All families try to do their best for children, but children from same-sex relationships did less well than those from biologically-intact families, according to one study.
A new study has blasted the prevailing wisdom that children of same-sex couples do as well or better than those raised in intact biological families with a married mother and father.
But, as the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC)'s manager of research and communications Andrea Mrozek points out in a recent newsletter, the study by University of Texas' Population Research Centre by sociologist Mark Regnerus has been subject to a "near blackout" in Canada.
The New Family Structures study has received lots of attention - positive and negative - south of the border.
What distinguishes it from previous studies that have painted a rosy picture of families led by same-sex couples is its sample size of 15,000 Americans aged 18 to 39, making it statistically representative of the national picture.
The study looks at behaviour rather than identity and asks respondents "if their biological mother or father ever had a romantic relationship with a member of the same sex."
Regnerus was able to find in his sample 175 children who were raised in homes where the mother had a lesbian relationship, and 73 from homes where the father had a relationship with another man.
The study also looked at outcomes for a range of family types, including intact biological, divorced, adopted, step-families and others.
It found that children raised in the same-sex relationship homes did less well than children of biologically intact families on a range of outcomes.
They were more likely:
Those whose parent was in a lesbian relationship were more likely to experience low income; those whose parent was in a male homosexual relationship were more likely to have suicidal ideation.
Mrozek stressed Regnerus was not claiming a cause-and-effect relationship. "The study does not attempt to address why these children experience poorer outcomes; it does not assert causality," she said.
"The mainstream media has been only too happy to report studies with different results, suggesting that the children of gay and lesbian parents are no different, certainly not worse and in some cases better off," Mrozek said.
"However, these conclusions are premature because many of the existing studies on same-sex parents are not methodologically sound."
According to Regnerus, the sample sizes in the other studies are so small they cannot be used to draw conclusions about other gay and lesbian families.
"How children fare in different family forms is an obviously sensitive area of research because parents of all kinds are seeking to do the best they can," Mrozek said. "However, it is a valid area of inquiry."
Critics of the study range from ad hominem attacks of homophobia to criticism the children of the same-sex families may also have experienced divorce, step-parenting or other problems and that it is not comparing intact same-sex families with intact biological families.
"What the study shows, then, is that kids from broken homes headed by gay people develop the same problems as kids from broken homes headed by straight people," writes William Saleton on slate.com, in an argument for same-sex marriage.