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Writing Sample 2 - Sample Research Essay in APA Style
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The Research Contest Over the Effects of Same-Sex Parenting

Bette Herwick
Sociology 1001
Professor Kathyrn DeMille
March 19, 2006

The Research Contest Over the Effects of Same-Sex Parenting

     Although Canada has legalized same-sex marriage and a handful of American states now recognize civil unions between same-sex couples, the North American debate over the impact of homosexual parenting on children is far from resolved. The majority of mainstream studies assert that the children of gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as do the children of heterosexual parents. However, a fringe group of researchers disputes the validity of this research and offers contradictory evidence to illustrate the harmful effects of same-sex relationships on the children in the home.

     The Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) summarizes the conventional scholarly wisdom on homosexual parenting in its 2006 position paper on same-sex marriage. It plainly states, "the children of same-sex parents do not differ from the children of heterosexual parents in terms of their psychosocial development, their gender development and their gender identity."

     The CPA document refers specifically to a September 2006 article by G.M. Herek, which examines more than 25 years of scientific research into the psychological well-being of children raised by same-sex parents. Based on his extensive survey, Herek concludes that there appear to be no distinguishable differences between children of heterosexual couples and their peers living with gay or lesbian parents. The two groups seem to be equally likely to be psychologically well balanced. Herek also points out that marriage tends to confer economic stability on a household, which benefits children in psychological as well as material ways (616).

     While noting the methodological weaknesses of early studies, Herek notes that the research has become increasingly trustworthy. He points to a 2004 analysis based on information from 88 teenagers, half with same-sex parents and half with heterosexual parents. Because the study examined a probability sample, Herek believes the results can be applied reliably to the general population (613). He maintains that "the burden of empirical proof is on those who argue that the children of sexual minority parents fare worse than the children of heterosexual parents" (614).

     In the opposing camp, however, there are equally well-qualified researchers who claim that there is little solid ground for studies that affirm the parenting capabilities of same-sex couples. In No basis: what the studies don't tell us about same-sex parenting, Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai present a so-called "objective analysis" (3) of the research that endorses same-sex parenting, scrutinizing it in terms of six methodological factors: hypothesis design, controls, measurements, sampling, statistical testing, and allowance for false negatives. Their 149-page review concludes not only that most studies are seriously flawed but also that many articles have been produced "simply as public interest pieces" favouring gay rights (147).

     Lerner and Nagai did not publish their controversial research in an academic journal. They wrote their report for the Marriage Law Project of the Catholic University of America, a legal aid organization that promotes the traditional family. However, they are both established professors with qualifications equal to other researchers in the field. Steven Nock is another qualified academic who has contested the basis of the positive assumptions about homosexual parenting.

     Nock, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, was asked by the Attorney General of Canada to file an affidavit in a 2001 same-sex marriage case. His judgment concerning the studies supporting same-sex parents was damning. He maintained that he could not find one study that met the standard criteria for reliable social scientific research. His affidavit, along with Lerner and Nagai's report, is frequently cited by religious organizations that believe same-sex marriage harms children in terms of their psychological and moral development.

     The difficulty in comparing statements in the academic debate over homosexual parenting is that researchers on both sides are strongly influenced by their own beliefs and values. For instance, one particularly controversial question is whether same-sex parenting makes children more likely to become homosexual. Many of those whose work endorses traditional marriage would consider such an influence harmful because they consider homosexuality a psychological problem. On the other hand, the vast majority of psychologists and psychological researchers do not share this perspective. Homosexuality was de-listed from the American Psychiatric Association's roster of psychiatric disorders in 1973.

     A further difficulty is that the mainstream studies of same-sex parenting most likely to be considered credible date back only as far as the 1990s. At the moment, we're lacking the long-term perspective that would enable social scientists to make reliable global statements about the impact of homosexual parents. As so-called "sexual minority parents" become more and more visible in North American society, research examining them will become broader, deeper, and more sophisticated. By the time today's gay and lesbian parents become grandparents, we may finally start to see some universal agreement on the overall impact of same-sex parents on their children and on society as a whole.


Canadian Psychological Association. (2006). Marriage of Same-Sex Couples—2006 Position Statement.
     Ottawa: CPA. Retrieved March 11, 2006, from
Herek, G.M. (2006, September). Legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the United States: A social
     science perspective. American Psychologist, 61, 607-21.
Lerner, R., & Nagai, A. (2001). No basis: What the studies don't tell us about same-sex parenting.
     Washington, DC: Marriage Law Project. Retrieved March 11, 2006, from Nock. S. (2001). Affidavit to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice regarding Halpern et al. v. Canada.
     Retrieved March 12, 2006, from

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