Debate on same-sex marriage


Madam, - As researchers we are most flattered by the publicity our systematic review on the role of father involvement in developmental outcomes of children has received internationally. However, we feel it is important that conclusions based on our research results are correct and truthful to what the original design of the study allows.

It has come to our attention that Prof Patricia Casey has referred to our article in supporting her views on traditional marriage between biological parents being the best environment for a child to be raised in (March 5th).

Prof Casey's conclusion that the article is one of the "compelling reasons to continue giving marriage between a man and a woman the special support of the State" is not valid based on our findings.

According to our review of longitudinal studies, there is certain evidence that cohabitation with the mother and her male partner (biological father or father figure) is associated with fewer externalising behavioural problems. There is also evidence to support the positive influence of father engagement on children's social, behavioural, and psychological outcomes, although no specific form of engagement has been shown to yield better outcomes than another.

Please note that no comparisons were made with gay or lesbian family constellations in the studies included in the review. Therefore, there is nothing whatsoever in our review that would justify the conclusion that same-sex parents cannot raise healthy children who do well.

The fact that engaged fathers are important for their children calls for policies promoting involved fathering, if anything, such as paternal leave and the possibility to stay home with sick children, when the family constellation includes a father or father figure.

Unfortunately, traditional marriages do not automatically promote father engagement. - Yours, etc,

ANNA SARKADI, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Sweden.