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Which 'facts' about gay parenting did the ABC check?
Friday, July 31, 2015

“Some days ago the ABC published what it calls a  ‘Fact Check’ on whether a father and a mother are better than same-sex parents ,” FamilyVoice Australia research officer Ros Phillips said today. 

“It purports to be an independent review of international research, but its analysis is far from even-handed.

“For example, the Fact Check reports that a 2004 study (by Wainwright et al) found that children raised by same-sex parents were no different from those raised by opposite-sex parents in terms of depression, anxiety and self-esteem.  But that grossly overstates Wainwright’s conclusion.  The study involved so few couples that it lacked the statistical power needed.

“In fact, a comprehensive review of 59 same-sex parenting studies by Dr Loren Marks in 2012 found serious methodological flaws in almost all studies that purport to show that parental genders do not matter.  The flaws include small samples, ‘convenience’ samples of volunteers, inadequate, unmatched or missing controls, and self-reporting.”

Marks chose the 59 studies for analysis after they were cited by the American Psychological Association (APA) to support its claim that no study has found any disadvantage suffered by children raised in same-sex couple families.  The ABC Fact Check cites a similar (2007) review by the Australian Psychological Society, including many of the APA studies – but fails to mention Marks’s critique.

The Fact Check also fails to mention the study by Dr Paul Sullins, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Education, Society and Behavioral Science in February this year.  Sullins analysed reports on 512 children raised by same-sex parents, drawn from a pool of over 207,000 respondents who participated in the US National Health Interview Survey between 1997 and 2013.

He found that, on eight out of 12 measures, children raised by same-sex couples had nearly double the risk of emotional, mental health or developmental problems compared with children raised by their two natural parents.  Bullying and “homophobia” are often cited as the cause of such problems, but the analysis found no difference between the two groups in their self-reported experience of having been bullied.

But Fact Check did favourably mention an Australian study of same-sex parenting by Dr Simon Crouch et al, whose methodology is seriously flawed.  The 315 mostly lesbian couples volunteered for the study after being recruited by friends and advertisements.  They would have known in advance that their answers could be used to further a political agenda – unlike the control group, drawn from a general parenting study, who would not have known how their answers could be used.

The children were not independently assessed – those raising them answered questions about their children’s health and well-being.  An analysis of the study showed that its finding (that children raised by same-sex couples did slightly better than others on some measures) was based on two highly subjective questions: Is your child healthy? and Is your family happy?

“The ABC Fact Checkers should be more careful with their ‘facts’!” Ros Phillips said.


  • Family and parenthood

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