Ireland is currently considering altering its constitution. To facilitate this process the Oireachtas (National Parliament) has established a Constitutional Convention, which consists of 100 representatives and parliamentarians, to consider possible amendments to the Constitution. The Convention invited both members of the public and advocacy groups to submit their opinions on these issues. One such issue that will be considered is same-sex marriage. The Iona Institute, an advocacy group who oppose same-sex marriage, submitted an article detailing their opposition. I have dealt with this article in detail here, what I would like to concentrate on in this article is the research paper the Iona Institute references which supposedly supports their claims.
The social sciences confirm what every known society in the world has known instinctively, namely that marriage between a man and a woman is uniquely beneficial to society and to children. This is the case even though some individual marriages may be dysfunctional and harmful to children (as can any other type of family).
One of the most important child research organisations in the United States is Child Trends, which is centrist in its politics and ideological outlook.
It produced a paper in 2002 called ‘Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?’
This summarises what the social sciences have to say about the matter.
The summary is as follows: “Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage…There is thus value in promoting strong, stable marriage between biological parents.”
A great deal of additional material is available that attests to this fact.
Note the various elements in the above summary. There are two parents. The parents are the biological parents, that is, the mother and the father.
They are married. The research demonstrates why a truly child-centred society will continue to give marriage
between a man and a woman special status and will not see this as unfair and unjustified discrimination.
The Iona institute claims that Child Trends’ research has found that two biological parents are better for children than same-sex parents. However, a quick look at the actual research paper reveals that none of this is, in fact, true. The research conducted by Child Trends encompassed several family structures: single parents, cohabitating parents, stepparents, and two biological married parents. The research did not include same-sex parents. The paper is a comparative study between the above stated parenting structures, and its finding are confined to those structures. The paper uses the terms “two”, “biological”, and “married” contrastively: two as opposed to single parents, biological as opposed to stepparents, and married as opposed to a cohabiting couple. To take these findings and apply them to any other family structure which the research did not encapsulate is blatantly dishonest. It may be the case that the Iona Institute misread the paper and didn’t intentionally misrepresent the findings, however, I deem this to be extremely unlikely for three reasons. Firstly, the confines of the paper are quite clear throughout, so it would be extremely difficult to misread it in the manner the Iona Institute has done. Secondly, the Iona Institute conveniently omits vital information in the section they quote in their article. Below is the full paragraph with the omitted section in bold:
First, research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes than do children in intact families headed by two biological parents. Parental divorce is also linked to a range of poorer academic and behavioral outcomes among children. There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.
So as you can see, the Iona Institute neglects to quote the whole paragraph which supplies the full context of the paper’s research. The paper, quite clearly, says that families headed by two biological parents are more beneficial to children than single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships. It says nothing of same-sex couples. It is a flagrant misrepresentation of the paper to apply these findings to other family structures which were not included in the research, and the convenient omission of vital contextual information indicates that the misrepresentation was done purposefully. However, the third piece of evidence which suggest the findings were misrepresented deliberately is the most damning: it says this on the very first page in big bold blue writing:
Note: This Child Trends brief summarizes research conducted in 2002, when neither same-sex parents nor adoptive parents were identified in large national surveys. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the wellbeing of children raised by same-sex parents or adoptive parents.
In fact, this is the only mention of same-sex parents in the whole paper, and that is to say that the findings are not applicable to same-sex parents, yet that is the very thing that the Iona Institute has done.
It is quite clear the Iona Institute deliberately lied about Child Trends’ research. They took a quote and manipulated its context to make it appear that Child Trends, a non-partisan research centre, supported their claims that same-sex parents are not as beneficial to children as heterosexual parents. Why did Iona Institute do so when apparently “a great deal of additional material is available that attests to this fact”, unless this is also untrue. Surely if a great deal of material supported their claim then why did they choose a paper which didn’t support their claim in any manner whatsoever? Why, in such a lengthy article opposing same-sex marriage, did the Iona Institute only reference one paper which, in fact, did not agree with their claims? But most importantly, why did the Iona Institute lie about and misrepresent Child Trends’ research in such an obvious manner?