National Affairs Rory Leishman

National Affairs Rory Leishman

In a report five years ago, the “Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption,” a body appointed by Deb Matthews, then Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, admonished the government of Ontario to assure that people from the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (LBGTQ) communities” have access to assisted-reproduction and adoption services on the same basis as married, opposite-sex couples.

What about the impact of this policy on the well-being of children? The expert panel found that there is no reason for concern: “Children adopted into non-traditional families,” including same-sex families, “had similar outcomes to those adopted into more traditional families.”

This was no ordinary “expert panel.” It was chaired by Governor-General David Johnson, then president of the University of Waterloo, and, among other prominent figures, included Dr. Carol Herbert, then Dean of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University.

In support of the claim that adopted children do just as well in families with same-sex parents as in traditional families, the expert panel cited two journal articles: Patrick Leung et al, “A Comparison of Family Functioning in Gay/Lesbian, Heterosexual, and Special Needs Adoptions,” Children and Youth Services Review 27 (2005) and Jeffrey Haugaard et al, “Lesbian-Headed Households,” Adoption Quarterly 1, 4 (1998).

Upon investigation, it turns out that the Leung study was based on a non-random sample of just 47 gay/lesbian families and 25 heterosexual families. Correspondingly, the Haugaard paper summarizes 10 studies of the birth children of lesbian parents based on non-random samples ranging in size from a mere 15 to 50. It defies understanding how the experts on the Johnson panel could suppose that findings based on these tiny, non-random samples prove that children in gay/lesbian families thrive no less well than children with a mother and father in a traditional family.

At the least, everyone like Johnson and Herbert who suppose that children do just as well in same-sex families as in opposite-sex families should be willing to re-examine that assumption in view of a new paper by Douglas W. Allen, Burnaby Mountain Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University: “High School Graduation Rates Among Children of Same-Sex Households,” Review of the Economics of the Household, August 2013.

Allen observes that over the past 15 years, no fewer than 51 empirical studies have upheld the politically correct view that children thrive at least as well in same-sex families as heterosexual families. However, only one of these studies – a paper by Michael Rosenfeld entitled “Nontraditional families and childhood progress through school,” Demography, 47(3), 2010 – was based on a statistically reliable, large, random sample. In this paper, Rosenfeld concludes that with regard to progress through school, children raised by same-sex couples “cannot be distinguished with statistical certainty from children of heterosexual married couples.”

Allen disputes that conclusion: in a response last year to Rosenfeld also published in Demography, he and two colleagues conclude on the basis of a statistical analysis of the same data used by Rosenfeld that “children from same-sex homes were about 35 per cent more likely to fail a grade compared to children from intact opposite sex married homes.”

Allen’s latest paper is based not on dozens or even hundreds of respondents, but the literally millions of Canadians who were chosen at random to fill out the long form of the 2006 census of Canada. His statistically robust findings are striking: “In the case of gay parents, children are estimated to be 69 per cent as likely to graduate (from high school) compared to children from opposite sex married homes. For lesbian households the children are 60 percent as likely to graduate from high school. A breakdown of performance by the sex of the child shows a more dramatic result. Daughters of gay (male) parents are only 15 per cent as likely to graduate, while daughters of lesbian parents are 45 percent as likely to graduate.”

In short, Allen has utterly discredited the conventional wisdom that having same-sex parents or married, opposite-sex parents makes no difference for children. To the contrary, it does make a difference – a huge difference so advantageous to children in a traditional family with a married mother and father that this difference should be decisive for all judges, politicians and policy makers who genuinely uphold the best interests of the child.