Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fellow Sociologist on Regnerus Study: "Key Measure of Gay and Lesbian Parenting Is Simply a Farce"

"The key measure of gay and lesbian parenting is simply a farce."

In an academic context, where collegiality demands that one mince words and make nice when criticizing colleagues' work, those are damning words, indeed. They're words that spell the demise of a career--unless the scholar about whom such a sentence is written has adroit and deep-pocketed handlers who can buy him or her some distance from damning criticism.

The subject of the preceding condemnation: the 2012 study of University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus which claimed to find that gay parents are inferior parents. The colleague assessing the key measure of the Regnerus study as farcical: Darren Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois University who is on the editorial board of Social Science Research, the journal in which Regnerus's study was published. 

The journal's editor James Wright asked Sherkat to do an internal review of the process by which the Regnerus study was vetted and approved for publication. Sherkat makes his statement about the key measure of same-sex parenting employed by Regnerus in an interview with Evelyn Schlatter of Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC Intelligence Report 150 [Summer 2013]).

There are few things more damning that peer reviewers can say about a scientific study than that its "key measure" is a farce. If the key metrics of a scientific study are off, the entire study is off. Nothing that it concludes has any soundness or compelling force. It's a house constructed on sand.

As Sherkat notes, the Regnerus study concludes that households headed by "gay" parents produce troubled children without having even studied households headed by gay parents. Sherkat follows his observation that the key measure of the Regnerus study is a farce with the following explanation:

The study includes a retrospective question asking if people knew if their mother or father had a “romantic” relationship with someone of the same sex when the respondent was under age 18. This measure is problematic on many levels. 
Regnerus admits that just two of his respondents were actually raised by a same-sex couple, though I doubt that he can even know that, given his limited data. Since only two respondents were actually raised in gay or lesbian households, this study has absolutely nothing to say about gay parenting outcomes. Indeed, because it is a non-random sample, this study has nothing to say about anything.

And then he concludes,

When we talk about Regnerus, I completely dismiss the study. It’s over. He has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better.  

As Chris Morley, to whom I'm indebted for information about the Sherkat-Schlatter interview, says, it will be interesting to see whether SCOTUS, the judicial body that the Regnerus study was bought and paid for and rushed to publication in order to influence, pays attention to what Regnerus's peers are concluding about his study. There just can't be a more fatal indictment of a sociological study by a fellow sociologist than Sherkat's statement, "The key measure of gay and lesbian parenting is simply a farce."

P.S. I wonder if, having read Sherkat's assessment of Regnerus's study, the U.S. Catholic bishops will now file a corrective amendment to their amicus brief to the Supreme Court, which cites the study as a bona fide study proving that gay parents are inferior parents? Have the gentlemen no shame?

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