Auditor says of gay parenting study: “It’s bull___.”

An audit of the gay parenting study has concluded the work is seriously flawed. The editor of the journal that published the study requested the audit. The Chronicle of Higher Education has obtained a copy of the audit report and interviewed its author.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The highly critical audit, a draft of which was provided to The Chronicle by the journal’s editor, also cites conflicts of interest among the reviewers, and states that “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.”

Since it was published last month, the study, titled “How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?,” has been the subject of numerous news articles and blog posts. It has been used by opponents of same-sex marriage to make their case, and it’s been blasted by gay-rights activists as flawed and biased.

The editor of Social Science Research which published the article, James D. Wright, appointed a member of the journal’s editorial board, Darren E. Sherkat, to review the study and the editorial process.

In his audit, he writes that the peer-review system failed because of “both ideology and inattention” on the part of the reviewers (three of the six reviewers, according to Sherkat, are on record as opposing same-sex marriage). What’s more, he writes that the reviewers were “not without some connection to Regnerus [the author of the study],” and suggests that those ties influenced their reviews.

At the same time, he sympathizes with the task of the overburdened reviewer inclined to skim. Because of how the paper was written, Sherkat said, it would have been easy to miss Regnerus’s explanation of who qualified as “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers.” If a reviewer were to skip ahead to the statistics in the table, it would be understandable, he said, to assume that the children described there were, in fact, raised by a gay or lesbian couple for a significant portion of their childhoods.

In reality, only two respondents lived with a lesbian couple for their entire childhoods, and most did not live with lesbian or gay parents for long periods, if at all.

He also vigorously defended Wright, the editor. “If I were in Wright’s shoes,” he writes, “I may well have made the same decisions.”

Because the reviewers were unanimously positive, Wright had little choice but to go ahead with publication, according to Sherkat.

And yet, there were adverse incentives present,

In his audit, Sherkat reveals that all the reviewers declared that the paper would generate “enormous interest.” Enormous interest leads to citations and downloads, which is how a journal’s relevance is judged. The higher the impact of its papers, the greater its prestige.

Given that it tells us nothing about gay parenting, what does the study tell us?

Wright points out (as Regnerus himself wrote) that the paper could be read as supportive of gay marriage because it seems to indicate that more-stable households produce less-troubled children. “This does not sound like spiteful gay-bashing to me,” Wright contends in his response. “It sounds like a perfectly reasonable conclusion.”

H/T to Box Turtle whose reporting on the study has been thorough.

Past Posts