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Catholic Voice
  June 25, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Large, new study validates strength of traditional family

[Editor's note: All the US bishops met in Atlanta June 13-15 for their biannual general assembly. Here are some highlights of a report from Bishop Cordileone, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, about the subcommittee's work.]

I would like to call your attention to an important new social-science study whose initial findings were released June 10. The study, entitled "New Family Structures Study," was conducted at the University of Texas at Austin. The study has surveyed a very large, nationally-representative, and random sample of American young adults (ages 18 to 39) who were raised in different family or home environments, including homes with a parent in a same-sex relationship, as well as single-parent families, step-families, adoptive families and families where the children were raised by their biological parents married to each other.

In an article published in the July issue of the peer-reviewed journal Social Science Research, the study's principal investigator, Dr. Mark Regnerus, presented initial findings that should serve as significant points for future public discourse.

The findings indicate several significant statistical differences when comparing young adults who were raised in an intact home with their married, biological parents and young adults raised in other home environments. The measurable outcomes of the study cover a range of information, including social and economic well-being, psychological and physical health, sexual identity, sexual behavior and other areas. Twenty-five of the 40 areas measured showed significant difference, and in no area were children better off in an alternative arrangement.

For more information www.familystructurestudies.com www.marriageuniqueforareason.org
 
 
The differences in outcomes illustrate, as the article notes, "that children appear most apt to succeed well as adults — on multiple counts and across a variety of domains — when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day."

Promising to be a benchmark for further studies and findings, this study has been noted to empirically call into question other studies with smaller and more restrictive sample sizes that have purported to show that there are no differences between father-mother parenting and other arrangements.

Another paper by sociologist Dr. Loren Marks, also published this month in Social Science Research, reviewed 59 previous studies cited by the American Psychological Association. He found these studies to have various limitations, including being based on small, non-random, non-representative, and self-selecting samples, and he concluded that the studies were "insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way."

In other words, this New Family Structures Study is being acknowledged as one of the first studies on this topic to have a comprehensive and scientifically respectable approach — so much so that some social science researchers with views supportive of new or so-called alternative family structures have acknowledged the scientific validity of the study. The study itself was developed and conducted by a team of researchers who disagree among themselves about the topic of family structures but agreed to lead an objective study. A website has now been set up to present the study's findings, which can be accessed at: www.familystructurestudies.com. Although it is not the job of social science to protect the meaning of marriage, nor can correlation be taken as equivalent to causation, social science has an important role to play in the public conversation. In this instance, a well-respected study is attesting to something very basic: fathers and mothers matter, and married fathers and mothers matter for children.

Unfortunately, we have come to a point in Western society where the meaning of marriage is being largely eclipsed by a counterfeit version, by a false idea that marriage is just a matter of adult interests and can be manipulated as a product of arbitrary invention. However, I believe many of our young people, who have experienced firsthand the difficulties of broken families and the absence of a father or a mother, know intuitively that such an understanding of marriage cannot stand the test of time and can only lead to further disappointment and hardships.

As this new study indicates, social science continues to affirm that children thrive and do best with their mother and father in an intact home. The protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a work of justice and is foundational to the good of all, especially for those most vulnerable among us, our children. It is the way of true compassion — love in truth and truth in love. Our young people are hungry for this truth and are in a position to witness it in a uniquely powerful way.

[Bishop Cordileone also summarized current events regarding the legal landscape and the work of the subcommittee:]

The recent victory in North Carolina, 61 percent to 39 percent in support of the constitutional amendment protecting the definition of marriage, is a great encouragement. Also encouraging is the outstanding number of signatures being collected in Maryland and Washington state to place their respective referendum on the ballot. Both are reporting breaking state records in the amount of signatures collected.

The redefinition of marriage in the law is not, and never will be, inevitable. But ongoing vigilance and effort are needed. Maine, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington state are poised to have crucial votes in November. Also, in Illinois, a lawsuit was recently introduced challenging the current law around civil unions as discriminatory and calling for the full redefinition of marriage. The state Attorney General, who is charged to defend the law of the state, is officially supporting the lawsuit.

At the federal level, recent negative court decisions concerning both the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as California's Proposition 8 now open the door for both DOMA and Proposition 8 to go before the Supreme Court.

And as we learned last month, President Obama has now voiced his official support for the redefinition of marriage in the law.

In its catechetical work, the subcommittee continues to advance its initiative, Marriage: Unique for a Reason. The current project underway is the Spanish-language video entitled "El matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida" (Marriage: Made for Love and Life). The video, envisioned to be 15 minutes long, will use a telenovela-style format and will present a story based on a 50th wedding anniversary. The story will introduce all four themes of the subcommittee's catechetical messaging: sexual difference, the good of children, the common good and religious liberty. We anticipate the video's completion by the end of this year.

More information about the meaning of marriage and its significance for the rights and best interests of children and for the common good can be found at the website www.marriageuniqueforareason.org.

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