NPR's Morning Edition uncritically reported Arkansas lawmaker's claim that "over 10,000" studies show gay parents are "problematic for the child"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On National Public Radio's Morning Edition, reporter Jacqueline Froelich failed to challenge Arkansas Republican state Sen. Jim Holt's assertion that "there are thousands of studies, actually ... over 10,000" that show "the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child." Froelich did not address Holt's dubious figure of 10,000 studies, which would be possible only if a new study reaching that conclusion had been released every day for the past 27 years. Froelich also did not mention that numerous scientific studies show just the opposite of Holt's assertion.

On the July 31 edition of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, reporter Jacqueline Froelich aired -- without challenge -- Arkansas Republican state Sen. Jim Holt's assertion that "there are thousands of studies, actually ... over 10,000" that show "the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child." Froelich aired Holt's remark during a report on the Arkansas Supreme Court's recent ruling that the state's regulation banning gays from becoming foster parents is unconstitutional. Froelich did not address Holt's dubious figure of 10,000 studies, which would be possible only if a new study reaching that conclusion had been released every day for the past 27 years. Froelich also failed to mention that numerous scientific studies, including research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA), support the Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling.

The court held that the Arkansas Child Welfare Agency Review Board had violated the constitutional separation of powers doctrine by exceeding the scope of its authority -- which is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of foster children -- when it banned gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents in 1997. Froelich's report included comments from Arkansas ACLU Executive Director Rita Sklar, agreeing with the court's decision, and then aired a response to the decision from Holt:

HOLT: The [lower-court] judge had said that there are no studies that show that the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child. And there are thousands of studies; actually, I've got over 10,000 here that show just the opposite.

Froelich noted that Holt's "10,000 studies" figure is often cited by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and that Holt "relied on that statistic and other data when he co-sponsored a failed bill seeking a ban on gay foster parents." Indeed, Dobson has cited the 10,000-study figure without explaining the source of his data. He made this claim in his book Marriage Under Fire: Why We Must Win This Battle (Multnomah, June 2004), in which he asserted that "[m]ore than ten thousand studies have concluded that kids do best when they are raised by loving and committed mothers and fathers" (Page 54). According to a Media Matters for America review of Marriage Under Fire, the footnote for this particular claim states that "[m]any of these studies are either presented or represented in the following," subsequently listing a number of books and articles. Dobson did not provide any evidence documenting all 10,000 studies, but titles he did cite include: Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps (Harvard University Press, October 1994), Single Mothers and Their Children: A New American Dilemma (University Press of America, March 1988), "Long-Term Effects of Parental Divorce and Parent-Child Relationships, Adjustment, and Achievement in Young Adulthood," and "Children Who Don't Live with Both Parents Face Behavioral Problems." These examples suggest that many of Dobson's purported "ten thousand studies" did not examine parenting by gay individuals or couples at all but, rather, addressed child development in a single-parent home versus a two-parent home.

Froelich did not question the claim or mention any study to contradict it. In fact, numerous studies support the opposite conclusion.

For example, a 2002 AAP Technical Report found that:

A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.

In a July 2004 policy statement "oppos[ing] any discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of adoption, child custody and visitation, foster care, and reproductive health services," the APA asserted that "results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children." Similarly, an October 2005 WebMD article reported that according to findings presented at the October 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics Conference and Exhibition, "[c]hildren growing up in same-sex parental households do not necessarily have differences in self-esteem, gender identity, or emotional problems from children growing up in heterosexual parent homes." In addition, a January 2005 New York Times article (subscription required) noted the assessment of Dr. Judith Stacey, a sociology professor at New York University, that "there is not a single legitimate scholar out there who argues that growing up with gay parents is somehow bad for children."

From the July 31 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

SKLAR: The court found that, in fact, this policy did not promote the health, safety, and welfare of children, that there was all the evidence to the contrary and no evidence put up by the state, by the way, showing that gay people might be bad foster parents.

FROELICH: But Republican state Senator Jim Holt says the courts have overstepped their jurisdiction and did not look at all the evidence.

HOLT: The judge had said there are no studies that show that the homosexual family or the environment is problematic for the child. And there are thousands of studies; actually, I've got over 10,000, here, that show just the opposite.

FROELICH: That figure, 10,000 studies, is frequently cited by children's psychologist and Christian conservative Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Senator Holt relied on that statistic and other data when he co-sponsored a failed bill seeking a ban on gay foster parents and adoption in 2005. Now he's counting on the 2007 legislature to reinstate a ban.

HOLT: I think the way public opinion is going now, though, it's going to be in our favor, and I think we'll have it pass with no problem.

FROELICH: That confidence has been echoed by both Democratic and Republican candidates around Arkansas. Within days of the Supreme Court ruling, they pledged to support a bill that would restrict foster parenting to legally married couples. Gay marriage was outlawed here in 2004. As for Arkansas state child-welfare officials, spokesperson Julie Munsell says her agency's disappointed that it can no longer place children in what it considers to be ideal environments.

MUNSELL: A mother and father figure in the home -- a two-parent, married couple in the home.

FROELICH: In the meantime, foster children languish in the state system. In 2004, the state counted 6,500. Twenty-two hundred were in some type of foster home, the rest in residential facilities. For NPR News, I'm Jacqueline Froelich in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT
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