AS part of the BBC’s contribution to ‘LGBT history month’, the singer Will Young is to read a story about same-sex parents on Bedtime Stories on the CBeebies channel, which is aimed at children under six.
Two Dads is ‘the tale of a boy who has been adopted and finds himself happily raised by two fathers’. Mr Young says he is overjoyed to be doing the reading because ‘children’s books are one of the first ways we learn about the world around us’ and because ‘families in all forms should be recognised and celebrated – whether that’s two dads, two mums, families with a mum and a dad, those with a single parent, adoptive families and so on’. He has no doubt about this: ‘I’ve never been more sure that inclusivity starts from the youngest possible age’.
The author of Two Dads, Carolyn Robertson, who also wrote Two Mums and a Menagerie, is a ‘a keen advocate of the rights and needs of adopted children and children within LGBT families’. She is bringing up two adopted boys with her female partner. Neither she nor the book’s illustrator, Sophie Humphreys, were raised by ‘two dads’. Nor was Will Young, born to a man and a woman into an affluent middle-class family. Despite this lack of personal experience he is ‘sure’ that same-sex parenting should be ‘celebrated’.
This is also the impression given by many studies justifying this social arrangement. But a recently published digest of all these studies tells a different story. It says we know far too little about the impact on children of same-sex parenting to be shouting it from the hilltops, let alone normalising it. Caution is required. A Review and Critique of Research on Same-Sex Parenting and Adoption (the author, Walter R Schumm, is professor of applied family science at Kansas State University and editor-in-chief of the academic journal Marriage and Family Review) shows that many of the studies’ positive conclusions have been distorted or pre-determined by dodgy research methods. In other words, they set out to prove good news.
Unpicked, the data shows there is nothing yet to celebrate. Amongst the solid findings of this meta-review are:
· Relationship instability appears to be higher among gay and lesbian parent couples;
· It is premature to conclude that there are no differences whatsoever in terms of child outcomes as a function of parental sexual orientation, especially in light of the most recent data;
· There remains a need for high-quality research on same-sex families, especially families with gay fathers and with lower income.
In short, the studies that claim ‘no difference’ used poor methodology (non-random samples, parental (self) reporting vs actual child outcomes, short duration, etc) to reach their ‘positive’ conclusions. As an example, researchers would sometimes recruit subjects via posts on an LGBT-friendly site, stating that they were doing a study on gay parenting, and then select 20-40 participants (as unscientific as you could dream up).
We can perhaps forgive Will Young, who also has taken aim at the presenters of The Grand Tour, the successor to Top Gear on Amazon, for ‘homophobic remarks’, for being unaware of the evidence that same-sex parenting may not represent ‘just another kind of family’ for children. The BBC, however, has a duty to be better informed. Its priority should be the welfare of the child, not the shaping of public attitudes that might still damage them.
That duty is not to indoctrinate our children and grandchildren in the fashionable mantras of sexual diversity while picking our pockets via the soon-to-be-increased compulsory licence fee of £154.50 a year.