Joanne S. Beckman: Study not political

March 8, 2014 

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate Dr. Mark Regnerus (now at Texas) was negatively criticized in the New York Times article “Opponents of gay marriage take bad-for-children argument to court” you printed Feb. 23. Sociologist Regnerus is giving scientific testimony in a Michigan federal court case on marriage. Therefore, the New York Times alleged, his peer-reviewed study of children’s well-being must be politically motivated!

Eckholm explained such new studies “might sow doubt on the wisdom of change” in marriage policy. Yes, they might, but that is the method of science: by “sowing doubt” via the null hypothesis we seek truth.

Regnerus’ innovative 2012 study asked a random sample of 3,000 young adults about their childhood parental relationships. About 1 percent reported at least one parent had a homosexual relationship at some point during their childhood; this factor was associated with poorer childhood well-being, as was divorced or single parenting, compared with well-being of children from traditional homes. Most earlier homosexual parenting studies used small nonrandom samples of parents (not children) as respondents, which may be why few differences were found.

The public does need clarity, but from reasoned scientific debate about parenting effects, not courtroom drama or innuendo. The N&O and other media could provide much fairer evaluation of research, untainted by political polemics.

Joanne S. Beckman

President, Nursing Dynamics


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