Same-sex marriage and parenting

Mon, Mar 10, 2008, 00:00

Madam, - The studies that have been quoted in recent letters, purporting to show that children do just as well when raised in gay and lesbian families as when raised by mothers and fathers, are deeply flawed.

The studies in question were considered by the High Court in the Zappone/Gilligan case, in which two women were trying to have their Canadian marriage recognised in Irish law. Based on the testimony she heard in this case, Judge Elizabeth Dunne ruled that there was as yet insufficient evidence to judge that children do just as well being raised by two men or two women as they do when raised by their two biological parents.

I was one of the expert witnesses heard, as was Prof Linda Waite of the University of Chicago (and a Democrat supporter, let it be noted). The studies quoted by same-sex marriage advocates suffer from many methodological flaws. For example, the sample sizes are small, some have too short a follow-up period, and many do not use adequate outcome measures.

Also, they frequently compare children of lesbian single mothers with children of heterosexual single mothers. In other words, they compare children of single mothers with children of other single mothers.

Citing the fact that the American Psychological Association finds these studies convincing is simply a weak argument from authority. Whatever the APA thinks of these studies, the fact remains that they are deeply flawed. The APA's rush to accept the studies may be evidence of its own ideological bias.

On the other hand, the peer-reviewed studies which show that children, in general, do best when raised by their married biological parents suffer none of these flaws. They are large in scale, longitudinal, quantitative, etc.

It must be borne in mind that Unicef, which accepts the veracity of these studies, and which was quoted in my letter of March 3rd, cannot be accused of having a conservative bias. Nor can the University of Uppsala in Sweden which based its finding that fathers are very important for a child's development on 22,000 separate pieces of data.

In addition, a French parliamentary committee recently held hearings on gay marriage and rejected it, based on the evidence that children tend to fare best when raised by fathers and mothers.

The argument by some advocates for same-sex marriage amounts to a claim that children don't really need mothers, or that they don't really need fathers. This claim will need plenty of proof - much more than has yet been provided - before we can accept it.

On the other hand, the common-sense intuition that children tend to do best (allowing for exceptions) when raised by their biological parents is backed by a very large and formidable body of research.

Finally, the personal attacks on me and my objectivity by a number of your correspondents are unworthy of them and unworthy of publication in your respected newspaper. - Yours, etc,

Prof PATRICIA CASEY,

Mater Hospital,

Dublin 7.