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Same Sex Parenting Increases Depression in Children

sad child 2Our relationship with our biological parents influences our happiness long after we’ve flown the nest. So says a new study showing how those raised by same-sex parents experience significantly more depression, obesity, and other problems in young adulthood than their peers.

In the first study to examine children raised by same-sex parents into early adulthood, Prof. Paul Sullins confirmed some findings from studies often cited by gay marriage advocates. These show increased closeness to parents and less depression in childhood. But since those studies didn’t follow the same children into adulthood, they missed the fact that problems like depression appear later in life and to a greater degree than in the general population.

The greater distress comes as children seek to establish their independence. Sullins said this is likely due to problems resolving distance from the biological parent and that there has been no study examining that issue.

Same-sex parents in the data tended to be comparatively white, well-educated, disproportionately female, and of lower income than the general population.

The absence of the father during adolescence—“the most common form of deficient parental closeness” according to the study—is associated with many negative outcomes including depression. In turn, mental health measures of depression, suicidality, and anxiety at adolescence were strong predictors of mental health outcomes in early adulthood.

Same-sex parented adults were almost twice as likely to be obese (72% compared to 37% of the comparison group). This high prevalence is related to previous studies showing higher incidence of obesity in lesbians compared to their female cohort, Sullins says.

The study found that “the well-documented tendency toward greater levels of intimate violence in same-sex partnerships was present in parenting as well.” Between 85-90% reporting abuse in later years. Sullins said this has gone unreported because most studies rely on parents’ self-reporting.

Sullins used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health which interviewed more than 20,000 American adolescents aged 15 in 1995, then again at 22, and 28.  He honed the data down to 8,762 cases to ensure he was not looking at such cases as children raised by LGBT parents who were also living with the child’s other biological parent.

Why do so many studies say there is “no difference” between biological and other opposite-sex parents and same-sex parents? Sullins says the delayed onset of problems like depression help explain this, along with the politicization of social science research.

Mark Regnerus said Sullins likely published his findings in a medical journal “rather than endure the increasingly politicized nature of peer review in the social sciences.”

Regnerus’ own study on same-sex parenting was attacked by gay-marriage proponents leading up to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision last year overturning man-woman marriage laws in the U.S.

“Since the Obergefell decision ‘settled’ the legal question about same-sex marriage,” Regnerus said, “The skirmishes will be minor compared to the blood sport witnessed a few years ago. Empirical truth is no longer quite so threatening to the wishes of some adults. The vulnerability of children, on the other hand, has not abated.”


Susan Fink Yoshihara is Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) Vice President for Research and Director of the International Organizations Research Group (IORG). Her research interests include intervention, human rights, and humanitarianism in international law and politics. She is the author of Waging War to Make Peace: U.S. Intervention in Global Conflicts  (Praeger, 2010).

This article courtesy of  Turtle Bay and Beyond and is used with permission.

  • john

    Curious. Was this study’s definition of “gay parents” including gay parents not in relationships and comparing them with in tact heterosexual couples or comparing in tact gay couples with in tact heterosexual couples? That was the complaint about the badly flawed Regnerus “study,’ in that it was comparing apples with oranges.

  • JR Yungk

    As a gay man who grew up in a Catholic environment, I was figuring my depression was due to hearing slurs for my entire life, while being told there was something horribly wrong with me and any attempt at a family is morally disastrous. The idea also based in Catholicism which assumes social and familial incompetence of the same-sex attracted. The data mentioned is outdated and we have no reason to think it’s an adequate sample. Other “data” used in making these judgments include the Catholic Medical Association which quotes speculative case studies from over a half century ago as “research”. Yet, Jesus never said a word about gay marriage. It’s one thing to preach one’s interpretation of the bible but to use it to slander families then try to back it up with dubious studies breaks many ethical codes.