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October 16, 2004

Beware the Parens

On Marriage Debate Blog, Eve Tushnet often manages to offer pithy, context-creating commentary when introducing links. For example, introducing a short Newsweek piece about children with homosexual parents:

[Stuff not mentioned: Criticism of existing studies of same-sex parenting; whether kids do best with a mom and dad; what thoughts these particular kids have about the mom & dad idea. There's also a cameo by creepy, bullying Christian teens, woo-hoo. --Eve]

Is it me, or does it seem that bracketed text often offers the gems? This is in marked contrast to those insidious parenthetical interjections, an example of which Dirk Johnson and Adam Piore offer in their Newsweek piece:

For kids of gays, the vast majority of them heterosexual (research shows that kids of gays are not more likely to be gay themselves), it can mean being caught between two worlds and feeling at odds with both.

That parens-slip manages to promote an idea that, at best, needs clarification. It is a flaw of the piece, as a whole, that it doesn't differentiate between children who live with homosexual couples and those who happen to have a biological parent who is gay. (The pictures are all of children with parent & partner.) If the "research" is of the second group, then although I haven't read up on it, I wouldn't be surprised if the statement were true; indeed, it might be possible to use that as evidence that homosexuality is not genetically determined.

If the research is of the first group — children living in homosexual households — then, although there's no decisive information, the statement is more wrong than right. One study, which is relatively old admittedly (1986), found that 23.5% of children of homosexual households were gay themselves; that's much higher than the general population. That finding is in line with multiple studies suggesting that, as Newsweek puts it, "sons and daughters of gays tend not to be as rigid about traditional sex roles."

Posted by Justin Katz at October 16, 2004 3:13 PM
Marriage & Family

One other item of note about the Newsweek article is that the author did not interview any grown children of homosexual couples that are no longer dependent on their care-takers. Would they ultimately say significantly the same thing as these teens and pre-teens? I also wonder if they keep any statistics on children that would prefer being raised in a normal family.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 17, 2004 11:09 PM

I also wonder if they keep any statistics on children that would prefer being raised in a normal family.

I wonder if they keep any statistics on children that would prefer being raised in a non-divorced family? Or children of Jews in a Christian neighborhood that prefered to be raised in a Christian family? Or poor children that prefered to be raised in a rich family? Or children that would prefer to eat candy at every meal?

Would they ultimately say significantly the same thing as these teens and pre-teens?

Let's think on this for a minute. A pre-teen gives a glowing review of his loving parents. Then he grows up. As an adult he reflects back on those parents. Would he give the same glowing review or might he give a more qualified or nuanced view? And would this, in fact, tell us anything about the quality of that child's life?

News flash: adult has different opinion of his childhood than when he was younger! Film at 11!

Posted by: Michael at October 18, 2004 2:50 PM

Having been a child whose parents divorced, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that my experience is one of the main reasons why I advocate repealing no-fault divorce. I remember the shame I felt and thinking it must be a visible trait others could see. Yet when I was subject to the pervasive and overwhelming influence my Mother held over my well being, I quite often found myself agreeing with her that she was right to get a divorce. What was I suppose to do at the time, tell her that she was full of it and try to make it to adulthood without benefit of food and shelter?

Being raised in a same sex marriage might be just as stigmatizing, but you and others that advocate SSM don't want to find out. You all go out of your way to avoid finding that out and you get snarky when somebody brings it up. You think that just because Newsweek paints a rosy picture that's the end of the story. And yes, it might indeed tell us something about the quality of the child's life to know how the now grown children of SSM view their child hood environment.

Yes, I would have preferred my parents stay married. I didn't have any difference of opinion about where we were going to church while I was growing up, but I had the option of changing my mind about my practice after I became an adult. I'm sure that children raised Jewish have the same option. That doesn't seem to have as fundamental effect on their well being as having both mother and father. What does having candy at every meal have to do with the discussion at hand? It does not have the same kind of desire at the core that having both a mother and father does.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 19, 2004 12:47 PM