Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Do lesbians make good parents?

Most of the concerns people have about children raised by "two mommies" are social and psychological.  But psychology and sociology are playgrounds of the Left.  I have taught in both psychology and sociology Departments of Australian universities and find sociologists in particular to be almost amusingly Leftist.  Karl Marx is still their chief inspiration.

So you know what to expect when you find studies by social scientists that tell us anything about homosexuality.  Homosexuals these days are a positively revered class who can do no wrong.  So finding out what is actually going on from such sources is a major challenge.  It is however a challenge I often took on in my own research career.  If you read the "small print" (usually the "Results" section of a research report) you get at least a hearty laugh.  The statistics obtained in the course of the research often contradicted the conclusions drawn by the researcher.  But statistics frighten people so they get away with it. I actually used to teach statistics, however, so I had a ball.

And it all comes back to me when I read the latest article in an obsessively Leftist newspaper  about homosexual parents.  The article pulls no punches.  It is headed Study finds same-sex parenting is not harmful for children".  No nuances there!  An excerpt:

Children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well in their education, emotional and social development as those raised by heterosexual parents, new research shows.

The report on same sex-parented families in Australia, commissioned by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), found "there is now strong evidence that same-sex-parented families constitute supportive environments in which to raise children''.

The findings are at odds with Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi's recent comments that the "gold standard" for children's development is having a biological mother and father who are married.

Report author Deb Dempsey, who reviewed all the research on same sex-parented families, said there was a wealth of evidence that showed the children were doing fine."

Well, author Cosima Marriner is right about a conflict of findings.  Conservative authors generally come to much more adverse conclusions.  So what is going on?  I did my usual trick and looked up the original research report.  I immediately found that Cosima had been a very naughty girl.  The research was about lesbians only.  The authors concluded that there was too little research about male homosexuals available to draw any conclusions.  So Cosima definitely over-generalized.

The real fun of the fair however came in a section of the report that was rather forbiddingly titled "Methodological issues and studies of children's wellbeing".    I reproduce a couple of paragraphs from it:

"Evaluating the effects of family structures upon children's wellbeing and development is complicated, particularly when the population of interest is a very diverse, stigmatised, numeric minority. Some questions have been asked about the methodological rigor of research studies on the wellbeing of children raised in same-sex parented families, by scholars who (implicitly or explicitly) have political or moral objections to same-sex parenting (see Marks, 2012; Regnerus, 2012; Schumm, 2012) and by those who do not. For instance, Tasker and Patterson (2007), two respected psychologists who support the rights of lesbian and gay parented families and have published widely on various aspects of the wellbeing of children raised by lesbian and gay parents, commented that the field would benefit from a wider variety of data collection methods. They noted that most of the data collected about children raised in lesbian and gay parented families comes from self-reports by their parents, supplemented with psychometric testing of children by the research team. Few studies have been blind, or made use of psychometric tests administered independently of the researchers. That said, many researchers emphasise the importance of contextual, qualitative studies in learning about the family experiences and processes in same-sex parented families from the point of view of parents, children and other family members (Biblarz & Savci, 2010; Dempsey, 2012b; Goldberg, 2010; Goldberg, Kinkler, Richardson, & Downing, 2011; Lindsay et al., 2006; Riggs, 2007).

Researchers in this field have noted a range of limitations with regard to how their samples of participants are drawn. Although this is beginning to change, many studies are based on small and homogenous samples of highly educated and middle-class participants. Many of the comparative studies conducted to date on children or young adults raised in same-sex parented families are based on volunteer samples of participants rather than random samples. This means that it is unknown how representative and generalisable the studies' results are. Further to this, many researchers in this field note that their participants were mostly white and well educated, which does not reflect the likely socio-economic, ethnic and racial diversity of the same-sex parenting population. That said, it is important to emphasise all research designs have limitations and not to dismiss the cumulative findings from many small scale or volunteer sample studies, as some critics of this literature attempt to do (see Marks, 2012; Regnerus, 2012; Schumm, 2012). Amato (2012) indeed pointed out that if there were noteworthy harms accruing to children resulting from parental homosexuality per se, which is often the concern of those scholars who criticise research designs and methodology, these would be revealed in research on high socio-economic, ethnically homogenous samples of parents and children."

So there you have it.  The data was mostly what lesbians say about themselves and their children:  Self report studies.  Does anybody sniff bias there?

But it gets worse.  Most of the studies were of high status parents:  Richer and better educated.  So the studies were  not even a fair sample of lesbians.  ANY children of high status parents should have done better at school etc.

And if you look at it with my perverse eye you see a suppressed correlation.  If the studies showed (which they mostly did) that the children of such parents only did "as well as" the children of heterosexual families that means that something has been suppressing the status advantage that the Lesbian children should have had.  And what could that be?  Would it be the fact that they had no daddy?  That's what it looks like.  Once you control for education in homosexual/heterosexual comparisons, the homosexual children come out looking disadvantaged.  Some studies did apparently control for education but it seems that most did not.

So where do we go from there?  Is it just too difficult to examine fairly the questions involved?  I think it is  -- but only if we  rely on social science research.  Demography is informative too.  What if we interview actual prison inmates, drug addicts etc.  And what if we find that a higher than proportionate percentage of them do not come from a normal heterosexual family with both a mommy and a daddy regularly present?  That is what we find and that is what the redoubtable Senator Bernardi was referring to

But no research involving people will ever be watertight so in the end we always have to draw our conclusions on a balance of probabilities.  And our conclusions will always be influenced by our other beliefs.  Cautious conservatives, for instance, will shudder at the thought of experimenting on children -- while  Leftists will always think that the existing state of society is so unsatisfactory that anything which might improve it should be tried.  It would be nice if Leftists would admit to uncertainty on some occasions though.  I just did. Are you listening, Cosima? -- JR.

Failed refugees to get marching orders, says Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

THE Abbott government is fast-tracking the removal of asylum seekers who arrived by boat and have had their refugee claims rejected by authorities.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre claims it has been told of secret plans for a "mass roundup" of asylum seekers in the community for detention and possible deportation.

It also claims asylum seekers who have had their refugee applications rejected by the Immigration Department and Refugee Review Tribunal would be offered six-week bridging visas and "encouraged" to make arrangements to leave the country.

If they did not leave voluntarily they would be detained and face potential deportation.

The centre's chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis told AAP an immigration detention centre in Darwin had been earmarked as a "removal centre".

The move could affect people who plan to seek judicial reviews or ministerial intervention.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the government was taking steps to "remove failed asylum seekers from Australia who wish to stay indefinitely at taxpayers' expense".

"Once you have had your asylum claims assessed and rejected not just by the department but also on appeal, it's time to go home," he said in a statement today.

If people co-operated with the department it would be willing to allow them to remain in the community while they arranged departure.

"For those who do not wish to co-operate and seek to frustrate the process, then the government is left with no option but to take them back into detention," Mr Morrison said.

Where asylum seekers had sought judicial review their cases will be allowed to run their course.

Detention of people involved in ongoing cases was decided on a case-by-case basis, Mr Morrison said.

"Any suggestion that anyone is being forced to abandon their appeals is nonsense."

The government has softened its stance on the refugee appeals process.

Before the election the Coalition had promised to abolish the Refugee Review Tribunal and instead task a single case officer to review failed refugee claims.

It also vowed to axe access to legal aid for appeals.


ALP's union ties under fire

A majority of people believe the Labor Party should distance itself from the union movement, according to an exclusive national poll.

Conducted a day after Tony Abbott stepped up his attacks on corrupt union conduct, the poll suggests the Prime Minister is on fertile political ground in his bid to link the multiple scandals plaguing unions to the ALP and particularly the leadership of Bill Shorten.

A Fairfax-ReachTEL poll found 52.5 per cent of respondents agreed that Labor should "distance itself from the union movement" - twice as many as those who backed the status quo. One in five of the 2146 respondents were undecided.

The return of Mr Shorten from a week-long trip to Europe on Monday is expected to renew attacks by the Coalition on the issue of union misbehaviour and Labor's refusal to accept the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Mr Abbott has sought to wedge the Opposition Leader by asking if he is "on the side of law-abiding citizens or … people with a tendency to break the law".

Prompted by Fairfax Media reports that officials at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union had been bribed by corrupt companies for access to lucrative construction jobs, the government will widen its promised judicial

inquiry into union slush funds. Mr Abbott is expected to make an announcement before Parliament returns next week, with speculation that the investigation will have the far-reaching powers of a royal commission.

ACTU president Ged Kearney has dismissed a royal commission as a "witch hunt’’ and Mr Shorten – a former leader of the Australian Workers Union – will maintain calls for police to investigate alleged wrongdoing at the CFMEU rather than a labour movement-wide investigation.

But the latest scandal has revived discussion within Labor about democratic reforms, with some wondering whether Mr Shorten will take on union power in favour of the rank and file membership – an issue in the spotlight during the return of Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership and again during the Labor leadership election won by Mr Shorten.

The Labor Party, particularly in opposition, is reliant on union money to finance its operations and campaigns. In return, unions dominate votes on the conference floor and powerful administrative committees at state and national level.

A Labor source said of Mr Shorten: "People aren’t expecting him to put his weight behind those [union-related] issues.’’

On Sunday, a former Labor premier of Western Australia, Geoff Gallop, warned his party it underestimated the public sentiment against union influence at its peril.

 "They have to realise there is a world out there waiting for a genuine social democratic party,’’ he said.

AWU national secretary Paul Howes, a protege of Mr Shorten, said he would not comment directly on the poll’s result but said there was little evidence of any negative impact from the union movement on Labor.

"For the first time in about five years, Labor is ahead in the polls under a leader in Bill Shorten who is closely associated with the union movement,’’ he said.

John Graham, the left assistant secretary of NSW Labor, has been a voice for democratic reform but said unions remained a core element of the ALP. "Labor knows it needs to change to open its structures up, but without the unions Labor risks losing its original burning cause – lifting the fortunes of working people,’’ he said.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said Labor "is only interested in helping feather the nests of union bosses and the faceless men’’.

"Labor is a product of the unions and Bill Shorten is a product of union deals and power plays. Labor will never change while the union bosses and faceless men are in charge,’’ he said.

 The poll found men were more likely to agree that Labor should cut ties (56.8 per cent) than women (48.4 per cent), and those aged over 65 were most likely to support the proposition (59.5 per cent).


Great Barrier Reef: Governments say world heritage site not in danger from development

Australia has argued it is making substantial progress on the United Nations' requests for better protection of the Great Barrier Reef and that it should not be listed among world heritage sites "in danger".

In a progress report to the UN World Heritage Committee, the federal and Queensland governments say the natural values the reef was protected for are still largely intact, although in parts - such as inshore areas south of Cooktown - they are declining.

The report was delivered to the UN on Saturday, a day after final approval was granted to dump in the reef's waters 3 million cubic metres of dredging sludge from the expansion of coal export terminals at Abbot Point.

The World Heritage Committee has threatened to put the reef on a list of world heritage sites considered "in danger" after becoming concerned in 2012 about the effect of numerous resource projects slated for the reef's coast.

Australia needs to show significant progress on UN recommendations for better reef management to avoid a downgrade. Tourism operators warn an "in danger" listing will damage the reef's international reputation and their businesses.

The governments' report points to several programs to reduce threats, including a sustainability strategy, water quality measures and a draft Queensland ports strategy.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said there was genuine improvement in reef indicators in regard to dugongs, turtles, seagrass and coral. The Coalition had rejected Labor's multiple new-port strategy and was containing development to five existing port areas, he said.

"It is a permanent task for every Australian government to protect and maintain the reef. Nobody can ever rest on that, but there should be no way the reef can and should be considered 'in danger'," Mr Hunt said.

Australian Coral Reef Society president Peter Mumby said many people had argued convincingly that the reef was in the worst shape since monitoring began. He said the progress report downplayed industrial development threats, including port and agriculture expansion, that could add as much as another 14 million tonnes a year of damaging sediment to reef waters.

University of Queensland coral reef ecologist Selina Ward said the Abbot Point decision was dangerous because the best modelling showed dumped sediment would drift to outer areas, damaging coral and seagrass.

The government progress report said extreme weather and climate change were the biggest threats to the reef. It also pointed to nutrient and sediment run-off from land clearing and agriculture, and associated spikes in crown-of-thorns starfish numbers.

It said pollution from other sources, including port development and dredging, "is minor but may be highly significant locally and over short time periods".

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the governments' progress report had identified the port development impacts as being minor and temporary.


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