Are we free to speak about parenting research?

Carolyn Moynihan
17 Jan 2012
Reproduced with Permission

It's difficult today to say anything in favour of the intact, married family without putting somebody's nose out of joint. Last week it was a blogger at the LBGT site ThinkProgress who took umbrage at a comment by Focus on the Family's Glenn Stanton. I'll let Mr Stanton tell you how from his post on NRO's Home Front blog:

A reporter from CitizenLink asked me late last week to comment on a story coming from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. It's a straightforward family-research story; a helpful, but not surprising finding: the type of homes kids come from has a huge impact on their educational success. Larger even than type of school they attend. But findings like this have been understood since the celebrated 1966 Coleman Study and before.

So I commented that this finding "supports over three decades of consistent research showing that kids who grow up in a home with their married parents tend to do better in all measures of educational attainment than their peers being raised in single, divorced, and cohabiting-parent homes," Then I concluded by explaining, "Moms and dads both matter here, as well as the type of relationship between them."

Such a statement would not raise an eyebrow by nearly anyone, including most sociologists studying family form and child educational outcomes. But today such a statement is raising the hackles of a small but very vociferous group. The LGBT site of ThinkProgress had a fit on the story, saying I and the organization I work for are distorting the findings fueled by our blind opposition to "marriage equality" (a smooth euphemism for androgynizing marriage).

As ThinkProgress correctly points out, the Chicago study "did not, in fact, address same-sex parenting." That is exactly right. Not everything is about same-sex families. But as Jennifer Roback Morse kindly and correctly points out at the Ruth Institute blog this week, "neither did Glenn Stanton [n]or the [Focus on the Family] editor. They just made the very sensible point" that the study speaks to children doing better educationally when raised by "intact families" (which the study defines on page 15 as those being raised by "two biological parents").

You see, if you make a point that mothers and fathers matter for healthy child-development - something Focus on the Family and lots of others have been doing for quite some time - some assume that you must be speaking against them personally. It's not always about them. But they assume that all family research would naturally include their new kinds of families. It doesn't.

Stanton, who is director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family gives another example of the same kind of tactics. No wonder he headed his post "The nasty politics of parenting research".

Here's a link to the UK Telegraph report on the study for comparison. And here is a pdf of the study: "The Trouble with Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior".