he says he so favors? It doesn’t, of course; abortion is inherently discriminatory, elevating the will and power of one person over another. It is the celebration of the worst kind of inequality, the taking of the life of the weaker by the stronger.

If Mr. Obama wants to be taken seriously by economists, entrepreneurs, and social conservatives alike, he needs to remove his reactive Left-liberal lenses and look at the economy, and what makes for the growth thereof, realistically. And if wants to be taken seriously as a moral leader, he needs to jettison his dogmatic agenda of elective abortion-on-demand. Let’s pray to that end in 2014.

Marital Quality Influences Job Satisfaction

by Family Research Council

October 16, 2007

Marital quality influences work satisfaction, according a 2003 study that analyzed over 1,000 married individuals surveyed four times between 1980 and 1992.

The study highlighted by the Heritage Foundation finds that respondents who experienced an increase in marital happiness and time spent in leisure and everyday activities with their spouses were more likely to report higher levels of job satisfaction at the later interview than individuals who did not experience an increase in marital satisfaction. Conversely, increases in marital discord between the interviews were linked to declines in job satisfaction.

Read more about this finding at familyfacts.org.

Family Facts #15

by Family Research Council

July 10, 2007

Among a sample of adolescent virgins from intact two parent families, females who reported having a close relationship with their father during the initial interview were less likely to report having engaged in sexual intercourse during a follow-up interview one year later, when compared to similar females who did not report having a close relationship with their father.

Source: “The Parent-Child Relationship and Opportunities for Adolescents First Sex” Regnerus, M. D., Luchies, L. B. Journal of Family Issues Vol. 27, Number 2. , 2006. Page(s) 159-183.

(HT: FamilyFacts.org)

Family Facts #14

by Family Research Council

May 31, 2007

Teens from intact families with frequent religious attendance were least likely to have ever gotten into a fight (27.1 percent) when compared to (a) their peers from intact families with infrequent religious attendance (32.1 percent), (b) peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance (34.3 percent), and (c) peers from non-intact families with infrequent religious attendance (43.5 percent).

Source: Source: Fagan, Patrick, A Portrait of Family and Religion in America: Key Outcomes for the Common Good, (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation 2006), pp. .

(HT: FamilyFacts.org)

Family Facts #13

by Family Research Council

May 10, 2007

Teens from intact families with frequent religious attendance were the least likely to have ever run away (5.2 percent) when compared to (a) their peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance (8.1 percent), (b) peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance (8.5 percent), and (c) peers from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance (13.1 percent).

Source: Fagan, Patrick, A Portrait of Family and Religion in America: Key Outcomes for the Common Good, (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation 2006), pp. .

(HT: FamilyFacts.org)

Family Facts #12

by Family Research Council

April 26, 2007

Teen girls from intact families with frequent religious attendance averaged the fewest sexual partners (0.47) when compare to (a) their peers from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance (0.93), (b) peers from intact families with low to no religious attendance (1.14), and (c) peers from non-intact families with low to no religious attendance (1.55).

Source: Fagan, Patrick, A Portrait of Family and Religion in America: Key Outcomes for the Common Good, (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation 2006), pp. .

(HT: FamilyFacts.org)

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