According to a new study from a researcher at the Catholic University of America, children of same-sex parents are more likely to suffer from emotional issues than children of heterosexual couples. The researchers define "emotional issues" generally, but note that it can include ADHD, learning disabilities and seeking help from mental health professionals.
The study found children from same-sex parents suffer emotional issues because they are being raised by at most one biological parent. The study said children who are raised by their biological parents often suffer the least amount of emotional stress. Other factors, like bullying and financial instability, didn’t impact how the children felt emotionally, the study said.
“The reduced risk of child emotional problems with opposite-sex married parents compared to same-sex parents is explained almost entirely by the fact that married opposite-sex parents tend to raise their own joint biological offspring, while same-sex parents never do this,” wrote D. Paul Sullins, the author of the study, according to The Christian Post. “The primary benefit of marriage for children, therefore, may not be that it tends to present them with improved parents (more stable, financially affluent, etc., although it does do this), but that it presents them with their own parents.”
Children adopted by parents of the same sex reported having more emotional problems than children adopted by opposite-sex parents, according to the study.
“Biological relationship, it appears, is both necessary and sufficient to explain the higher risk of emotional problems faced by children with same-sex parents,” wrote Sullins, according to World magazine. The study, however, only looks at same-sex parents and biological parents excluding other family types where only one biological parent is present.
Sullins wrote in his paper that biological parents are important for children since they help them understand their family history.
"Every child who is the biological child of a same-sex parent also has an absentee parent somewhere," Sullins said in the paper. "[A]s the child comes to understand where babies come from, it is inevitable that she will wonder about her own origins, and may experience rejection or stress at the relative absence of her other parent."
The study asked more than 200,000 children and 512 same-sex parents from across the country questions about their experiences in the home, but the questions weren't made available to the public in the research. The majority of children surveyed were the biological offspring of at least one of their same-sex parents.
But the study’s methodology raises some questions. As previously mentioned, the study doesn’t specify exactly what “emotional issues” the children surveyed suffer from, nor does it define the questions researchers asked to participants, which would give more insight into the family environments these children were raised in.
The study also doesn’t mention whether the children came from families who got divorced or lived with a parent who had multiple partners, which can also have an impact on a child’s well being, according to Emma Green of The Atlantic.
“We have decades of research showing that family instability and divorce takes a toll on children,” Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University wrote to Green in an email. Because of this, he believes “the paper cannot speak to the way being raised by same-sex parents affects the well-being of children.”
Philip M. Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, College Park, agrees in his critique of the study.
"The basic problem here is obvious, and was apparent in the infamous Regnerus paper as well: same-sex couples, regardless of their history — married, divorced, never-married, just-married, married before the kid was born, just got together yesterday when the kid was 15, and so on — are all combined in one undifferentiated category," Cohen wrote.
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