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WaPo bias: Children of gay couples are “happier, healthier”

Cherry-picking and twisting research to say what you want to believe

The gay family with kids as Leave It To Beaver is a constant throbbing drumbeat, kept alive through media bias and editorial cherry-picking.

Today’s WaPo headline reads “Children of same-sex couples are happier and healthier than peers, research shows” and the lede is:

Children of same-sex couples fare better when it comes to physical health and social well-being than children in the general population, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Except that the study isn’t about healthier or happier children at all.

The study is about stigma.  In a post published today in the Research Connect blog, lead researcher Simon Crouch wrote:

The underlying aim of the study was to characterise health and wellbeing and to understand the influence of stigma on child health in this context.

The context is 315 same-sex parents in Australia who volunteered to be part of it.  There are some major problems with the study, which even Crouch admits.

When researching child health in same-sex families the first problem is identifying, and then recruiting, such families. In Australia there is only one way that this can be achieved: through convenience sampling. …in Australia [there are] no population datasets that capture parent sexual orientation. Thus the volunteer sample is the only option.

It is argued that only parents with a vested interest in promoting positive health outcomes will volunteer. While this cannot be discounted as a possibility there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.

There’s no evidence?  A study based on a self-selected population of same-sex parents who likely have an agenda to show that their kids are all-stars, focusing on stigma is not going to have a foregone conclusion?

The study doesn’t show or prove anything about children of same-sex couples other than a Leave It To Beaver family sample shows kids doing well.  It doesn’t look at broken families, children in traditional families where a parent left for a gay lover, or any of the more negative situations which damage children.

I don’t hold anything against Crouch.  His study was about stigma, which I’m sure exists in some form or another, since children of same-sex couples are fairly rare.  He could very well have studied stigma of children whose fathers were police officers killed in the line of duty, or stigma of children of politicians who have been convicted of felonies.  Small population, self-selected studies looking for stigma are going to find it.

Lindsey Bever, the rookie WaPo reporter covering the “Morning Mix” grab bag, attempted to balance the article.  If you get to the end, you  have to follow an obscure link to a 2013 WaPo story, which cites a study from Mark Regenerus, but links to Regenerus’ personal website.  Then you have to find the link to the study itself on Regenerus’ site.

I don’t hold anything against Bever either.  She’s a TCU graduate with a good career ahead of her.  I don’t know what the article she turned in to the editors looked like.  I do know what WaPo published under her byline.

It’s precisely this kind of biased, message-based journalism that turns people off to the mainstream media.

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