Tipping their hand

The Times has an interesting article on the role children of same-sex parents are playing in the fight for marriage equality.
While opponents of same-sex marriage worry that schools will teach that gay and straight relationships are equal, many supporters focus on a different, but still child-centered, issue: What about the children now being raised in families headed by gay men and lesbians? How does the lack of marriage benefits for their parents affect them?

In recent years, an increasing number of these children — ranging in age from 10 to nearly 40 — have taken active roles in campaigns organized by Colage (formerly known as Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere), and civil rights groups like Lambda Legal and Glad (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders). Their involvement is helping to change the narrative of same-sex marriage to a story about families from one about couples.

I am of two minds about this strategy. As a counter to the "gay parents will destroy children!!" argument, I think it has merit. But as a primary justification for marriage equality, I think it's flawed. First, it excludes the many, many same-sex couples who choose not to parent. Second, I think it's very important that children not become props or pawns in a social movement they do not fully understand. For those who are old enough to assent to their own involvement, this is a lesser concern, but I think it's an important question to raise.

However, your friends and mine at the Family Research Council maybe need to tidy up their message a bit.
Mr. Pugno’s position is shared by others. “The real question is whether same-sex relationships benefit children to the same extent that living with a married mother and father does, and we believe they do not,” said Peter S. Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, the conservative Christian organization. “Children do best when raised by their own biological mother and father who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage.”

As for the lifelong marriage question, at least one has to give the FRC credit for being consistent with an unpopular message. If the anti-equality types want to strengthen heterosexual marriage by banning divorce, then I suppose I would have to at least admire their coherence, which is otherwise rather lacking.

However, whoops-a-daisy with that word "biological." Hear that, heterosexual adoptive parents? It turns out that you, too, are also inferior. Welcome to the club!

Considering that the FRC also stridently opposes abortion rights, one supposes that their ideal solution to the ugly reality that sometimes people who aren't married have sex (*clutches pearls; swoons*) is to force those with unintended pregnancies into lifelong, loveless marriages. Because nothing says "Jesus loves you" like social pressure to live a life of resentment and stifled hopes. Good luck with that.


  1. It's great to include the adult children. I share your hesitation about using kids under the age of 18 or so.

  2. *sigh* It is uncontroversial that adopted children are at higher risk for abuse than children with their biological parents. As a pediatrician, I would expect you to know this. The statement that children do best with biological parents is supported by facts, it isn't opinion. I'll explicitly point out that the statistics of a group doesn't imply that any particular adoptive parents are inferior -- they may well be superior to specific biological parents -- but the claim that adoption is inferior to living with biological parents, with respect to children's interests, is true. I would observe that it shows the amazing power of evolutionary effects on human behaviors.

  3. John, don't be obtuse. As someone who has been through the gamut of adoption education, of course I am aware that children in adoptive families face difficulties that children with their biological parents do not. That does not mean there is any basis to the appalling statement that children placed with adoptive families "do worse," which is a meaningless statement. By what measure? By measures currently accepted broadly by the pediatric and psychiatric/psychological community, children adopted by either heterosexual or homosexual parents thrive to the same extent that those raised by biological parents do.

  4. The claim was children "do best" when raised by bioparents in a committed marriage. That's uncontroversial, as I said, if "do best" includes "have the lowest rates of abuse" and "lowest rates of adult criminal behavior." Adoptive children have higher rates of childhood abuse than bioparent children, and single parent children have higher probability of having a police record in adult life than children growing up in a two parent household.

    Perhaps you'd let us in on why the pediatric and psychiatric community standards of "do best" doesn't include abuse or criminal behavior? Do you all just not talk about that stuff?

  5. First off, John, please don't be rude. It's annoying.

    Now then, would you please include the specific citation about the rates of abuse in adopted children? Is that "more likely to have been abused" or "more likely to be abused by their parents"? How old is the citation?

    Yes, it is documented that children in foster care are often abused in that setting. I am not familiar with any evidence that children who are adopted are more likely to be abused by their adoptive parents than children raised by biological parents. If you have information, share it.

    I am not disputing that children raised by single parents have more difficulties later in life, statistically speaking.

    Even if, statistically speaking, children who are adopted are at higher risk of abuse (a point I do not concede), what is the point of the FRC's statement? Nobody with three functional neurons would dispute that the vast majority of adoptive parents provide loving, stable homes in which their children thrive. How does that statement persuasively make the case for anything?

  6. good lord Dan, why bother? And I suppose children whose parents are independently wealthy and have great genes do best of all. So no poor or middle class should be allowed to have kids, nor ugly (or even average) only that will please Herr gj and his desires for a master race.

    Of course it is repugnant to cast aspersions casually on adoption, no one in their right mind is in favor the biological parents not loving and caring for their own children, but some can't, some die, etc. and adoption fills a geniune need, to nitpick is just offensive and gross.

    gj, not everyone of your opinions needs to be expressed, try muzzling yourself sometime.

    And Dan, anti-gay marriage people use their children as props all the time, take a look at a teabag rally. I am not saying gays should use their kids as props, but I see nothing wrong with the kids joining their parents either at rallies.



  7. Dan, I don't see what was rude in my post. I would be grateful if you could point it out for me, as I'm obviously missing something that is offensive to you. I apologize for saying it and missing it; I'm not here to insult you, but to be the devil's advocate.

    Cites? Higher suicide risk for adopted children -- "Suicidal behavior in national and international adult adoptees" Annika von Borczyskowski, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol 41, no. 2, 2006

    "Adoption and mental illness", Arline Kaplan, Psychiatric Times, Jan 2009.

    "Child Sexual Abuse by Caretakers", L Margolin and John Kraft, Family Relations, vol 38, no. 4, Oct. 1989.

    As far as abuse *by adoptive parents*, what matters is that the child was abused, not who did the abuse. And if the question is bio versus adoptive parents, the Margolin-Kraft study found all categories of non-bio caretakers to be overrepresented relative to bio caretakers, specifically including adoptive parents.

    Look at it from the evolutionary perspective; the normal situation is biologically related caretakers. Sacrifice for genetic offspring is cooked into our genes that build our brains. Those emotional and instinctive safeguards weaken as the genetic distance increases. This is not to say that we do not have conscious control of our decisions, of course.

    I'm not supporting the FRC agenda. I'm just saying that from all the data I've seen, they are right when they claim the best situation for children in general is with two bioparents. We shouldn't pretend that adoption is equivalent to an intact biofamily, because the data show it isn't (in the general case). If there is no intact biofamily, well, the best then becomes a loving adoptive family.

  8. Perhaps you'd let us in on why the pediatric and psychiatric community standards of "do best" doesn't include abuse or criminal behavior? Do you all just not talk about that stuff?

    This seemed snide to me. If it was not to be read thusly, then I apologize if I was being thin-skinned.

    Now then, I have a few points to make, then I'm calling it a day with this thread.

    1) I do not put a lot of stock into genetic imperatives. Having seen plenty of biological parents whose drive to care for their children has been noticeably lacking, I don't find that argument convincing.

    2) I also don't buy that adoptive parents are over-represented as abusers. While I cannot find a citation to back this up right now, I have seen it reported that adoptive parents are very rarely abusive. This makes sense, if you think about it. Adoptive parents are always parents by intention. They (we) have to put in tremendous effort and face high expenses to become parents. There is an incredibly extensive vetting process before placement, and several follow-up visits afterward. Now, obviously some abusers will slip through the cracks, but I simply don't believe that adoptive parents are more likely to abuse than the general population.

    3) The FRC is not a scientific body making observations about risks and trends and statistics. It is an incredibly biased organization with an agenda to advance. When they say children with their biological parents "do best," they're making their case for what they want to be the general rule for families, not stating an objective finding.

  9. Urk. Yes, I can see how you would take that to be snide. My bad, it wasn't the intent. As Roddick would say, it looked very different on the replay.