Observational Studies and Homosexuality

Again, this is part of a series. Previous posts in the series include:

I’m finding these posts difficult to write, and I’m finding that it’s taking longer to get through all of the ideas that I want to cover than I had originally planned. Once I have stated my case, I will return to my regular postings. Thank you for your patience as I type what has been on my mind for a long time.

“Observational Studies”?

Yes, this may actually show how long it has been since I have participated in academic research. I am probably using the wrong term, even though I understand the idea I’m trying to convey. So, for this post, observational studies will mean studies in which a research actually goes and looks at what is going on in the real world (or another setting, if it fits the study).

Isn’t Observing Such Private Behavior Creepy?

Absolutely. The studies I am going to be referring to are usually conducted to see if children being raised by homosexual couples fare as well as children being raised by heterosexuals.

Do You Have Reservations about These Studies?

Of course. Here’s a list:

  • Bias — Anytime observation is conducted in a subjective area, the door for observer bias swings wide open. This is the classic witness argument: the number of stories about what actually happened is equal to the number of people who saw the event. Each person sees, notices, and places importance differently. In the case of an investigation, the truth has to be gleaned from commonalities found in each account.
  • Evaluation Criteria: Because researchers are observing behavior, the outcome cannot be measured with a ruler or weighed on a scale. The researcher has to decide what the indicators of success/failure (or other terms) will be. Even the construction of the scale is open to researcher bias.

What about studies of children being raised by homosexual couples?

Peggy Drexler may be one of the biggest names in observing the children of homosexual couples. Her findings are very favorable. In her assessment, children raised by homosexuals are as well adjusted as children in heterosexual homes. She feels that lesbian couples, especially, do a wonderful job of raising less violent boys because of the female tendency to talk and reason through problems.

However, objections to her studies include

  • small sample sizes (which is sort of the nature of the study: too many subjects would be completely unmanageable)
  • observer bias (I have seen second-hand accounts that she had been on record as holding the opinion that homosexual and heterosexual parenting are equal)
  • misinterpretation of the events she observed

For example, Drexler gives the account of a child being raised by a lesbian couple clinging to the legs of a male daycare worker when his parents picked him up from daycare. She points to the event as a sign that this young boy is receiving the positive male attention that he needs. Those who disagree with Drexler’s work see this example as evidence that the child is starved for a male role model and male attention.

Another example, which Drexler sees as a positive, was that of an older boy who was being disrespectful at bedtime. The mothers raising him spent a long time talking it out and reasoning with him to get him to comply with house rules. To Drexler, this was evidence that lesbian homes may be less violent than homes of heterosexual parents. A dissenting opinion was that the boy was allowed to be disrespectful and that the extra parental attention as he flaunted house rules may have actually rewarded the behavior. A father’s traditional no-nonsense response would have given the boy the message that his behavior was unacceptable and needed to be changed immediately.

Other studies have been criticized for

  • comparing children in two-parent homosexual homes to children in both two-parent and single-parent heterosexual homes
  • comparing children in higher socioeconomic homes with homosexual parents to lower socioeconomic heterosexual homes
  • research design flaws
  • etc.

Finally, this is an area where research studies contradict each other. Studies exist that indicate that children in homes led by homosexual couples are fairing only as well as children from single-parent homes.

Final Thoughts

If you have read this far and are objecting to my analysis, I suspect the biggest objection is that I haven’t gone to the primary sources, grabbed copies of the research findings for myself, and sorted it all out. That’s a pretty high standard. I would almost have to undertake the study full time, leaving me no time to be a teacher, mother, active church member, runner, etc. I would hope that, if you chose to levy that accusation at me, that you are above reproach.

Like “hard science” — genetic studies, twin studies, etc — I have come to the conclusion that observational studies have not conclusively answered the questions I have.

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