Study Claims Gays More Likely to Raise Gay Kids

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 18, 2010

A researcher claims to have demonstrated that factors other than genetics come into play in determining an individual's sexual orientation. Specifically, he argues, children of gay parents are more likely to be gay themselves.

In a report that is sure to be embraced by anti-gay groups and reviled by pro-equality organizations, Walter Schumm purports to demonstrate that children of gay and lesbian parents are much more likely to grow up to identify as gay or lesbian themselves. Nor is it all a matter of gay genes being passed from parents to children; according to Schumm, parental pressure and modeling also have an effect.

Schumm is a professor with Kansas State University. His paper, "Children of homosexuals more apt to be homosexuals: A reply to Morrison and to Cameron based on an examination of multiple sources of data," has been published in Journal of Biosocial Science. An AOLNews story from Oct. 17 says that he was inspired to look into the question of whether gay parents could influence their children's' sexuality in ways that go beyond genetics when Paul Cameron published a paper, based on very little research, that claimed that gays raising children led to more children growing up gay.

Cameron is a leading anti-gay activist who has been expelled from the membership of the American Psychological Association and criticized by mental health professionals for "misrepresentation": of scientific data regarding gays. Cameron is the founder of anti-gay group the Family Research Institute. He is known for having authored a study claiming that being gay sharply reduces an individual's lifespan and for having made the claim that homosexuals are far more likely to sexually molest children than heterosexuals are.

Schumm set out to explore the question of how much influence parents have over their children's sexuality by looking over previous studies done by others--a process called "meta-research." "I'm trying to prove that it's not 100 percent genetic," Schumm told AOLNews. To do that, Schumm re-examined a body of research through several filters, only using data relevant to parents who declare themselves to be gay and only using data that comes from children who are in their 20s, among other things. The results of his meta-research indicated that the rates of gay children are much higher when they have gay parents: nearly two-thirds (58%) of lesbians' adult children are gay, as are one-third (33%) of gay men's' adult children.

AOLNews reported that Schumm also sought to prove the part of his thesis that suggests that people will be gay in higher numbers where there is support for homosexuality, as would be the case in households with same-sex parents. By looking at sociological and anthropological studies, Schumm says, he determined that nearly 90% of the time when there is greater acceptance of homosexuals in a society, there is also a higher rate of homosexual conduct.

Schumm told AOLNews that lesbian mothers tend to discourage their female offspring from pursuing relationships with men, claiming that among lesbians there are some that have "a hatred of men that's intense."

But does that mean that more children actually become gay who would not otherwise have been gay, due to the presence in their lives of gay parents? Or does it mean that fewer gay children feel pressured into denying their sexuality and passing as straight?

Nature, Nurture, and Conflicting Views

Clarke University professor Abbie Goldberg, who has written a book on the subject of same-sex families titled Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle, disputed some of Schumm's results, saying that the studies Schumm analyzed may have been inherently biased by allowing vocal gays and lesbians to self-select. Goldberg also expressed doubts about the sample sizes used.

Anti-gay groups have long claimed that gays "recruit" children and "make" them gay, and insist that gays "choose" to be sexually attracted to others of the same gender. Scientific evidence points to an array of physiological and hereditary factors that seem to affect whether a person ends up gay or straight, but those results are not entirely definitive: there does seem to be some role played by "nurture" as well as "nature" in some cases

Many gays, however, say that their sexuality is innate and unchangeable. Mental health professionals tend to agree, condemning religiously backed programs to "cure" or "convert" gays and "turn" them straight as prone to do more damage than good. Though some individuals who have undergone so-called "reparative therapy" and become "ex-gays" say that they are happier as heterosexuals, many gays who attempted to "convert" to heterosexuality found that the experience only made them unhappier. Others say that they are "ex-gays," but that they continue to "struggle" with same-sex attraction on a daily basis. Others say that they have defeated their homosexual urges, but that they have little or no remaining sex drive.

Schumm told AOLNews that researchers often push "liberal" agendas on their data. In an interview with anti-gay religious site LifeSiteNews, Schumm also spoke about putting passages from the Bible to the test in the laboratory. Moreover, Schumm claimed that same-sex relationships were less "stable" than heterosexual unions, and said that the "unstable" families formed by gays and lesbians could have a detrimental effect of children by leaving them in the care of a single parent. (Schumm pointed to the same research that anti-gay groups cite--studies of how the children of straight single mothers fare, compared with children from two-parents homes. However, he did not deny studies that show that children from homes with two parents of the same sex do just as well as children with two heterosexual parents; Schumm has even said in the past that gay parents would make "good foster parents.")

Schumm went on to characterize gay unions as more liable that heterosexual unions to include sexual activity outside of the primary relationship, and to compare non-exclusive couples and monogamous couples to "free" people and "slaves" from the 19th century. "I am not sure how long, as Lincoln observed, you can have a nation endure if it remains half-free and half-slave, with such a major cultural divide," Schumm told LifeSiteNews.

"I would expect that social entropy would favor a gradual erosion of sexual values in the direction of 'freedom' from marriage and gender norms," Schumm continued. "It is as if you made a national policy that half the nation would get a 'free' guaranteed annual income while the other half had to earn their income and pay for the 'free' income of the rest. I am not sure how long those who had to earn their income (just as some have to earn their right to sex by making a marriage commitment and by accepting the inherent conflicts involved in gender differences) would continue to put up with such a division peacefully."

Box Turtle Bulletin noted in a Nov. 23, 2008, article that Schumm was one of two expert witnesses called upon by the state of Florida to defend an anti-gay ban on adoption. The other expert witness was George Rekers, the co-founder of the Family Research Council and a longtime foe of GLBT equality who hired a male prostitute earlier this year to accompany him on a European vacation.

Box Turtle Bulletin noted that in the course of his testimony, Schumm cited similar figures to the ones that appear in his new report. claiming that 19% of children raised by ay parents grow up to become gay, compared to only 4% of children raised by heterosexual parents. Even at the time, Schumm's numbers were assailed; Box Turtle Bulletin quoted University of California at Los Angeles professor Susan Cochran, who suggested to the court that Schumm had manipulated his data to inflate the numbers. "This is taught in first-year statistics," Cochran said in a rebuttal to Schumm's claim. "I was surprised he would do that." The case was decided in favor of the gay plaintiffs.

An Oct. 17 Box Turtle Bulletin story about Schumm's new paper said that it "picks up where" Camerton's earlier study "left off." "Cameron's paper, also published in JBS, was just another example of the shoddy "scholarship" and deliberate distortion of other publications that we've come to expect from him. Schumm's paper seeks to replicate Cameron's work while acknowledging some of the criticisms of Cameron's 2006 paper. It's important to emphasize however that Schumm only acknowledges someof the criticisms. The most important criticism - the completely non-random nature of the so-called "dataset" that Cameron used - Schumm not only ignores, but he repeats that same flaw and embellishes it in a grandly enlarged form."

The article then goes into a more detailed critique of Schumm's methodology and conclusions, including what the article says is a habit of "picking out a small paragraph of other researchers' work while ignoring that researcher's primary findings in the hope that nobody would notice." The Box Turtle Bulletin article dismisses Schumm's paper, saying, "Schumm comes off appearing more 'sciencey' than Cameron, but his methodology is exactly the same. And when you use the same methodology, you end up with the same result: junk science."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.