Are children who grow up with a gay parent at a disadvantage compared to kids who are brought up in a traditional family?
Nothing could be further from the truth, says Miami resident Mayda Perez. She has three children – a set of 10-year-old twins and a seven-year-old son – whom she’s raised since birth with her partner of 20 years. She believes there’s absolutely no difference in outcome between children brought up in traditional families and those who grow up Latino LGBT parents.
“My children couldn’t ask for better parents or a better life. We surround them with love and have the means to give them whatever they want and the finest education they can have,” explains Perez.
But that’s not the conclusion presented in a new study published in the July issue of Social Science Research. University of Texas-Austin sociologist and associate professor Mark Regnerus set out to find whether there was a difference growing up with a gay or lesbian parent as opposed to traditional heterosexual couple family structures.
With the assertion that there can be significant differences between children who grow up with gay or lesbian parents and those who grow up in “intact bio families,” Regnerus is currently under attack by LGBT advocacy groups for not studying a larger sample size and accepting three-quarters of a million dollars in funding from the Witherspoon Institute and The Bradley Foundation, two socially conservative organizations.
Using a nationally representative population sample drawn from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), Regnerus compared 2,988 respondents between 18-39 years of age across 40 different categories including income, marriage status, voting status, sexual orientation, self-reported level of happiness and frequency of alcohol use. Bullying by childhood peers as a result of a parent’s sexual orientation was controlled for, as was the respondent’s socioeconomic status, gender, race/ethnicity and geographical location. Just over 20% of the study sample Regnerus used was Hispanic.
Only 163 study participants had a mother in a same-sex relationship and 73 whose father did. Three participants had spent their entire childhood with lesbian mothers.
“We found that there are differences between kids who grew up with a mom in a lesbian relationship and kids who grew up with mom and dad who were married and who are still married today,” Regnerus told the Daily Texan. “It’s challenging because family structure is not a static thing, so deciding who is going to be analyzed and what the categories are calls for a lot of subjective decisions.”
Regnerus did not respond to NBC Latino’s request for comment.
“I am disappointed because I think this study can have a very negative effect if used by groups who are have an agenda to further marginalize gay and lesbian families,” commented Jose Perez, a marriage and family therapist based in New Jersey who has done extensive work with both LGBT and Latino communities.
The main issue regarding Regnerus’s methodology is that he failed to consider same-sex couples raising children in long-term, committed relationships and did not clearly define the criteria used to determine sexual orientation, says Perez.
“From an anecdotal perspective, LGBT Latino parents raise secure and well adapted children,” explains Perez. “The overarching pattern that I have observed is not based on sexual orientation but rather secure attachment and unconditional love, both between parents and within parent-child dyads.”
Carla Trujillo, an educational psychologist and editor of the anthology “Chicana Lesbians; the Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About,” agrees that the study was flawed.
“I would have to say that the LGBT community would welcome a fully realized study, instead of one with a skewed research design,” says Dr. Trujillo.
“It is unfortunately that good money was wasted on this project to seemingly support a previously conceived theoretical frame and biases under the disguise of science,” commented Eduardo S. Morales, a clinical and consulting psychologist located in San Francisco.
Latino LGBT advocates such as activist Herb Sosa, says that ultimately, good parenting determines a child’s well-being.
“Every child needs a loving, stable family and it’s been proven time and time again, when you strip away old stereotypes, that a child that’s raised in a stable environment has a better chance of coming out well,” says Sosa, a founding member and director of the Unity Coalition, a Miami-based gay Latino civil rights initiative. “Gay families are no exception.”
It’s a viewpoint that Perez and her family believe in. “I know my family is strong no matter what others might think,” says Perez.
“And we’ll continue to go out there and fight for our equal rights to prove it.”