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Exposing the Zach Walls Myth

The pampered poodles of war have been unleashed upon a social scientist who dared to mine the social science data to determine something we used to know as easily as falling out of bed: Children raised in irregular households, particularly those in sexually perverse households, do not do as well in life as children raised as nature intended.

Make no mistake, poodles can be vicious. They can tear flesh from bone. They can kill.

It has become a commonplace assertion in the recent years of the homosexual debate that children raised in homosexual households do just as well as children raised by married mothers and fathers. In fact, some have claimed that children raised by lesbians do better. This flies in the face of the wisdom of Woody Allen who said in the movie Manhattan, “Wow, raised by two mothers . . . most of us barely survive one.”

A few dozen studies purport to show that children raised by gay men or lesbians do just fine. And these studies are trotted out in op-eds, in legislative testimony, and by television pundits. And homosexual advocates never, ever question their credibility. Most of them are even “peer reviewed,” as if bad studies are made better by the approval of similarly ideologically driven peers.

The problem with most of the studies quoted these days is that they cannot be considered authoritative, for a whole host of reasons. The sample sizes are too small to project across an entire population. Some of these studies looked at only a handful of same-sex “families.” The studies tend only to look at a snapshot in time, that is, they do not look at the children under study across years. The sample of respondents under study is self-selected. For a study to be accurately projectable (i.e., really scientific), the pool of respondents must be randomly selected.

So, none of the studies or studies of studies can accurately be used to determine if the children of gay men or lesbians are “just fine” or even better than children raised naturally. This has not stopped homosexual advocates from quoting them endlessly in the debate over homosexual marriage.

Have any of these statistical doubts ever been raised by those advocating for such arrangements? This is an interesting question precisely because the new study questioning earlier assertions has been picked apart by homosexual advocates like a turkey at Thanksgiving. And all in a matter of the few days since it was released this past Monday.

The new study is quite remarkable because Dr. Mark Regnerus has managed to look at existing data in a new, hugely expensive way. This poor University of Texas social scientist was able to spend almost a million dollars, most of it from the Witherspoon Institute, in combing the data from Knowledge Networks national probability survey.

Prof. Mark Regnerus

As gay advocate Jim Burroway writes:

[T]here is one significant strength to this study, which makes it stand out. Unlike prior studies, the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) is based on a national probability sampled population. This is the gold standard for all social science studies, and it’s extremely rare for a study to achieve that mark. As far as I am aware, all of the studies to date of gay and lesbian parenting use non-representative convenience samples. National probability samples, unlike convenience samples, are important because they alone can be generalized to the broader populations, to the extent that key characteristics in the design of the probability sample (demographics, etc.) match those of the general population. Convenience samples can’t do that.

Indeed, Regnerus’ study examined nearly 3,000 young adults from eight different family structures and evaluates them within forty social and emotional categories and concludes that children raised even part time in sexually irregular households fared poorly in education, mental and physical health, drug experimentation, criminal activity, and overall happiness.

Surprisingly, the greatest negative outcomes were found, pace Woody Allen, among children of lesbian mothers. Regnerus’ study showed negative outcomes for these adult children in 25 of 40 categories including far higher rates of sexual assault (23 percent of children with lesbian mothers were touched sexually by a parent or adult, compared to 2 percent raised by married parents), poorer physical health, increased depression, increased marijuana use and higher unemployment (69 percent of children from lesbian households were on welfare, compared to 17 percent from married parents).

The dogs were loosed upon the study within hours of its release. Some tootsie at the New Republic actually published a piece calling on the widely published Regnerus to be banned, yes banned, from public discourse. 

Will Saletan wrote in that the study was profoundly flawed in the categorization of the respondents. Since most of them came from broken homes, the study in fact demonstrated that all the children of homosexual couples need is long lasting, intact gay marriage to do well.

John Corvino of the New Republic suggested the definition of “gay” in the new study was so broad as to include prison inmates, heterosexual female prostitutes who sometimes service women, and sad-sack Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, who occasionally had drugged-out sex with male prostitutes. But as Maggie Gallagher points out in National Review, none of these examples would qualify for inclusion in the study.

Have any of these critics ever gone after any of the methodologically flawed studies that purport to show that homosexual parenting is just fine or even better than natural parenting? Not that I am aware of.

What can be counted upon is that this new study, the most methodologically sound of its kind to date, will be attacked by the pelvic Left and its fellow travelers in the mainstream media. Gallagher calls it the Zach Walls Effect. He’s the Eagle Scout raised by lesbians who is being presented as the norm by Letterman, Leno, and DeGeneres. Zach Walls may be real, but the new study shows that presenting him as the norm is a myth.



Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.