Tag Archives: Mark Regnerus

New study: As Christianity declines, so do stable relationships and marriage

Man and woman working on a computer upgrade
Man and woman working on a computer upgrade together

Mark Regnerus is a sociologist at the University of Texas, Austin. He publishes a lot of his books with Oxford University Press. So, his research methods are generally seen as reliable. I noticed that he had done a survey of views on religion, sexuality and marriage in 2018, and he published a popular level article about it earlier this week. I think it’s worth taking a look at his findings.

He writes:

Let me offer a word about the survey. I call it the American Political and Social Behavior survey, which interviewed 5,285 Americans in November 2018, just days after the midterm election. The data collection was conducted by Ipsos… a research firm with a very strong record of generating high-quality data for academic projects.

Here are his findings:

Views of unreligious, Catholic and evangelical Americans
Views of unreligious, Catholic and evangelical Americans (click to expand)

This is interesting:

Even when I limit the group to respondents below age thirty—which is just north of the median age at marriage in the United States—it is notable that 22 percent of the unreligious are married and 23 percent are currently cohabiting, not radically different from the 19 and 18 percent of Catholics that are married and cohabiting, respectively. For comparison, 37 and 9 percent of younger evangelicals are married and cohabiting, respectively. The cohabiting habits of the unreligious, however, have shifted—note the uptick in cohabitation—six percentage points in just under four years. That amounts to a 35 percent increase. Since it’s unlikely that the unreligious have recently changed their minds about the morality or pragmatics of living together, my bet is in the other direction: cohabiting leads many to no longer identify as religious at all.

Got that part in bold? Their attitudes are changing because of their sexual behaviors. So, if you want to reverse the decline of Christianity, we’re going to need to come up with some arguments and evidence to counter the sexual revolution. And on this blog, we’ve done that many times, looking at studies showing the future instability of marriages that occur after cohabitation. I’ve never heard a church preach on that, though. And it’s not something that even many Christian apologists focus on. Most Christian apologists, particularly the women, tend to focus on soft arguments,. They stay away from arguments about morality, because it’s divisive and abrasive to their desired audience. However, if the goal is persuading people that Christianity is a viable worldview, then we need to focus more on sexuality.

More Regnerus:

[O]n each of seven attitude measures I examined, the unreligious are notably more permissive than even the spiritual-but-not-religious (not shown). Nearly 80 percent of unreligious Americans agree (or strongly agree) that cohabitation is okay, no-strings-attached sex is okay, and abortion should be a legal right. This is all unsurprising. But even some of the more radically “progressive” attitudes demonstrate strong support among the unreligious: 24 percent agree that it is “sometimes permissible for a married person to have sex with someone other than his/her spouse.” (I thought perhaps women would differ from men here, but they didn’t—or at least not by much.) Although few Americans are actually in polyamorous living arrangements, the unreligious would support them should someone choose such an arrangement; 58 percent of them agreed that “it is okay for three or more consenting adults to live together in a sexual/romantic relationship,” a percentage that is far more supportive than Catholics or evangelicals. Among the latter, only 6 percent thinks polyamory could be okay.

A more interesting theme, however, is the surge in support for such alternatives. On each statement, note the rise in agreement that has occurred in just under four years. Polyamory tops the list—a 35-percent leap in the share of unreligious who now endorse polyamorous arrangements (from 43 to 58 percent). Even support for extramarital affairs grew by one-third (from 18 to 24 percent). The unreligious aren’t alone here. Catholics, too, have witnessed liberalization in attitudes. Evangelical numbers display a more modest uptick, and from lower starting points.

The non-religious people in my office who were raised Christian like to tell me that the existence of the Christian God isn’t important to them, because they can achieve marriage via cohabitation, and behave like good people without the need for any sort of framework to rationally ground it. They think that you can just pull out God, and the marriage will stay the same. They expect the people they start relationships with to act on Christian morality, even if the worldview was rejected as superstitious nonsense. But as you can see from the data, removing God has an enormous effect on the person’s ability to be stable and faithful.  The truth is that when you take out the vertical relationships with God, then the blueprint for the relationship becomes completely different. Relationships used to be seen as an enterprise where each person’s primary commitment was to lead and protect their spouse before delivering them to God with faith intact. Now, relationships are contingent on continuous happiness.

More Regnerus:

Only 66 percent of unreligious women say they are “100% Despite the permissive reputation of the unreligious, their actual marital sexual frequency is lower than that of Catholic and evangelical couples—at two instances in the past two weeks. As has been documented extensively in the past few years, the frequency of sex among American couples—whether cohabiting or married—has been declining at statistically significant rates. This pattern has not spared the godless.

I think this is interesting. I believe that men are facing an epidemic of sex-withholding from their wives, and I have an idea why that is. Today, women most commonly use sex to “jump start” a relationship with men who they perceive as “high value”, but who refuse to commit to them. This behavior is not focused on men who have commitment abilities, e.g. – provider, moral leader, spiritual leader, accurate worldview rooted in logic and evidence. Instead, most women use sex to get men who have the appearance of high value, e.g. – tall, tattoos, piercings, violent tendencies, exciting, fun, etc. Having established that pattern over and over with no-commitment bad boys, they marry someone who they see as beneath them, and then withhold sex. Commitment isn’t worthy of sex. It’s the man’s appearance and entertainment value that makes him worthy of sex. The comparison of this low-quality man to previous partners makes women more likely to initiate divorce for “unhappiness” later on.

What does social science tell us about children raised by gay couples?

The Public Discourse has a post about a new book that summarizes what we know so far.

Here is the introduction:

An important new collection of peer-reviewed scholarly papers entitled No Differences? How Children in Same-Sex Households Fare has just been released by the Witherspoon Institute. The papers included and summarized in the book all study the nexus between children’s well-being and the structure of the families in which they are raised. In particular, the authors focus on the efficacy of families in which the adults are involved in a physically intimate same-sex relationship.

Here are the chapters:

  1. Loren Marks: survey existing studies on parenting by same-sex couples
  2. Mark Regnerus: large-scale study comparing standard parenting vs same-sex couple parenting
  3. Douglas Allen, Catherine Pakaluk, and Joseph Price: analysis of studies based on census data
  4. Douglas Allen: study of educational outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples
  5. Walter Schumm: evaluation of the methodology of the Regnerus study
  6. Walter Schumm: analysis of the stability of standard relationships vs same-sex relationships

Here’s the blurb on one of the chapters:

The first paper included in the volume, by Loren Marks, examines the foundations of the position taken by the American Psychological Association (APA) on what it calls “lesbian and gay parenting.” The 2005 APA monograph setting forth that organization’s position asserts that the question of whether the childrearing efficacy of parents in same-sex relationships is at least the equal of that of heterosexual couples is settled, and that the serious academic literature speaks with a single voice on the matter.

Marks reviews an extensive literature on the topic and finds that most of the studies on the subject rely on “convenience samples”: groups of respondents that cannot be considered cross-sections of the population at large. Convenience samples are a staple of the literature because same-sex parenting is rare, and so recruiting same-sex parents for a study generally involves placing ads at day-care centers and in publications aimed at the LGBT population, or contacting people by way of their network of friends. While they can provide a useful window on the experience of parents in same-sex relationships, Marks notes that convenience samples suffer from two generic problems. First, the sample sizes are very small; one of the better studies might include a dozen or two lesbian families and a comparable number of heterosexual families. In such a small sample, only enormous differences in children’s outcomes will rise to the level of statistical significance. Technically speaking, estimates of the difference between outcomes for same-sex parents and those for heterosexual couples suffer from low “power.” Moreover, because convenience samples do not constitute a random cross-section of the population, they are not representative, and so estimates based on them suffer from a problem known to statisticians as “bias.”

Marks also notes that many of the small studies either fail to identify a comparison group of heterosexual parents, or they compare educated and affluent lesbian couples to single heterosexual parents. He suggests that better comparison groups might consist of married heterosexual parents or of all heterosexual parents. Certainly that would be the case if one wanted to maintain that there was no difference between the status quo outcomes for children of parents in same-sex relationships and those of heterosexual married parents, as some have seemed to want to do.

Marks highlights three studies that avoid small convenience samples and work with much larger random samples, two of which can be found in the new volume, in the chapter by Mark Regnerus and the chapter by Douglas Allen, Catherine Pakaluk, and Joseph Price.

I took a quick look at Loren Marks’ bio:

Loren Marks holds the Kathryn Norwood and Claude Fussell Alumni Professorship in the LSU College of Human Sciences and Education where he teaches family studies classes and conducts research on family relationships. He currently serves as Program Director for Child and Family Studies in Louisiana State University’s School of Social Work. Marks received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from BYU, and his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware.  Since beginning his work at LSU in 2002, Dr. Marks has centered his research efforts on religion and families, and has published more than 70 articles or chapters, as well as the book Sacred Matters (with Wes Burr and Randy Day). He has also studied children’s outcomes in various family forms—and strong African American families.  His research has received national media attention from outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal. Loren was honored with college-level teaching awards in 2005, 2009, and 2013.  In 2011-2012, LSU nominated him for the national Carnegie (CASE) Professor of the Year Award—and nominated him again in 2014. He is Co-Director (with Dr. David Dollahite) of the American Families of Faith Project that includes about 200 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families from all eight regions of the United States. Findings from this ongoing project have resulted in over 50 scholarly articles/chapters and two in progress books.

The Kindle edition of the book is currently $7.99. The volume is basically one stop shopping for this issue, so if you ever debate on this, get the book.

The best philosophical book on the definition of marriage is “What is Marriage?” by Girgis, Anderson and George.

I think if you are interested in same-sex marriage as a policy issue, you should get both of these books first.

New study: most younger evangelicals hold to Biblical views on sexual issues

This National Review article says that evangelical Protestants, which is the most conservative kind of Christian there is, are sticking with the Bible’s teachings on sex.

Excerpt:

The research, to be fully released in September, was introduced in Mark Regnerus’s presentation “Sex in America: Sociological Trends in American Sexuality,” unveiled at a recent gathering of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s leadership summit. According to Regnerus, when compared with the general population and with their non-observant peers, churchgoing Evangelical Christians are retaining orthodox views on Biblical sexuality, despite the shifts in broader American culture.

Regnerus surveyed 15,378 persons between the ages of 18 and 60, but he focuses in particular on respondents under 40. Significantly, Regnerus did the important work of differentiating between those who identify merely verbally with a particular religious tradition and those who actually attend church weekly. A political poll that didn’t differentiate between likely and unlikely voters wouldn’t be an accurate representation of the electorate, and for the same reasons, a survey should distinguish between someone who says “Catholic” or “Baptist” when asked for a religious identity and someone who actually shows up in the pews.

While support for same-sex marriage characterized a solid majority of those identifying as atheists, agnostics, liberal Catholics, and liberal Protestants, only 11 percent of young Evangelicals actively expressed support for same-sex marriage.

Approximately 6 percent of religiously active Evangelicals expressed support for abortion rights, while over 70 percent of their non-believing peer group said they believed in abortion rights.

While a large cross-section of all Americans believe in marriage’s importance, Regnerus found that, for example, Evangelicals are less likely than most to perceive marriage as “outdated.”

Evangelical Christians were also drastically less likely to believe that cohabitation is a good idea. While upward of 70 percent of those who claim no religious affiliation or those who are “spiritual but not religious” agree that cohabitation is acceptable, approximately 5 percent of Evangelicals agreed that cohabitation is acceptable. “While left-leaning Evangelicals have received considerable media attention lately, it pays to survey the masses and see just what’s going on,” says Regnerus. “These data suggest that while a modest minority of Evangelicals under 40 profess what we might call more sexually liberal attitudes, it’s not a significant minority. Minorities can be vocal. Survey data help us understand just how large or small they really are.”

I am glad that I am an evangelical Protestant Christian. Wherever the battle lines in the culture war are drawn, you can always count on us to be there.

Two things you can do to make your marriage last a lifetime

The first thing is obvious: don’t have sex before you’re married.

Life Site News explains.

Excerpt:

Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships, say researchers at Brigham Young University.

A new study from the Mormon college found that those couples who waited until marriage rated their relationship stability 22 percent higher than those who started having sex in the early part of their relationship. The relationship satisfaction was 20 percent higher for those who waited, the sexual quality of the relationship was 5 percent better, and communication was 12 percent better.

The study, published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology, involved 2,035 married individuals who participated in a popular online marital assessment called “RELATE.” From the assessment’s database, researchers selected a sample designed to match the demographics of the married American population. The extensive questionnaire included the question “When did you become sexual in this relationship?”

Couples that became sexually involved later in their relationship – but prior to marriage – reported benefits that were about half as strong as those who waited for marriage.

[…]Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the study, responded to its findings, saying that “couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy.” Regnerus is the author of Premarital Sex in America, a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.

“Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction,” Busby said.

Second, make sure you attend church regularly after you’re married.

From Citizen Link.

Excerpt:

It’s a number that is trumpeted from the rooftops — and the pulpit: Half of marriages among Christians and non-Christians alike end in divorce.

But the reality is that Christians who attend church regularly get divorced at a much lower rate.

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, found that among people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, 60 percent have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, found a nearly identical spread between “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church and people with no religious affiliation.

Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, who is working on the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, said couples with a vibrant religious faith have more and higher levels of the qualities that marriages need to avoid divorce.

“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction,” he said. “These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education and age at first marriage.”

I think that young people who are serious about having a successful marriage also need to study research to find out what how to make a marraige that lasts (chastity, pre-marital counseling, church attendance, etc.). Being marriage-minded means developing those skills before the marriage, and working with your partner to the develop the skills that they will need when they take on their role in the marriage.

Comprehensive survey of all the research (pro and con) on gay marriage

Ari and Mathetes sent me this amazing evaluation of all of the research on same-sex marriage.

Excerpt: (links removed)

The most detailed effort yet to open the hood and see what is actually inside these studies was performed by Loren Marks of the LSU School of Human Ecology, who published a paper in Social Science Research in 2012 examining the 59 published studies behind the APA’s breezy assertion of a scientific consensus. (Marks did not examine the other 8 studies cited by the APA, which were “unpublished dissertations.”) Marks opened his paper by comparing the research on same-sex families to the by-now bulletproof research showing the advantages of traditional married parents over “cohabiting, divorced, step, and single-parent families,” noting that those studies used “large, representative samples” such as “four nationally representative longitudinal studies with more than 20,000 total participants.” By contrast, Marks found:

-“[M]ore than three-fourths (77%) of the studies cited by the APA brief are based on small, nonrepresentative, convenience samples of fewer than 100 participants. Many of the non-representative samples contain far fewer than 100 participants, including one study with five participants”

-The samples were “racially homogenous,” none of them focusing on African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American families. Of course, social science studies of the family commonly find large racial disparities – picking an all-white sample is an extremely easy way to bias your results.

-More broadly, he cited a “continuing tendency of same-sex parenting researchers to select privileged lesbian samples…’Much of the research [still] involved small samples that are predominantly White, well-educated [and] middle-class.'”

-“[C]omparison studies on children of gay fathers are almost non-existent in the 2005 Brief.”

-“[I]n selecting heterosexual comparison groups for their studies, many same-sex parenting researchers have not used marriage-based, intact families as heterosexual representatives, but have instead used single mothers…[one pair of researchers] used 90.9 percent single-father samples in two other studies.”

-The APA, while ignoring these flaws in the studies it relied on, excluded one of the largest studies available, which had found significant differences in educational outcomes on the theory that assessments by teachers (i.e., tests and progress reports) were “subjective assessments.” Note the contrast between this and the APA’s eager acceptance of self-reporting by parents.

-Most of the studies ignored “societal concerns of intergenerational poverty, collegiate education and/or labor force contribution, serious criminality, incarceration, early childbearing, drug/alcohol abuse, or suicide that are frequently the foci of national studies on children, adolescents, and young adults,” and again the APA simply ignored one “book-length empirical study” that had used a more diverse sample and had concluded that “If we perceive deviance in a general sense, to include excessive drinking, drug use, truancy, sexual deviance, and criminal offenses, and if we rely on the statements made by adult children (over 18 years of age)…[then] children of homosexual parents report deviance in higher proportions than children of (married or cohabiting) heterosexual couples.”

-“[V]irtually none of the peer-reviewed, same-sex parenting comparison studies” looked at adults raised in same-sex parent homes, but only at children and adolescents, thus excluding from consideration social and emotional problems that are commonly observed only in adulthood. Research on children of divorce, for example, has found a number of problems that do not surface until adulthood.

Nobody who has not already made their mind up would find research of this nature conclusive of anything.

And regarding the new Regnerus large-scale study of gay parenting: (links removed)

One recent study that attempted to fix the problems Marks identified was published in the same edition of the same journal by University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus. Regnerus’ study had – as he freely admitted – limitations of its own, discussed below. But the reaction to Regnerus’ work – in contrast to how the badly flawed studies examined by Marks were swallowed uncritically – vividly illustrates why credible, unbiased research on this topic is so hard to come by.

Regnerus set out to do a truly randomly selected study over a large population sample, and to remove the problem of biased parental reporting by interviewing adults about their childhood experiences. His sample covered 15,000 respondents, and despite the subsequent firestorm, no problem was ever identified with his methods or the data he gathered. Unlike most of the prior research, the respondents with a “gay father” or “lesbian mother” (more on which below) were, respectively, 48% and 43% black or Hispanic. His findings were dramatic across numerous types of outcomes, detailing greatly elevated incidence of parental rape, parental pedophilia and suicidal tendencies; as he explained his findings,

Even after including controls for age, race, gender, and things like being bullied as a youth, or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they live, such respondents were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things.[…]Anyone familiar with how liberals respond to scientific findings they don’t like can predict what happened next: immediately upon the publication of his study, Regnerus was subjected to a campaign of vilification aimed at discrediting his work, destroying his professional reputation and deterring any other scholar from pursuing a similar line of inquiry. The University of Texas convened an audit of his study to deal with the pressure campaign, and the editor of the journal hired a prominent, vocal critic of Regnerus to audit the peer-review process that led to its publication. Andrew Ferguson and Matthew Franck detail the blow-by-blow of this campaign to destroy Regnerus.

And by and large, Regnerus passed the audits. The UT audit found “no falsification of data, plagiarism or other serious ethical breaches constituting scientific misconduct.”The journal audit grudgingly concluded the journal editor acted correctly, despite a lot of sniping by its hostile author at Regnerus and the peer reviewers. But the liberal blogs and newspapers continued to act as if Regnerus had been unmasked as a charlatan.

Twenty-seven scholars (including Marks) signed a joint letter defending Regnerus’ sample selection:

[T]he demographics of his sample of young-adult children of same-sex parents – in terms of race and ethnicity – come close to resembling the demographics of children from same-sex families in another large, random, and representative study of gay and lesbian families by sociologist Michael Rosenfeld that has been well received in the media and in the academy…We are disappointed that many media outlets have not done their due diligence in investigating the scientific validity of prior studies, and acknowledging the superiority of Regnerus’s sample to most previous research….We are also disappointed that many of our academic colleagues who have critiqued Regnerus have not publicly acknowledged the methodological limitations of previous research on same-sex parenting.

…Regnerus has been chided for comparing young adults from gay and lesbian families that experienced high levels of family instability to young adults from stable heterosexual married families. This is not an ideal comparison. (Indeed, Regnerus himself acknowledges this point in his article, and calls for additional research on a representative sample of planned gay and lesbian families; such families may be more stable but are very difficult to locate in the population at large.) But what his critics fail to appreciate is that Regnerus chose his categories on the basis of young adults’ characterizations of their own families growing up, and the young adults whose parents had same-sex romantic relationships also happened to have high levels of instability in their families of origin. This instability may well be an artifact of the social stigma and marginalization that often faced gay and lesbian couples during the time (extending back to the 1970s, in some cases) that many of these young adults came of age. It is also worth noting that Regnerus’s findings related to instability are consistent with recent studies of gay and lesbian couples based on large, random, representative samples from countries such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Sweden, which find similarly high patterns of instability among same-sex couples. Even Judith Stacey, a prominent critic of Regnerus’s study, elsewhere acknowledges that studies suggest that lesbian “relationships may prove less durable” than heterosexual marriages. Thus, Regnerus should not be faulted for drawing a random, representative sample of young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex romantic relationships and also happened to have experienced high levels of family instability growing up.

(Emphasis mine; footnotes omitted).

The vehemence of the attacks on Regnerus, by people who were happy to tout far less reliable studies, ought to be a gigantic red flag to anyone tempted to view the social science in this area as the work of disinterested professionals who care only to find the truth. And any tour of the work of Marks, Regnerus and their critics should disabuse anyone of the notion that we have ironclad-for-all-time scientific proof of equal outcomes that should be cast permanently into Constitutional law. Given the many common-sense reasons, grounded in experience, to think that both fatherhood and motherhood have unique value, the overwhelming scientific evidence that traditional marriage is superior to all the other family structures that have been studied, the relative recency and rarity of same-sex parent households and the current state of the science, the most logical answer is that both Congress and the voters of the State of California could rationally conclude that a family with a mother and a father is preferable to a family with two mothers and no father or two fathers and no mother.

I really urge all of my readers to click through and read this entire essay, and then please tweet or share it or send it to all your friends. We do NOT want a repeat of what happened when the liberal left rammed through no-fault-divorce, which was the first redefinition of marriage. We can’t afford another round of this. We already have a 42% out of wedlock birth rate, and it’s going up.

We’ve had the normalization of premarital sex put through by leftist public schools, taxpayer-funded contraception pushed through by the leftist Obama administration, and no-fault divorce pushed through by leftist feminists and leftist trial lawyers. We can’t keep taking shots at the institution of marriage. Marriage was designed from the start to protect and provide for innocent, vulnerable children. We are doing harm to children every time that we privilege the desires of adults over the needs of children. I find it disgusting that the people who are so influential at destroying marriage today are often the same ones who benefited from intact families and two loving parents yesterday.

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