Mark Regnerus

A new study clearly demonstrates (once again) that children raised by gay couples are about the same as children raised by heterosexual couples. And, once again, Dr. Mark Regnerus at UT, Austin has been discredited. Mark Regnerus is a science whore. In an effort to influence the Supreme Court in 2013 Regnerus accepted money from the ultra-orthodox-Catholic Witherspoon Institute to produce a result that could be used to argue against legalization of same-sex marriage in United States v. Windsor. In striking down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban US District Court Judge Bernard Friedman put it this way:

The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 ‘study’ was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it ‘essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society’ and which ‘was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.’ … While Regnerus maintained that the funding source did not affect his impartiality as a researcher, the Court finds this testimony unbelievable. The funder clearly wanted a certain result, and Regnerus obliged.

Regnerus is fighting back. In a new post on Witherspoon’s blog (where else?) Regnerus writes: “Media Gush over New Study, Only to Find Same-Sex Parents More Irritated with Their Children.” I don’t know that the media “gushed” but the results of the new study were widely reported. When it comes to being “irritated,” that would apply to Regnerus. After all, in 2013 this guy’s own professional organization (the American Sociological Association) eviscerated his work.

What is most important about the new study is that it is the first to use a nationally representative survey to compare the two types of households by focusing only on those with parents that have been in a continuous relationship. According to the press release:

Although the study found no differences in family relationships and child outcomes, same-sex parents reported more parenting stress.

“Future investigations might explore whether the cultural spotlight on child outcomes in same-sex parent families is associated with increased parenting stress,” said psychiatrist and co-author Nanette Gartrell, MD, Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “Some of our earlier studies have shown that lesbian mothers feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting because of their sexual orientation.”

If Regnerus wants to relegate that to irritation in an effort to salvage his battered reputation then that is on him. He would have been better off just keeping his mouth shut but when Regnerus defends Regnerus, Regnerus defends God. Shame on him. Regnerus does give some due credit to someone other than God:

In the pecking order of good study qualities, it has several things
going for it, and I am happy to give credit generously where it is due.
First, it focuses on “continuously coupled” households, which were
profoundly rare in my 2012 study
of 18-to-39-year-old adults answering questions about the households in
which they had grown up. That is optimal, no doubt about it.

Rare? Virtually none!

At the core of Regnerus’ analysis of the new study is this:

Despite claims to the contrary, same-sex-couple moms display a
problem in the study on a measure the authors oddly decided to label
“parental stress.” That is, (presumably) lesbian mothers display notably
more of it than do opposite-sex parents. The oddity I speak of is why
they call the measure “parental stress” in the first place. It is not a
measure of stress, and it doesn’t take a psychometrician to see it. Each
parent respondent was asked how often in the past month they have:

  • Felt that their child is much harder to care for than most children his/her age
  • Felt that their child does things that really bother you a lot
  • Felt angry with their child

 It is true that the lesbian mothers answered yes to these questions more frequently than their heterosexual or (apparently) gay male counterparts. According to Regnerus:

The authors label as “stress” what is far more obviously a
three-measure index of irritation and anger (at the child). Why are
female same-sex parents more angry at their children than opposite-sex
ones? I confess I don’t know. But this study unwittingly reveals that
they clearly are. The effect size, moreover, is a “moderate” one,
meaning it’s not tiny.

As I noted, above, the investigators profess not to know the reason for the additional stress either. If the outcomes are the same then is it even relevant? Well, yes. It is relevant insofar as the welfare of the mothers is concerned and the matter warrants additional research.

Regnerus flailing around to regain a measure of credibility is not only irrelevant but unreliable. At this point does any serious social scientist really give a shit what Regnerus speculates? Regnerus is still determined to prove that gay couples are crappy parents. He does so, not as a scientist, bus as an orthodox Catholic. In addition to the proscribed gay couples, the Vatican is highly offended if any of these kids were the result of forbidden assisted reproduction technology (ART). The Church’s teachings on these matters reflects the thinking of theologians and catechists in contrast to social scientists. Regnerus is a social scientists but he seeks to conform to the edicts of people who are not. Regnerus’ problems are more serious than any gay parent.

You can read Regnerus’ blubbery prose at the link above and the full report on the research is here. One is religious dogma, the other is science.