The Importance of Biology

imageI was recently alerted to a new study on risk for children as a function of parents. The study of over 200,000 children (some 500 of whom are being raised by parents of the same gender) is that children raised by both their biological parents fare best, when one controls for other factors.

The study was titled “Emotional Problems among Children with Same-Sex Parents: Difference by Definition” by Donald Paul Sullins of The Catholic University of America, January 25, 2015.

I was able to find the study at this link. I see there is now a link in the sidebar to this study as well.

I was surprised by the introduction, which asserted that many studies have found children raised in households where both parents are of the same gender had been found to have improved outcomes. This surprised me because the studies I had read consistently indicated that children in same gender households did not do as well, controlling for variables.

I mean, a loving same gender household might well be expected to raise children with an improved outcome compared to a household led by irresponsible and violent substance abusers who happen to be heterosexual. So I can fully understand why people could look at a particular instance and assert that a same gender couple is preferable. But I don’t know why anyone would assert that a child raised by a same gender couple would have a better outcome than a child raised by a heterosexual couple, all other things being equal.

The concern is that these prior findings, that children allegedly fare better in households headed by same gender couples, have been used to sway judges and courts to award children to same gender couples. Which is fine, unless the findings are in error.

Parentage Matters

The key finding of this study is that risk is lowest when both parents are the biological parents of the child.

Certainly one can assert that this shouldn’t matter. But here’s the rub. It does appear to matter.

Can an individual parent, who isn’t the biological progenitor of a child, be as nurturing and supportive and affirming as a biological parent? Certainly, as far as what that parent does is concerned. However there is never going to be a time when that non-biological parent can be the biological parent.

The Study used the phrase “difference by definition.” Reading a bit, it appears this refers to the fact that a same-gender couple, by definition, can never be or even be mistaken for the two biological parents of the children being raised by the couple.

What is to be Done?

If I were an advocate for same-gender parental rights, I would presume that the solution to this “problem” is to deprecate the importance of biology. In this manner, any “benefit” a child derives from knowing it is being raised by its biological parents would cease to be a differential benefit that improves the comfort children derive from knowing that their parents are biologically vested in them.

However, as I don’t have a stake in same-gender parental rights, I wonder why one would strip away the benefit children of biological parents derive from knowing that they are the biological get of their parents?

I suppose that same-gender parents could engage in behaviors (e.g., affirmations) to attempt to compensate for the de facto lack of biological connection any child raised would have with at least one member of the same gender couple. If the same gender couple consists of two women, there is the possibility of having one parent provide the genetic material and the other parent provide the gestational nurture. But that’s pretty involved, and not an option for same gender couples who are not female.

In the Mean Time

Until such a time as all children are loved by all members of the community as though those children were biologically related to each member of the community, it seems prudent to inform prospective parents and other decision makers that:

1) Children do better when raised by their biological mother and biological father, all other factors being equal.

2) Children raised in same gender households, unless raised to be completely ignorant of biological fact, necessarily know that they aren’t the biological get of both their parents. Something about being raised by less than both the biological parents increases risk to the well-being of the child.

The Risk of Messing with Biology

Though not covered in the “Difference by Definition” study, there appear to be additional risks associated with this business of providing children to same gender couples.

0) Seemingly lowest risk would be a child engendered naturally (normal intercourse between the biological mother and biological father) and then raised by a same gender couple, where a biological parent is one of the parents raising the child.

1) A child engendered by a couple who can’t keep the child is offered for adoption. This child, adopted by non-biological parents, will be at some risk simply because they are being raised by parents who are not their biological parents. When there is some reason for the child to know, a priori that the parents who are raising them can’t be their biological parents, then problems can result. I’m not sure if the study identifies a significant increased risk for children adopted by parents of a different race versus children adopted by same gender parents.

2) A child produced using in vitro fertilization runs the risk of the egg-harvesting process harming the mother from whom the eggs are harvested. The challenge here is that no studies are being performed to evaluate the health outcomes for women who donate eggs. There are anecdotes regarding women who have gone through the process of donating eggs who later developed a rare and fatal form of cancer. In the case where the mother from whom the eggs are harvested is one of the parents raising the child, health risks to the woman translate into risk to the child. Whether the woman allowing eggs to be harvested is a parent raising the child or merely a donor, the other unanswered question is what risk is borne by a child produced using these chemical and mechanical manipulations.

3a) For a child gestated by a woman who is “donating” her uterus for the service, there is risk to both the gestating mother and risk to the child. The risk to the gestating mother is the standard risk profile any pregnant woman accepts, with the potential for added risk that might be incurred due to the artificial nature of the insemination. As a mother who has borne children, this is a risk I have accepted myself. But to take this on merely for money is a different matter. I am not sure how well this medical procedure is regulated, and this seems a practice that is ripe for involving exploitation of vulnerable individuals. For example, how many CEOs of successful companies do you see renting out their uterus out of altruistic sentiment?

3b) A child being gestated by a woman who is neither the biological parent nor a parent who intends to raise the child runs the risk of that woman being careless in caring for the task of gestating the child. There are plenty of women who drink or smoke or fail to keep pre-natal visits, but at least if the woman is gestating her own child, there is some self-interest (even if self-interest that is being thoroughly ignored). But a woman gestating a baby for pay alone will have even less incentive to avoid activities that might be dangerous to the baby. Recall that a woman gestating a baby for pay is likely not well-to-do economically or socially.

4) A child created using donated sperm will not be able to trace medical history. I am also unaware of legitimate means of inseminating a woman other than traditional sex and in vitro means that involve egg harvesting, already mentioned above.

In Summary

Making babies is risky business. Alas, if no one were to make babies, then the outcome for the species would be bleak indeed.

When we control for other variables, a child who is raised by their two biological parents will fare best.

A child raised by a same-gender couple will not fare as well.

The technologies used to produce children for couples who cannot naturally engender a child carry risk to both the child and the woman/women who contribute to the genetic heritage and gestation of the child.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

19 thoughts on “The Importance of Biology

  1. In the case of adoption I would venture to say that studies would provide a similar sanction to heterosexual versus homosexual parents, but to do so is not PC.

  2. Biology is almost always important to the child. I have 3 stepkids, and each in their own turn told me, “you’re not my father!”

    Non-biology means your kids are different than you are. They are taller/shorter, more or less athletic/musical/intellectual, introvert/extrovert, serious/light-minded, happy/miserable, and so forth. Dealing with kids that do not share your interests nor abilities can be a struggle.

    Free will is important, but biology has a very powerful pull on what we end up like. I find kids struggle when they do not know who they are. Part of that understanding, a major part, is how they tie into a family structure genetically. My step-kids love me, but their interest is in their biological genealogy, not mine (even though it is very interesting).

    So, I would agree that biological parents that a decent parents is the best of all worlds.

  3. I suspect that children who appear to be the biological get of the parents who raise them, even if the children are actually adopted, would fare better than children raised by parents who, by definition, could not have engendered them due to being unable to reproduce (the same gender issue).

    It would be interesting to see how children do when it’s patently obvious that they can’t be the biological get of the heterosexual couple who are raising them. For example, the little Chinese children being raised by non-Chinese individuals or the children from Africa or of African American heritage who are raised by non-Black individuals. If the difference by definition extends to “I can’t have been engendered by these non ‘my race’ people” in equal force, then that would be interesting.

    It appears there is a wealth of data in the database the researcher was examining. So whether PC or not, it appears the answers to questions can be had, for the price of actually analyzing the data.

  4. Awhile back a law school friend posted a video of a 19-year young man testifying in court passionately affirming the love and care his mothers exercised in his up-bringing. The applause of proponents of same-sex marriage and same-sex-couple adoption was self-congratulatory and of course a little smug in a we told you so sort of way. I listened to it of course. I do not doubt the salutary affects and effects of nurture on children by any two committed and caring adults. But there was a telling moment in this video. The young man expressed how he and his step-sister had been delighted to discover that they shared a biological father!

    There is something about biology. It is inescapable. He who hath ears to hear let him hear.

  5. It used to be that ‘parenthood’ more or less implied both fatherhood and motherhood. Human parents aren’t perfect but once the war on fatherhood and motherhood is won we will be on the brink of a ‘brave new world’ where ‘parenthood’ has no meaning.

  6. Meg
    I’ve been reading more an trying to shorten and improve what I write.
    I’m not one who gets carried away with statistics and factoring in all of the nuances. I do realise that if we are going to influence a voting populous all this is important.
    I would like to interject that I knew an admirable LDS couple who could not have children and what they did was adopt from several ethnic origins and the cosmopolitan result seemed to work out quite well over time. The children were able to learn about how love can cross over race barriers very early on in life (when its almost natural for them anyway).
    I wanted to share that so that those with no choice can feel encouraged.
    Also. I think it would be nice to reflect on how the constant nurturing of tolerance between a man and a woman can set a lifelong example for tolerance which the children can follow. I really doubt that children I just mentioned could have been raised nearly as well by two people of the same sex.
    In Mexico a large number of people are raised in a matriarchal society and there seem to be far more gays than lesbians as a result. Therefore, it seem to me that the arguments for expediency of same sex marriage is a bit short sighted as I suspect that longitudinal studies could easily show unresolved issues passed down through generations where the causes of same sex attraction are swept under the rug.
    I think that there was a study where monkeys were taken from their mothers and given to artificially warmed stuffed dolls that had artificial breasts with milk. Significant deficiencies did not show up till it was time for female monkeys raised this way to care for their own offspring, at which time a severe mothering deficiency became obvious – the upbringing of nearly all generations to follow having to be taken over by zookeepers.
    So, it would seem important to study the quality of comprehensive parenting skills passed down in same sex marriages rather than just declare that all is well because a 19 year old raised this way feels well adjusted.
    I am quite sure that if we, as a society have the intelligence to think about these ramifications, we certainly must have the requisite sophistication as statisticians to consider them.

  7. Of course it makes sense that children raised by non-biological parents would be more at risk all things being equal. But things are never equal. What about children raised without natural breast milk? What about those exposed to too much iPad? What about those whose mothers had to work?

    With hundreds of factors involved in a child’s wellbeing, it’s worth considering what additional factors a gay couple might bring: additional conscientiousness, cleanliness and order, art education and cultivation, the added attention of doting, effeminate fathers, a liberal culture extremely diversity oriented. Ultimately there will be so many factors involved, both positive and negative that it would be nearly impossible to unravel them.

    This world is hopelessly compromised. I say, bring on the SSM kids and let them struggle with the sins of their fathers along with the rest of us.

  8. “I understand now that my father did not sell his seed for altruistic reasons. It is my opinion that he took advantage of my mother’s need for genetic and memetic immortality (though she would never characterize it as such), as an avenue toward his own genetic immortality—and how thrifty of him. Fifty years ago a man had to devote his life through marriage to pass on his genes. Today he doesn’t even have to buy his [child’s mother] a drink.”
    from Reproductive Technologies and the Quest for Immortality by Alana S. Newman http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/03/4628/

  9. This just reaffirms for me the need foradoptees to have access to info on their birthparents. ..closed adoptions and the secrecy around them should definitely be beat left as a relic of the past. Biology and a connection to it does matter.

  10. Hi Nate,

    You make the interesting assumption that a same gender couple will necessarily provide additional factors that create a better environment than would exist in a family where the couple are the biological parents of the child. If this, statistically, is true, then the Catholic University study should not have been able to find increased risk.

  11. Nate wrote: “…additional factors a gay couple might bring: additional conscientiousness, cleanliness and order, art education and cultivation, the added attention of doting, effeminate fathers, a liberal culture extremely diversity oriented.”

    You must travel in very different types of circles than I do. I’ve never run into well-adjusted “Will and Grace” type or white-picket-fence type male homosexuals.

    _All_ the male homosexuals I’ve known (I’ve known too few lesbians to make any generalizations, other than to observe a tendency for being overweight, wearing sensible shoes, and wearig their sleeves rolled up) have had hyper-promiscuous lifestyles. _Most_ were heavily into kink/deviant sexual practices (bdsm/fisting/group sex/etc.), in addition to the promiscuity. And a noticeably significant portion (but probably not a majority) were either victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. And _almost all_ of them had concurrent psychological problems going on, psychoses, pathologies, or neuroses or whatever the proper descriptors are.

    The statistical facts are that there are precious few psychologically “normal” gay men. My bet is that there are a slightly higher percentage of psychologically “normal” lesbians, but even that percentage is likely below 50%.

    An inconvenient fact of SSM, where legal, is that more than half the gay marriages (at least of men) are not monogamous, they’re “open”, where the partners have permission from each other to hook-up under either restricted or unrestricted circumstances.

    Or even more telling, and more obvious, few gay men want to marry in the first place. Anyone who has had their eyes open for the past 40 years, since gays started coming out of the closest, and who has actually known gays across various socio-economic classes, knows that hyper-promiscuity and kink are part and parcel of male homosexuality. “Old queens” who settle down with each other is the exception, not the rule.

    Did you follow that sidebar link on MStar about adult children of gay couples who recently testified and spilled the beans about what most gay couples are really like?

    To people who have actually known average gays, that was not a revelation.

  12. Nice piece, Meg!

    I have to respectfully disagree with Bookslinger. The idea that all, or even most, gay men are just killing time until their next drug-fueled orgy, is a bit out-dated. Regardless of how we may feel about homosexuality per se, as it has gained respectability and gays have been marginalized less and less, individual gays are naturally beginning to behave in a more respectable way. I see this as a good thing for the welfare of the children that will be raised by same-sex couples.

    Having said that, the MStar article about the children of SSMers was very sad (I read it a while ago).

  13. This is so sad…Of all the battles that conservatives could have fought, this is the one they put so much energy into and the loss will be huge. Could have fought harder for so many things…but the gays were what you decided was going to bring down Western Civilization

  14. What makes you say that this is about “conservatives” rather than anything else? Is the cited study incorrect in some manner, is there something about the methodology that is wrong, etc.?

  15. from the post “a loving same gender household might well be expected to raise children with an improved outcome compared to a household led by irresponsible and violent substance abusers who happen to be heterosexual.”

    I just read Rivka Edelman at http://thefederalist.com/2015/02/03/lbgt-demands-for-other-peoples-children-are-misogynistic/. She herself is the daughter of a lesbian, but she sees that one of the basic strategies for those trying to promote homosexual parenting is to prey on mothers that should be receiving legitimate help, not having their children taken from them. “The unstable and impoverished mother is a useful trope in misogynistic and classist discourse. I wonder what was done to find this biological mother housing so she could in fact leave the hospital with her son…It uses privilege and entitlement while claiming to correct inequality…presenting the birthmothers as horrific—one mentally ill, the other a drug-addicted prostitute. So much for compassion and the milk of human kindness flowing from the bench. We hear it loud and clear: these mothers did not deserve their own children.”

    Modern society channels mothers into desperate situations and then preys on them in their moment of crisis. The extreme physical, mental and emotional cost to mothers is a biological certainty. Society has the ability to prepare women for motherhood and channel men toward responsible fatherhood. Instead, the quest for ‘equality’ and ‘autonomy’ mean that we neglect such preparation and channeling since it necessarily involves acknowledging the differences between men and women and a woman’s dependence on social norms/sexual mores to help her be a good mother with help from a good father.

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