Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gay marriage and gender socialization: (From the comments of this post): As gay marriage becomes widely accepted, people will feel the need to stop believing that a child benefits from by being raised by a mom or a dad. For there to be no disadvantage with a child being raised by two moms, being raised by a dad cannot be considered important. For there to be no disadvantage with a child being raised by two dads, being raised by a mother cannot be considered important.

Even gay families worry about their child lacking a parent of one sex (e.g., lesbians wanting to find a father figure for the boy). In terms of gender socialization, being raised in a homosexual home is the same as being raised in a single-parent home. There's all sort of research documenting the problems that stem from growing up without a mother or a father; problems that are not simply the result of not having two adults present. Kids still fare poorly if they are raised by mom and grandma--two adults.

And mom and grandma at least have the advantage of a biological relationship to the child. Gay families have at least one non-biological parent. Research shows that non-biological parents are not as good as related parents.

The fact that stepfamilies are just about as bad for kids as single-parent families shows that "two grown-ups in the house" is not enough. A child seems to need his biological dad and his biological mom.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just look at the black community. How's that working out?

Anonymous said...

You mean a kid wouldn't want to grow up in a home where two grungy men sit around and watch sports in T-shirts and underwear, scratching themselves with the hand that isn't holding the beer can? Surely you jest.....why isn't that every little girl's dream? m

Jewish Atheist said...

I see a lot of words, but no data.

Also, you'd have to look at just step-families where the step-parent is around from the time the child is an infant for it to be a fair comparison.

But there already are plenty of gay couples with children out there. Why not look at the studies of them? Because they don't support your conclusion?

Certainly, research has found no reasons to believe lesbian mothers or gay fathers to be unfit parents (Armesto, 2002; Barret & Robinson, 1990; Bigner & Bozett, 1990; Bigner & Jacobsen, 1989a, 1989b; Bos et al., 2003, 2004; Bozett, 1980, 1989; Patterson, 1997; Patterson & Chan, 1996; Sbordone, 1993; Tasker & Golombok, 1997; Victor & Fish, 1995; Weston, 1991). On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive home environments for children."Moved by data, not doctrine."

Uh-huh.

Whiskey said...

Atheist --

My problem with the studies is that it does not jibe with the experience of single motherhood families (generally bad) and the sample sizes in the studies are too small (i.e. not many Gay parents to choose from, most high earners).

The studies seem to be studying the effects of having a lot of money to spend on kids (generally good) but gay marriage is not made on the rich Yuppie extremes but the median of where the bulk of the people lie (assuming of course a normal distribution, a big assumption).

We don't know the shape of the curve describing income/status for Gay parents. It could be comprised of humps at the upper and lower end, suggesting a bad outcome for at least half of the kids. And that's not comparing the outcomes of kids who would be in comparable upper-income families of the heterosexual variety.

Jewish Atheist said...

My problem with the studies is that it does not jibe with the experience of single motherhood families (generally bad) Why should it?? THERE ARE TWO PARENTS!

How is this so hard to understand?

Jason Malloy said...

"There's all sort of research documenting the problems that stem from growing up without a mother or a father"No, the research does not support this.

These are not genetically informed study designs. Behavior genetics shows that parents have nothing to do with how their children turn out at all. Single mothers have dysfunctional children because they pass on dysfunctional genes.

I can think of several other natural experiments that argue against your claim as well. (e.g. when women turn into single mothers because their husband dies in an accident, the children do not grow up dysfunctional.)

Also, what Jewish Atheist said.

Jason Malloy said...

The studies seem to be studying the effects of having a lot of money to spend on kids".

It doesn't matter. Money does not affect child outcome at all.

Behavior genetics is a thorn in the paw of liberal and conservative ideology.

You can ignore it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Ron Guhname said...

"These are not genetically informed study designs. Behavior genetics shows that parents have nothing to do with how their children turn out at all. Single mothers have dysfunctional children because they pass on dysfunctional genes."

This might be 100% correct, but the position seems a bit too sweeping to me. And even though parents appear to have little influence on a child's adult personality, they probably have significant influence on the quality of the child's childhood.

"I can think of several other natural experiments that argue against your claim as well. (e.g. when women turn into single mothers because their husband dies in an accident, the children do not grow up dysfunctional."

Yes, I had thought about that, and it is consistent with the expectations of behavior genetics. This is only speculation, but it is possible that a child is damaged at least for a while if he feels that his missing parent doesn't care. This is a common theme in popular culture. Example: A father whose investment in you is a jerk into a cup for $100 might be an issue for some kids.

"Behavior genetics is a thorn in the paw of liberal and conservative ideology."

No doubt that the finding that the role of parent does not seem to be important for long-term outcomes works against the emphasis on intact, biological families. Evolutionary theory, however, would predict that biological parents will give better care than non-biological parents. Child abuse, for example, is more likely if the caregiver is non-biological, and child abuse is a concern above and beyond long-term outcomes.

Ron Guhname said...

Also--the findings of behavior genetics work against the argument that idea that foster kids will turn out better in a two-parent gay home than in some other arrangement (unless the other arrangement is really bad).

Anonymous said...

"THERE ARE TWO PARENTS!

How is this so hard to understand?
"

There are two parents OF THE SAME GENDER!

How is that so hard to understand?

Anonymous said...

"It doesn't matter. Money does not affect child outcome at all."

This a common misreading of the behavioral genetics data.

Money DOES affect child outcomes FOR THE CHILDREN. After the child matures into an adult, not so much.

Anonymous said...

“I see a lot of words, but no data.”

This is a little disingenuous, no? The world of gay marriage is a Brave New One that has such little data in it -- which can account for why people of a conservative temperament are so edgy. And we are not talking about radical change to an institution like baseball. We are talking about the nature of the family itself.

The early data on gay marriage are promising, but they suffer from a severe restriction of the range problem. Data on the effects on single parenting are very ample -- and very damning. We also have data of children raised by non-biological parents, which clearly shows a marginal deficit in child wellbeing compared to bio-parents. You can argue that the analogies are flawed, and point to the early data of gay marriage prove this. But there again we run into the problem of a non-representative sample due to a severely restricted range.

Ron,

I would be interested in seeing any citations of studies that have looked at same sex upraising by adults biologically related to the child. You mention the example of a mother and a grandmother.

Jason Malloy said...

Evolutionary theory, however, would predict that biological parents will give better care than non-biological parents. Child abuse, for example, is more likely if the caregiver is non-biological, and child abuse is a concern above and beyond long-term outcomes.

Evidence doesn't seem to indicate that adopted children are given inferior love or investment.

An analogy might be made to brood parasites who rely on the indiscriminate psychological mechanisms of child care. (check out the picture of that reed warbler mama feeding that hideous cuckoo bird!) Humans can "brood parasite" themselves if they do it right.

I can think of differences between step parents and adoptive parents that might explain why they have different child care records.

And even though parents appear to have little influence on a child's adult personality, they probably have significant influence on the quality of the child's childhood.

Research does not support higher depression or other kinds of lower emotional well-being in children raised by gay parents.

The real control group though would be children in gay homes compared with children who don't get homes at all.

Jewish Atheist said...

Anonymous:

The data on gay parenting may be somewhat limited now, but come on. It's not *that* limited. If we're going to be driven by "data, not doctrine," you've got to go by the data you have.

My broader point is that it's fundamentally wrong (or dishonest) to use single-parent data as a proxy for gay-parent data. For that to be a worthwhile approach, it would have to be true that the single most important thing the second parent brings is his or her gender. While that is a testable hypothesis, all the evidence we have (incomplete as it may be) shows that it is FALSE!

So fine, you don't want to trust the data on gay families yet, don't. But don't keep bringing up single-parent studies as if they're remotely relevant. It's just ridiculous.

And if Jason Malloy is right, virtually none of this parenting stuff matters.

But Ron Guhame and others, I suspect, are moved by doctrine (or perhaps disgust) not data.

Diana said...

"But Ron Guhame and others, I suspect, are moved by doctrine (or perhaps disgust) not data."

You know something, JA, you'd be a better arguer if you kept off the ad hominem attacks.

I'm sorry I can't furnish the URL but there has been one study that shows that gay parenting is different from straight parenting. The children of these unions show much less gender stereotyped behavior than heterosexual unions. If you think that's good, fine, if you think that's bad, also fine. But let's not say that there is no data at all that shows no difference. I'm in an area where my internet connectivity is hit or miss so I can't look it up. But the study does exist and the findings gave proponents of SSM a nanosecond of pause. Then onto the next battle.

Jason,

I see you have the Judith Rich Harris theories all down pat. I don't even know where to begin to disagree with them. I have never been accused of downplaying the importance of genes, which is actually one of the reasons why I think the scenario Ron outlines will never come about. But I have to disagree with you that parenting doesn't matter. Compare the behavior of Russian kids at the opera to a bunch of American brats. I have. Parenting?

Back to Jewish Atheist,

If it were found that the adopted and biological sons of gay parents had a higher chance of being exclusive homosexuals than the sons of straight couples, would this affect your attitude towards SSM? Just askin.

Jewish Atheist said...

Diana:

You know something, JA, you'd be a better arguer if you kept off the ad hominem attacks.

I'm sure you're right. Obviously, most of the issues discussed here are one's that stir the emotions. Sometimes I get caught up in it.

I'm sorry I can't furnish the URL but there has been one study that shows that gay parenting is different from straight parenting. The children of these unions show much less gender stereotyped behavior than heterosexual unions. If you think that's good, fine, if you think that's bad, also fine. But let's not say that there is no data at all that shows no difference. I'm in an area where my internet connectivity is hit or miss so I can't look it up. But the study does exist and the findings gave proponents of SSM a nanosecond of pause. Then onto the next battle.I'm not aware of that study. If it's true, I'd certainly have no objection to someone saying "SSM can lead to less gender stereotyped behavior of children," as that would simply be a fact.

I never object to facts -- I just get pissy when people (purposely?) confuse facts with interpretation with misinterpretation.

If it were found that the adopted and biological sons of gay parents had a higher chance of being exclusive homosexuals than the sons of straight couples, would this affect your attitude towards SSM? Just askin.1) Obviously this has NOT been found -- the data at present imply that sexual orientation is either genetic or a result of the environment in the womb.

2) But, as a hypothetical, no, I don't think that would be a valid reason to make SSM illegal. It's not illegal for people with all kinds of other traits to marry, and many of those traits are innately harmful (ugliness, low intelligence, mental illnesses, etc.) So even if homosexuality were innately harmful (and I think most of the "harm" comes from treatment by homophobic people) that's not necessarily a justification for keeping SSM illegal.

Jason Malloy said...

I see you have the Judith Rich Harris theories all down pat... But I have to disagree with you that parenting doesn't matter. Compare the behavior of Russian kids at the opera to a bunch of American bratsA) JRH's theory was not that parents are unimportant (this was a widely discussed/debated finding in the literature since the 70s and 80s), but that peers are responsible for shaping individual differences. A theory I do not endorse.

B) Russian children at the opera and American brats don't appear to be a fair comparison group.

C) You don't have data for this. I would be surprised to find that Russian children were better behaved in general. Contrary to (playa-hating) stereotypes, white Americans generally stack up well compared with other European ethnic groups.

D) I'm sure there is substantial European variation in child behavior. But I don't see any a priori reason to find genetic explanations less plausible.

E) I have no trouble accepting things like childhood manners having a significant parenting component. Shared environment is moderately high in childhood for behavior and personality. But long term behavior, personality, and well-being have very little to do with parents.

Anonymous said...

"Behavior genetics shows that parents have nothing to do with how their children turn out at all. Single mothers have dysfunctional children because they pass on dysfunctional genes."

This claim seems to commit you to the notion that the level of dysfunction in society is either stable, or changing only in response to dysgenic reproductive patterns. But surely that doesn't fit the evidence.

i.p.

Anonymous said...

Jason/Diana:

Culture obviously matters. Spend time in a place like, say, Germany, and you can't help noticing that Germans are different in all kinds of ways. Everything from the style of speech to habitual facial expressions. Yet a second-generation German-American will American in virtually every respect.

i.p.

Jason Malloy said...

This claim seems to commit you to the notion that the level of dysfunction in society is either stable, or changing only in response to dysgenic reproductive patterns. But surely that doesn't fit the evidence.

No it doesn't commit me to such a notion. It just means the environmental component of behavior doesn't come from parents.

Anonymous said...

"But don't keep bringing up single-parent studies as if they're remotely relevant. It's just ridiculous."

Now look who's elevating elevating doctrine over data!

It's not ridiculous. It's data.

Do you think that child outcomes will a. improve, b. stay the same, or c. decline as more and more gays adopt? On what basis?

Jason,

Shouldn't your stand on the behavioral genetics data also lead you to the conclusion that the gay parenting studies are meaningless?

Jewish Atheist said...

Do you think that child outcomes will a. improve, b. stay the same, or c. decline as more and more gays adopt? On what basis?a. improve.

Because two parents who want a child are better than none!

Anonymous said...

1. Given that gay adoption is currently reserved to highly selected group currently, how is that even plausible? That's like saying if we include college and high school players on our ball team, the average can only improve.

2. When, in five or ten years, the data from a jurisdiction where gay adoption is more widespread comes in (California?), what would you consider to be evidence that you were wrong?

3. Do you favor the enactment of legislation that would abolish the presumption in favor of the mother in custody battles?

Jason Malloy said...

Shouldn't your stand on the behavioral genetics data also lead you to the conclusion that the gay parenting studies are meaningless?It should lead me to believe the results of the gay parenting studies aren't surprising.

Also to be more skeptical if I come across some smaller studies that point to harm.

Anonymous said...

The Wall Street Journal has an interactive map of gay marriage laws, traditional marriage laws, and domestic partnership laws.

http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-SAME_SEX_MAP_0905.html

Does not look like a sea change in favor of gay marriage. Quite the opposite.

Diana said...

Jason,

Sorry that I confused your statements with that of a JRH supporter. I think you are wrong about her attitude towards parenting but I'm not getting involved in a disagreement abaout about a side issue.

"Russian children at the opera and American brats don't appear to be a fair comparison group."

Why not? I am comparing two sets of comparably aged kids in their public demeanour.

"You don't have data for this."

I do. I have gone to the opera and ballet in Russia a dozen times. Each time I was shocked, shocked to see well-behaved kids of both sexes, under the age of 10, in Russia. Yes: boys are taken to the opera and ballet in Russia and are expected to behave like miniature adults.

"I would be surprised to find that Russian children were better behaved in general."

They are not, and I never said that. I only said that in public situations, where people are expected to show manners, Russian kids in 1991 show manners.

I also saw many occasions where boys behaved....like boys. When no parents were around, they kicked the everlovin' crap out of each other.

Girls are like little women from the age of 7 onwards. They show open contempt for boyish antics. The whiners on these blogs would not last 5 minutes of a Russian boyhood.

"Contrary to (playa-hating) stereotypes, white Americans generally stack up well compared with other European ethnic groups."

In certain ways yes, in others no. American kids exhibit a huge brattishness in public until a fairly late age. You certainly couldn't take an 8-year old American boy to the opera and expect him to behave himself.

Look Jason, put yer dukes down. I'm not beating up on American boys.

"But long term behavior, personality, and well-being have very little to do with parents."

Again, what can I say other than "bullshit." Of course genes matter. Fate, luck, all kinds of things matter. But the example that you've seen for the first 5 years of your life matters to.

Geezus, sometimes I wonder why such smart people can't see the obvious. Jason, do you think that we would have been given such big brains if they weren't to be plastic and to learn things?

Diana said...

Jason,

Sorry that I confused your statements with that of a JRH supporter. I think you are wrong about her attitude towards parenting but I'm not getting involved in a disagreement abaout about a side issue.

"Russian children at the opera and American brats don't appear to be a fair comparison group."

Why not? I am comparing two sets of comparably aged kids in their public demeanour.

"You don't have data for this."

I do. I have gone to the opera and ballet in Russia a dozen times. Each time I was shocked, shocked to see well-behaved kids of both sexes, under the age of 10, in Russia. Yes: boys are taken to the opera and ballet in Russia and are expected to behave like miniature adults.

"I would be surprised to find that Russian children were better behaved in general."

They are not, and I never said that. I only said that in public situations, where people are expected to show manners, Russian kids in 1991 show manners.

I also saw many occasions where boys behaved....like boys. When no parents were around, they kicked the everlovin' crap out of each other.

Girls are like little women from the age of 7 onwards. They show open contempt for boyish antics. The whiners on these blogs would not last 5 minutes of a Russian boyhood.

"Contrary to (playa-hating) stereotypes, white Americans generally stack up well compared with other European ethnic groups."

In certain ways yes, in others no. American kids exhibit a huge brattishness in public until a fairly late age. You certainly couldn't take an 8-year old American boy to the opera and expect him to behave himself.

Look Jason, put yer dukes down. I'm not beating up on American boys.

"But long term behavior, personality, and well-being have very little to do with parents."

Again, what can I say other than "bullshit." Of course genes matter. Fate, luck, all kinds of things matter. But the example that you've seen for the first 5 years of your life matters too.

Geezus, sometimes I wonder why such smart people can't see the obvious. Jason, do you think that we would have been given such big brains if they weren't to be plastic and to learn things?

Diana said...

For those of you who are interested, the study to which I referred is here:

www.soc.iastate.edu/soc522a/PDF%20readings/Stacey.pdf

Make of it what you will.

I referred in another comment to an article about a lesbian-headed family in the NY Times where the "mothers" put a huge wedge between one of the daughters and her bio-father, a gay man who died of AIDS. I found it sad. The URL is here:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9903E0DC123AF937A15753C1A9629C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

"Father can be a loaded word to lesbian mothers...."

Sad, eh? Well, I found it so.

The other daughter in the family is a lesbian.

Anonymous said...

"Geezus, sometimes I wonder why such smart people can't see the obvious. Jason, do you think that we would have been given such big brains if they weren't to be plastic and to learn things?"

Diana,

An other example to help illustrate your point: food. People acquire a lifelong taste for certain foods from their parents. They don't revert to some natural preference at the onset of adulthood.

Language is an other obvious example. People don't revert to Esperanto when they become adults.

Parenting matters. It matters for a long time.

Jason Malloy said...

Anon: Language is an other obvious example. People don't revert to Esperanto when they become adults.

Language is a bad example. Children pick up the language of their peers and their society first. Language of the parents secondarily, if at all.

Anon: An other example to help illustrate your point: food. People acquire a lifelong taste for certain foods from their parents .

People pick up cultural behaviors from parents, but also from their society. (Dietary influence is limited: parents do not influence your future weight).

There are many superficial examples of parental influence: for example parents actually do play a huge role in determining our future religious and political self-identification.

What isn't really influenced much, though, are life outcomes: how much money you make, what job you take, how intelligent you are, your personality, your generosity, your religious/political participation, your moral values, the functioning of your friendships and romantic relationships, your mental and physical health, your longevity, your satisfaction with life.

Anonymous said...

“Language is a bad example. Children pick up the language of their peers and their society first. Language of the parents secondarily, if at all.”

The children of immigrants who learn a non-dominant language from their parents preserve that language into adulthood, unlike the IQ gains from hot-housing children.

Parenting maters -- just not at much as we might like.

Diana said...

"“Language is a bad example. Children pick up the language of their peers and their society first. Language of the parents secondarily, if at all.”

Sure, and that's why kids in black ghettos speak standard American English. And in Hispanic ghettos they are learning standard American English.


They pick up language not from some nebulous thing called society, or from peers, which they don't have at age two when they start talking, but from their parents. By age three they do have a peer group and the language they pick up from their parents is modified.

The peer group language is of course amplified, but the original template is inherited from parents.

Jason, why do you have such a hard time admitting this? Can you tell me the name of one two-year-old with a peer group?

Jason Malloy said...

The comment that was in response to was: "Language is an other obvious example. People don't revert to Esperanto when they become adults".

But they do "revert to Esperanto," if that is the language that is relevant to the world they are living in. Regardless of their parents.

In fact, children spontaneously create their language if they have no other way to communicate with peers. The language of the parents may be retained as a secondary language, or lost entirely (as has happened with some of my bi-cultural friends).

Anyway, parents can certainly damage children by not speaking to them, and locking them in an attic so they can't even develop normal language function with peers during critical developmental periods.

Also, I agree that parents can transmit knowledge to their children, more generally (e.g. skills, languages, advice), that the children may or may not retain; it simply appears that the differences in things parents teach their children don't have much of an effect on differences in measurable, socially important life outcomes.

Diana said...

To return to the subject of this post, I'd like to know why SSM proponents have such a fetish about "two parents in the house". What is so magical about the number two? If two is better than one, why not three?

If you answer, please do not revert to the idea that two is based upon the heterosexual model.....that won't make your argument.

Jewish Atheist said...

For all I know, 3 IS better than 2. But I'm not saying 2 is the best anyway. I'm just saying studies comparing 1 parent homes to 2 parent homes can't tell us anything about homosexual couples. We'd need to already "know" that gender is the "active" ingredient, rather than, e.g. the ability to hold stable relationships, money, time available for children, time spent home alone, etc.

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