Defending marriage: Good science can reinforce what we know by faith and reason

A ground-breaking study was released on June 10 that provides one of the first large-scale, random-sample, independent, peer-reviewed, published and critiqued studies ever conducted on the parenting effects of eight groups or household settings with various combinations of male and/or female parents.

The eight classifications were:

1) lived in intact biological family;

2) mother in a same-sex relationship; 3) father in a same-sex relationship;

4) adoptive parents (mother-father);

5) divorced or joint custody; 6) step family; 7) single parent; 8) all others, i.e., children of a deceased parent, etc.

The study, published in the prestigious journal, Social Science Journal, and entitled, “New Family Structures Study,” was conducted by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas. The results were based on a comprehensive study of 2,988 randomly selected young adults between the ages of 18-39. The results were critiqued by several reviewers, representing a broad ideological spectrum, who supported the quality and integrity of the research.

Findings are clear

Of the 40 outcomes that the study researched, the 15 in Table 2 are the most significant.

The data show that children raised in an intact, biological family with a mother and a father produced more positive results in every category.

Most notably, as seen in the chart above, the study found that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems. The study thus makes doubtful the assertion of those seeking to redefine marriage that there are “no differences” in outcomes between children raised by parents in same-sex relationships and those raised by a mom and dad.

In fact, young adults raised by a parent in a same-sex relationship did not fare better on one single outcome measurement than those people raised by their intact, married parents.

The report concludes by acknowledging that many respondents have proven to be resilient in overcoming such factors of death, divorce, diverse romantic partners or remarriage. No one is doomed to fail simply because of difficult family situations. Many people are able to overcome these challenges and do well.

But the authors can emphatically assert that this research: “. . . clearly reveals that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults — on multiple counts and across a variety of domains — when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.  Insofar as the share of intact, biological mother and father families continues to shrink in the United States, as it has, this portends growing challenges within families, but also heightened dependence on public health organizations, federal and state public assistance, psychotherapeutic resources, substance use programs and the criminal justice system.”

Moms and dads matter

This report, like all social science, is limited methodologically in its ability to describe the complexities of human life. Its data sample, while sufficient from a scientific standpoint, is still rather small.

But anecdotally, and more reliably than previous studies on these matters, the study does reinforce what lived experience has taught cultures and civilizations across history and geography, namely, that the welfare of our children and grandchildren is best assured in a home with a mother and a father. Moms and dads matter and law should promote the ideal. Not every marriage produces children, but every child has a mother and father.

The Marriage Protection Amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman that will appear on the November ballot is meant primarily to reaffirm the right of children to know and, to the extent possible, be cared for by the two people whose sexual union made them — a right recognized by even the United Nations.

Civil marriage protects this right and is the only institution that combines the biological, social and legal aspects of parenthood into one lasting bond.

The well-being of children should be one of the most important considerations in the debate on public policy about marriage and family life. And we know that, as a general matter, children flourish best in a home with a mother and a father.

When we live in accordance with and are governed by what faith and reason tell us is the best for human flourishing and happiness, we prosper. When we abandon that plan, we suffer. Good science confirms this reality.

We need to do all we can to assure that our laws connect children to their parents and affirm what abundant research, among other things, confirms is the best context for raising children.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. 

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