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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Does a child need both a mother and a father?

Does a child need both a mother and a father? Apparently not, according to this report in ScienceDaily, which summarises a new article in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study suggested that "... the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well."

All of which pulls out the rug from the already-incoherent claim that a child somehow has the "right" to a standard set of heterosexual parents. Of course, there was never any real evidence that there's any harm in children being born into non-traditional family situations. From the beginning, this was a scare tactic by moral conservatives, usually grounded in their religious socialisation. The only possible harm that makes sense is that children from such families will be discriminated against, or harassed or victimised, by those very same moral conservatives.

This research should also make you wonder whether children from even less conventional families would suffer any harm from it. Once again, there is the possibility of harassment, discrimination, and victimisation of various kinds, but that doesn't seem to have had a huge impact on the children of gay couples. I'm sceptical that it would have much (or any) impact on, for example, children born as a result of reproductive cloning. Admittedly, it might depend on the social milieu. Many choices are dangerous in an especially nasty and discriminatory social milieu, but that's not a reason to have a public policy that discourages such choices. If anything, it's a reason for a public policy of discouraging irrational discrimination.


Anonymous said...

Yea take that Catholics.

Ophelia Benson said...

"Many choices are dangerous in an especially nasty and discriminatory social milieu"

It's my suspicion that the whole idea rests on that, in a very circular way. "We live in a society that requires everyone to be socialized into narrow gender roles therefore children brought up differently will suffer because we don't tolerate that kind of thing therefore we must not tolerate that kind of thing because we live in a society that requires everyone to" etc etc etc.

It's basically just a conformity issue. "Need," "do better" and the rest translate to "fit in with everyone else."

There is some pragmatic value to that of course, but it cuts right against the pragmatic value of being able to change and improve things. It's a status-quo-enforcer.

Ophelia Benson said...

I see where Adrian Phoon made a similar point in a piece in The Age on US evangelicals and the Ugandan anti-gay bill.

"The prevailing view among ex-gay therapists is that theirs is a modern technology that offers unhappy homosexuals a happy alternative to their life of misery. The assumption is that homosexuality makes you miserable. Yet surely it is not being homosexual but the prevailing atmosphere of homophobia that makes some people miserable."

Quite. It's all so circular. We hate you so you'll be better off if you turn into someone else because we hate you and will make you miserable unless you do.

Alison said...

Great post Russell.

Anonymous said...

Though interesting from some intellectual standpoint, and I do say interesting, I do think the over reliance of saying 'Religious' to justify any kind of opinion, be it negative or positive, is weak wristed at best. You either have solid evidential proof or you do not - you either have an independent opinion based of what you, or other know, or you do not.

I personally know lesbian couples with children who have introduced into their relationship the influence of male friends, not for any social conformity, but because there were issues they were not quite equipped to understand or develop -- some had boys, some had girls -- and they found they did need some kind of male dynamic to make things work.

I found this interesting on a personal level, as I have seen many arguments, such as this put forward, seemingly missing the point somehow and then dismissing things as some kind of religious mindset.

Children need an interaction between the two sexes, this does not necessarily mean that both parents be of different sexes but it does mean there needs to be interaction. It can be traced back to very early Neanderthal practice, if that can be understood at all -- Male hunter, female child raiser (also hunter) -- the duel interaction wasn't a marriage set up, nor could it be claimed to be a pairing in what we see as a family model, but it did use male, female interaction to develop the general world understanding of the child.

As I say, I have seen this in its practical use in lesbian couples, and I dare say the male/male couples with children would have at least one female mother image.

Remove religious blaming games, as the duel concept is not an invention of a church or followers, it is a natural order development. It has changed somewhat with the changing intelligence levels and the shared hunter roles of males and females and the still developing caring roles of males.

Stop this childish blaming, it is unbecoming to natural thought development and disrespects social developmental processes dating back to caves...

Just because you have changed your mind does not mean history didn't happen -- and it happened for better reason than have been presented here.

Anonymous said...

This post is the most rediculous claptrap which is so synonomous with the liberal mindset.

Russell Blackford said...

I am always amused at people who pretend to the authority to characterise another's viewpoint as "rediculous" ... thus making themselves look ridiculous in the process.

Richard Bennett said...

Your right Russell-check out www.conservapedia.com

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Anonymous said...

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