Saturday, 23 May 2009

So, those studies...

You will recall that we were basing our assertion that Amanda Platell was misleading and factually incorrect (twice) on a review by the American Psychological Association in 2005 on the existing literature on same-sex adoption which concluded:
"Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents."

We mentioned at the time the possibility that there may have been a paradigm shift in research since the publication of this report leading to a flurry of evidence contrary to this conclusion. You may have been concerned that you would complain to the PCC on the basis of information which turns out to be out of date.

It's a sensible concern, so let's resolve it together (check your tea-bag reserves now, this will take a while). Were there to be a shifting of academic plates leading to research findings of negative outcomes for adopted children of same-sex couples, we would expect to see papers published in peer-reviewed academic journals. So, if we looked at the electronic repositories of the major academic journal publishers for papers published on same-sex, homosexual, gay or lesbian adoption in the last 5 years, then sifted through the abstracts of the papers we found for relevant research, we would expect to find papers showing these negative outcomes.

Listed at the end of this post are the addresses of the electronic repositories for Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor and Francis/Routledge, Sage, Project MUSE (a collection of small, independent publishers), OUP, CUP and the Nature Publishing Group, plus the independently published Pediatrics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and BMJ and for PubMed, which lists research funded by the US National Institutes of Health. Between them, these repositories cover nearly 8,000 academic journals in the medical and social sciences, humanities and professions. If we cannot find studies reporting negative outcomes for children adopted by same-sex couples here, we can be fairly sure that any there are do not have the support of mainstream academia.

I encourage you to do this at home. As a tip, save CUP and OUP for when you're in a good mood, because their websites are rubbish. Don't try Taylor and Francis' unless you have some time free either, they publish an endoscopy journal seemingly contributed to solely by a French author with the surname 'Gay'. Unless I'm doing things badly wrong, your findings should resemble this:
  • There has actually been fairly little new research in this area since the APA's 2005 report. This is not really surprising - why look at a question that has already been answered, particularly when there's the whole question of smoking in gay and lesbian communities to look at? (Seriously, there is lots of research on same-sex smoking.)
  • There are about nine pieces of new investigative research published across the journals surveyed, with 7 being broadly positive, one being a study by Cameron which reported higher incidences of homosexuality in adoptees of same-sex couples (so is neither positive nor negative and comes with the Paul Cameron health warning) and one which was negative.
  • There are about nine reviews of the existing literature, all of which conclude that there are no negative outcomes for children of same-sex couples.
The negative study is Sirota (2009) Adult Attachment Style Dimensions in Women Who Have Gay or Bisexual Fathers Archives of Psychiatric Nursing doi:10.1016/j.apnu.2008.08.005, which concluded that "Women with gay or bisexual fathers were significantly less comfortable with closeness and intimacy less able to trust and depend on others and experienced more anxiety in relationships than women with heterosexual fathers". This is an interesting finding which deserves attention, as it directly contradicts Wainright and Patterson (2008) Peer Relations Among Adolescents With Female Same-Sex Parents Developmental Psychology 44:117-126 (who found no difference between attachments for same-sex and different-sex adoptees when they were adolescents), as well as research on attachment with parents which shows no difference between family-types (e.g. Erich et al. (2009) An empirical analysis of factors affecting adolescent attachment in adoptive families with homosexual and straight parents Children and Youth Services Review 31:398-404).

It is worth noting, however, that one study, in addition to the 'no evidence' prior to May 2004 constitutes neither an 'increasing weight of academic evidence' nor 'repeated academic studies', even were it uncontested. Accepting this study as genuine and interesting, it does not change the opinion that Amanda was both misleading and factually inaccurate. It is also worth noting that 7 positive studies in the last five years do constitute and 'increasing weight of academic evidence' and 'repeated academic studies' contrary to Amanda's position, underscoring the misleading nature of her statements. Rather than there being increasing evidence of harm to children from same-sex adoption, what evidence there is becomes more anomalous and doubtful as time goes on.

If you weren't happy complaining to the PCC on the back of evidence from the APA in 2005, that evidence is the same today. Amanda is inaccurate and misleading, and her readers need to have her statements corrected.
Elsevier – Science Direct ( [over 2,500 journals]
Springer – Springerlink ( [2099 journals]
Wiley – InterScience ( [1,870 journals]
Taylor and Francis/Routledge – Informaworld ( [900 journals]
Sage – Sage Online ( [520 journals]
Project MUSE ( [400 journals]
CUP – Cambridge Journals online (;jsessionid=252D3BAEEC8D14AC7216973F22A85F6D.tomcat1) [230 journals]
OUP – OUP Journals ( [200 journals]
Nature Publishing Group ( [100 journals]
Palgrave McMillan ( [80 journals]
Pubmed (
Proceedings of the (US) Academy of Sciences (
Pediatrics (

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Amanda Platell - closer, but still incorrect

This is a repost, as I realised I was lacking the crucial context which turned Amanda's comment from one about marriage into one about same-sex adoption. The quote is from "Equality? You must be joking! As watchdogs say it's OK to sneer at men (but not women) in adverts" (21st May), and fails on our previous tests of misleadingness and accuracy:

"Or how about the boss of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, David Holmes, who described as 'retarded homophobes' those who believe that heterosexual couples make the most suitable adoptive parents. This, despite the fact that most ordinary families recognise that a child fares best when it has a married mother and father in the home - a belief that is backed by repeated academic studies"

Show us the studies. Or, better still, show them to the PCC.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Your PCC Complaint and You

So, you've put in your complaint, what happens next?

The PCC aims, wherever possible, to resolve complaints through amicable compromise. In practice, this involves avoiding adjudicating itself wherever possible (here are the most recent stats on complaints: while the newspaper seeks to avoid publicly having to retreat from its position by offering a series of alternatives short of adjudication.

The first stage of this will be the PCC passing your complaint on to the newspaper for comment. Given that the newspaper knew it had to keep to the Code, but still printed misleading or inaccurate information in the first place, this comment is likely to be 'we don't think we've broken the Code'. You are then invited to comment on this, to see whether you now accept that your complaint was groundless. This is your opportunity to expand on your complaint, explaining in detail just where you think the newspaper went awry.

1. The quote was misleading

If we're playing safe, this is where we start with Amanda's quote. The quote, if we recall, was this:
"I just happen to believe that vulnerable children face the best possible life-chances when they are adopted by married heterosexual couples - a view backed by an increasing weight of academic evidence."

This is misleading primarily because it decontextualises the evidence in question - reading it as it is, you could reasonably suppose that the trend in the academic evidence was for findings supporting Amanda's view and that this position was continually getting stronger. If this is the case, we should be very interested in why it is so hard to find this evidence and why it doesn't seem to have persuaded any academic body, non-religious adoption charity or the Government. We can fairly challenge that this is not the case - in the APA paper previously cited, the conclusion read
"In summary, there is no evidence to suggest that lesbian women or gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of lesbian women or gay men is compromised relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents."

Unless this was very wrong, or a lot of water has passed under the bridge since 2005 (which the APA has not seen fit to acknowledge), Amanda's implication that the evidence against same-sex adoption is strong is a misleading one.

2. The claim is actually factually incorrect

If we're feeling a little braver, we can ask the Mail where it thinks this negative evidence is.

2.1 Patricia Morgan
At some point, it is likely that 'UK sociologist' Patricia Morgan will be introduced. Dr. Morgan wrote a report in 2002 called 'Children as Trophies' ( in which she reviewed available evidence at the time and found it wanting. As you may have guessed from the web address, this is not the strongest piece of academic research - it's a position paper from a special interest group who, it is clear from the foreword, were not inspired by a lusty desire for truth but more a confirmation of previously held beliefs. It is not peer-reviewed, is directly contradicted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the same year, and was written not by a tenured academic by an employee of a think-tank (she worked for the Centre for Policy Studies from 1978-1989 and is currently with Civitas and the Institute for Economic Affairs. The internet also appears to suggest that at some point she was a visiting professor at the University of Buckingham, although not at the time of this paper). Arguably then, she is no more academic than any other wandering talking head or researcher. The status of her work as 'academic', particularly if the Mail offers the 2002 paper, can be questioned.

2.2 Paul Cameron
Paul Cameron is the one researcher I've come across who reliably finds that same-sex adoption is harmful. His work is critiqued here: Fun though it is, his research has been disowned by the academic community, as in this quote from the American Sociological Association:
"The American Sociological Association officially and publicly states that Paul Cameron is not a sociologist, and condemns his consistent misrepresentation of sociological research."
While not unprecedented, learned societies are not in the habit of excommunicating members of the academic community. The status of Paul Cameron's work as 'academic' can be questioned.

Beyond these two names, I'm not sure where this Amanda-supporting research is. I think it's probably fair that we ask, given its somewhat unexpected nature. If the Mail tells you, please post it as a comment, so we can all look into it.

From there you will hit another round of responses from the newspaper as they try to find support for their position and find a compromise to satisfy the PCC. This will probably start with the offer to annotate their files with your concern, so that the problem does not arise again (the first of the PCC's 'resolutions': Given that, at this point, the newspaper is likely to still be denying being in the wrong, such a solution is a poor resolution as the newspaper's annotation is unlikely to understand or reflect your objection. This innaccuracy needs to be corrected, which means a published letter of correction from yourself or a public adjudication by the PCC.

Please keep in touch via the comments. Unlike the Mail, we haven't got previous experience of complaining to the PCC, but by pooling our resources we should be a match for them.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Don't Get Mad, Get Accuracy - Complain to the PCC

The UK Daily Mail has rightly been concerned at the personal attacks that have been levelled at its columnists following their objection to the right of same-sex couples to adopt children. This blog exists for the sole purpose of preventing such unwarranted abuse by encouraging a more constructive approach to the newspaper's opposition to civil rights for all.

The following are true:
1. The evidence shows that gays and lesbians make as good parents as straight couples do. This is the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics (when it last looked in 2002), the American Psychological Association (since 2005), the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and the overwhelming weight of peer-reviewed research.
2. While the position is not unanimously held (almost no scientific position is held unanimously by the scientific community), the finding of equality is sufficiently robust and well supported across studies that we can be confident in it.
3. The Press Complaints Commission Code requires that newspapers clearly separate fact from opinion, and that they are factually accurate.
4. The UK Daily Mail regularly published op-ed pieces stating that gays and lesbians do not make as good parents as straight couples, and that the weight of academic evidence supports this.
5. The UK Daily Mail regularly encourages its readers to complain complaints bodies to protest at the broadcast of television shows which they have not seen.

On the basis of point four, many in the civil rights community have sought to attack the Daily Mail. This approach is short-sighted. Instead, point 5 should be our guide. In short, we shouldn't get mad, we should get accuracy by complaining to the PCC.

The movement starts with Amanda Platell's column of this morning ('Insults that betray the bigotry of gay zealots', Daily Mail, 16th May 2009), in which she states:
"I just happen to believe that vulnerable children face the best possible life-chances when they are adopted by married heterosexual couples - a view backed by an increasing weight of academic evidence"
Amanda is factually incorrect in claiming that this view is backed by and increasing weight of academic evidence - there is very little evidence and it tends to be pseudo-academic, published outside peer-reviewed journals and against the principles of unbiased investigation which inspire the academy. To use this to support her prejudices in this way misleads her readers and risks damaging the adoption prospects of children up and down the country.

If this makes you mad, get accuracy - complain to the PCC today.
Links and References:

The PCC -
The APA -
The AAP -
The BAAF -