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“Children Need a Mother and a Father”

March 20th, 2006 · 2 Comments

If you’ve paid much attention to the debate over gay adoption—and even if you haven’t—you’ve probably head some pundit or pol assert that “children need a mother and a father,” a claim that’s usually linked to the notion of gender complementarity, the idea that mom and dad each bring something unique to the parenting table, such that a child who doesn’t get both mom-parenting and dad-parenting misses out, presumably with dire consequences. They point out that the many, many studies showing homosexuals are fit parents were mostly comparisons of heterosexual and lesbian single mothers, a comparison (so the argument runs) that hides these important complementarity benefits.

Except here’s something I’ve noticed in the course of researching another marriage-related piece I’m working on. When conservatives make the case for the importance of stable marriages but don’t have gays on the brain so much—especially when they’re talking about the harms of divorce—they tend to allude to the social science consensus that what’s really benificial for kids is to be raised by both (married) biological parents. In other words, it’s true that kids raised by single moms don’t fare as well as kids raised by both biological parents, but kids raised by a heterosexual parent who’s remarried don’t actually do any better once you control for the economic benefit of having a second income in the house. That suggests that it’s that biological link, rather than the mere presence of one parent of each gender, that’s key to the better outcomes.

But what this means is that all the marriage literature conservatives like to cite as an argument against gay parenting is basically useless in the context of adoption. An adopted child, pretty much by definition, is not going to be raised by both biological parents. But in the absence of that biological link, the studies seem to suggest, the only reason to prefer having a kid raised by a couple is the economic benefit—and a couple of gay men can provide that as easily as a hetero couple. Oddly, this crucial point, at the forefront of conservative arguments when divorce is at issue, seems mysteriously absent when it comes to the argument about gay adoption.

Tags: Sociology



2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave Justus // Mar 21, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    “That suggests that it’s that biological link, rather than the mere presence of one parent of each gender, that’s key to the better outcomes.”

    I don’t know that I buy this argument. Do adopted kids from a traditional marriage where their is not a divorce present do worse than biological children from a similar environment? I haven’t seen anything that would suggest that, but you imply that it has. Age of adoption may play a part, but at least in the case of kids who are adopted as infants, I don’t think that there is much if any difference between them and those who have biological parents.

    I think most people are aware that divorce is tough on kids. With that knowledge, one would expect that kids who go through a divorce, whether or not a parent remaries will have a tougher time than those who don’t.

    I am for gay adoption, primarily because I think that even if it is not optimal, it is better than leaving kids in a foster system or something, but I also think that it makes sense to give preference to a traditional family for adoption, all else being equal. I would give preference to a traditional family over a single man or woman as well, although I would not prohit either from adopting.

  • 2 daniel // Aug 28, 2006 at 7:11 am

    i need a mother or a sugar mummy