Does a child need a mother and a father? A new study says they do, confirming what we already knew through human experience and common sense yet is being increasingly denied by people who insist on putting adult desires above the rights of children.
The study by sociology professor Paul Sullins found that “[a]t age 28, the adults raised by same-sex parents were at over twice the risk of depression as persons raised by man-woman parents.” In addition, there was an “elevated risk associated with imbalanced closeness and parental child abuse in family of origin; depression, suicidality, and anxiety at age 15; and stigma and obesity.”
Given these findings, Sullins concluded that “[m]ore research and policy attention to potentially problematic conditions for children with same-sex parents appears warranted.” This study is significant, Sullins writes, because other studies that have “reported ‘no differences’ in well-being” most often use “psychometric measures of depression or anxiety,” which has led to “a lapse in policy attention to the potential needs of such children.” Sullins’ research challenges the “benign findings” of these other studies.
“Reanalyses have confirmed, not surprisingly, the presence in such samples of strong ascertainment bias, social desirability bias, and/or positive reporting bias” in studies that have concluded there are no differences between children of same-sex couples and those of opposite-sex parents.
Higher Reports of Depression and Abuse
Sullins’ study, while small, “followed a representative sample of American adolescents through interviews at average age 15 (Wave I, baseline) in 1995, age 22 in 2002 (Wave III), and age 28 in 2008 (Wave IV, terminus).” His research found that during adolescence, the children of same-sex parents reported less depression than the children of opposite-sex parents. But by the time the children were between ages 24 and 32, that reversed dramatically. More than half of the children of same-sex parents reported depression while depression among children of opposite-sex parents declined to under 20 percent.
Children of same-sex parents also reported more violence, having a parent slap, hit, or kick them, or saying “things that hurt your feelings or made you feel you were not wanted or loved,” or “touched you in a sexual way, forced you to touch him or her in a sexual way, or forced you to have sex relations.” In conclusion:
The emergence of higher depression risk in early adulthood, coupled with a more frequent history of abuse victimization, parental distance, and obesity, suggests that the inattention of research and policy to the problems of children with same-sex parents is unwarranted.
As initial results, the present findings should be interpreted with caution and balance, based on the limited evidence presented, and (it is hoped) neither exaggerated nor dismissed out of hand on preconceived ideological grounds. However, well-intentioned concern for revealing negative information about a stigmatized minority does not justify leaving children without support in an environment that may be problematic or dangerous for their dignity and security.
Sullins’ study is not alone in suggesting more research needs to be done in this area. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published an extensive study proving the importance of biological fathers in the “healthy development of children.” In addition, “the most careful, rigorous, and methodologically sound study ever conducted” on the issue of homosexual parenting found “numerous and significant differences” between children raised by biological parents and children of homosexuals, “with the outcomes for children of homosexuals rated ‘suboptimal’ in almost every category.”
Yet, advocates of same-sex parenting in which babies are born with the intended purpose of leaving at least one biological parent out of the child’s life—either through surrogacy or sperm donation—maintain kids don’t need their biological mother or father.
Deliberately Denying a Child His Biological Parents Is Wrong
I can’t emphasize this point enough—the intentionality of it. We’re not talking about accidental births or loss. We are talking about adults premeditatedly deciding to bring a child into this world who will be deliberately denied knowing or having a relationship with his mother or father.
Advocates of this deviance from established norms cite their own studies claiming the children will be all right, and reject out of hand more extensive studies that prove otherwise, ignoring grown children who testify that being purposely denied a relationship with their parents is a deep psychological and emotional wound that will never fully heal.
They also ignore the social and political impact. When two men or two women (or singles, for that matter) who are raising a child from surrogacy or sperm donation angrily and indignantly claim that a biological mother or father isn’t necessary, I’m reminded of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” where “parent” is a taboo word, and “to say one was a mother—that was past a joke: it was an obscenity.”
Huxley’s world is a dystopian society in which the state has dehumanized people in order to control them. By using (or misusing) technology for reproduction, authorities in this society create people separate from family units, changing the basis of their identity and conditioning them through sex and drugs.
We aren’t to this extreme point, of course. But Huxley’s philosophical novel is prescient in many respects as the march toward greater control by the state is well underway, with social norms and even laws being changed to make our identity fluid and malleable—and thus vulnerable to manipulation. Advocating same-sex parenting in which children are purposely (not accidentally through death or some tragedy) denied a relationship with a biological parent is part of this.
I Need to Know My Origins
Essential to our identity as human beings—as individuals—is knowledge of who we are and where we come from. One of the most basic questions we ask as humans is “Who am I?” The most fundamental answer to that question involves knowing our parents, our heritage, our ancestry, and our origins (which leads to questions of a Creator).
We don’t come into this world as isolated individuals disconnected from a community. We are not like the people in “Brave New World,” raised in test tubes and subject to the whim of the powerful as they control and manipulate us. We are born to one man and one woman— into a particular family—and that family gives us identity, meaning, and safety. To take us out of that context and place us in another that is simply a parody of a real family is to separate us from parts of ourselves, hence dehumanizing and setting us adrift on the isolating currents of nihilism.
Every person has the need and fundamental right to self-knowledge. If we’re denied this self-knowledge, then we have only “other-knowledge,” and this leads to loss of self-determination—it is a kind of bondage, as we are defined by others.
This is why it is so disturbing to hear same-sex couples talk flippantly and even proudly of raising children without knowledge of at least one real, biological parent—as if that parent bears no importance in that child’s life. But nothing can be further from the truth.
Children need their mothers—their real mothers. Children need their fathers—their real fathers. In the context of familial bonds, a child develops into a healthy, independent, and free-thinking adult who has self-knowledge rooted in nature, not contrived social constructs.
We Didn’t Need Data to Know This Truth
I’ve already cited studies that confirm this and referenced testimonies that support it, but, ultimately, this isn’t a debate about data. Those who are determined to separate children from their parents and call it “good” don’t want to consider the data anyway (or they only want to look at favorable—and often biased—data). My argument, therefore, is an appeal to common sense, reason, and human experience throughout the course of history.
What is more plain to right-thinking people than the fact that a child, who is created by two people and genetically part of both, needs to have a relationship with those two people to develop in a healthy way? What is more fundamental to our existence than to know where we came from and who we are?
Literature itself—a witness of human experience—describes repeatedly the longing in a child’s heart to know his or her parent. From “Peter Pan” to “Harry Potter”; from “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” where little Caleb longs to know the smallest details about his mother, to “The Secret Life of Bees,” which is about Lily’s journey to discover herself as she learns about her dead mother, literature tells the human narrative of what it means to know ourselves and how knowing our parents plays an integral role in that self-knowledge.
The images of these stories is heartbreaking: Harry, sitting before the Mirror of Erised where he sees his family smiling at him, “There was nothing to stop him from staying here all night with his family. Nothing at all.” Or little Caleb in “Sarah, Plain and Tall” asking his big sister, “Did Mama sing every day? Every-single-day?” Yes, “Every-single-day,” she told him. The child longed to know his mother, to feel her warmth, to hear what she thought of him.
Even more touching is Lily’s quest to know her mother in “The Secret Life of Bees”:
The worst thing was lying there wanting my mother. That’s how it had always been; my longing for her nearly always came late at night when my guard was down. I tossed on the sheets, wishing I could crawl into bed with her and smell her skin. I wondered: Had she worn thin nylon gowns to bed? Did she bobby-pin her hair? I could just see her, propped in bed. My mouth twisted as I pictured myself climbing in beside her and putting my head against her breast. I would put it right over her beating heart and listen. Mama, I would say. And she would look down at me and say, Baby, I’m right here.
Some might think anyone can step in and fill that role. They can’t. Not fully. That doesn’t mean loving substitutes can’t do a lot of good as they give much to a child (especially when children are adopted because of tragic circumstances), but there is nothing like being connected to your real mother—to the woman who helped form your identity, to whom you are existentially bound on a physical and even spiritual level.
‘Her Love Left Me Unhappy and Incomplete’
As I read through the testimonies of children who have been purposely denied a parent, I’m haunted by their words. One story in particular shows the pain a child of same-sex parents goes through as she wrestles with the inner desire to know her father and siblings. In our society today, these children aren’t free to express themselves, and they’re made to feel guilty for “betraying” their socially constructed mothers.
But what is more important here? The feelings and desires of adults, or the real and natural needs of a child who has been deprived of something essential to her well-being?
“How do you talk to your mom about how hurt you are when her effort, drive, and passion to have you brought into this world is the reason you can even speak?” one donor child asks. “How do you sit someone down and essentially tell them that they are not enough of a ‘family’ for you?”
‘It’ll crush her,’ I say — because having to grasp the fact that her unconditional love left me unhappy and incomplete will be devastating.
This is the moment I feel my entire body tense up as they utter the all too familiar and famous words: ‘You should be grateful that she wanted you here so badly that she went through this whole process and literally payed to ensure she could love a child.’
Right then and there I question my entire thought process. Is it unethical or immoral for me to want to know where half of me comes from?
The writer is quick to say she is grateful to be put on this earth, “but I go to sleep every night and wake up every morning feeling lost.”
I will never know what it is like to play catch with a father at age 6. I will never know what it is like to bring a boy home, only to have a dad threaten them. I will never know what it is like to wake up on Father’s Day morning to anything other than my mom saying we should send a photo to the family to celebrate — only to have me say ‘there is no father to send this photo to.’ I will never know what it is like to make eye contact with the man that is responsible for my existence. All I am left with is my unique olive complexion and my small nose. Those are the bits and pieces I can make out to be the pieces of me that have come from him, and while small or dumb, it all means the world.
This girl isn’t asking for anything other than to know where she came from and be connected to the other person who is responsible for her existence. This is an organic, fundamental need, and it has been purposely and intentionally denied. She didn’t lose a father to an accident. He didn’t abandon her. She was kept from him because of her mother’s own selfish reasons that have been glossed over as noble.
Ironically, family law forbids this kind of treatment of children. If a divorced woman tries to take a child and keep him from his father, then she has violated civil codes and will be held accountable. This is because our society recognizes it is in the best interest of a child to have both parents in his life. Our society also recognizes that it is the responsibility of both parents to raise that child (practically and financially).
This Is a Double Standard
But somehow, that value of “the best interest of the child” goes out the window when it comes to same-sex parenting (or any parenting from sperm donors and surrogacy). At that point, it’s okay to deny a child the other parent, to purposely raise him without a father or a mother.
Suddenly, we decide a child actually doesn’t need his father and mother in his life. All that matters in same-sex parenting is the desires and needs of the adults. They determine what the family looks like. They determine the child’s identity. They determine what the child needs and doesn’t need. It’s all about the adult without a thought to the real needs of the child.
By definition in many states, such intentional treatment of a child classifies as emotional abuse, a form of child neglect. According to childwelfare.gov, emotional abuse/child neglect is “injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child as evidenced by an observable or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition” and injury as evidenced by “anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior.”
Many children of same-sex parents who have been purposely denied knowing their parent have suffered from depression and anxiety, a point made prior to Sullins’ study in a study published in Social Science Research. Those researchers also found that children of homosexual parents “are more likely to suffer from depression,” “report less safety and security in their family of origin,” and “are an astonishing 10 times more likely to have been ‘touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver.’”
Yet no one seems to care. We turn a blind eye to this treatment of children because we value LGBT “rights” over a child’s rights. As a society, we can do better. We need to stop normalizing the abnormal and stop calling what is bad good.
If we don’t, we are at risk of not only hurting individuals—children who deserve so much better—but ushering in a “Brave New World” where “everyone belongs to everyone else,” because we are subject to the desires of others instead of being free to know and be our true selves—starting with knowing our true parents.