The study was led by Jimi Adams, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Behavioral Studies at CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and published this month in Social Science Research.
The research comes at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is determining whether the Constitution requires marriage equality. In the case, Obergefell v. Hodges, courts are using social science research to shore up arguments for and against gay marriage. Adams’ study provides evidence against the idea that children of same-sex couples suffer disadvantages.
The study examined thousands of peer-reviewed articles referencing same-sex parenting for patterns in citation of work by other researchers. Adams found that over time, the articles began to cite the same research which supported the “no difference” conclusion.
To determine if and when scientific consensus had been achieved, Adams systematically examined citation networks to find shifts in content. By 1990, he found a developing consensus among researchers about the effect of same-sex parenting. And by 2000, he discovered that researchers had reached “overwhelming” consensus on the issue.
Adams co-authored the study with Ryan Light in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oregon. Adams and Light believe their approach can provide courts with an accessible and objective measure of scientific consensus for application to a range of legal questions.
“As same-sex marriage has been debated in courts across the country, there has been the lingering question about the effects of same-sex parenting on children,” explained Adams. “I wanted to analyze the research from the past decades to determine if there was consensus amongst researchers about that effect. I found overwhelming evidence that scientists agree that there is not a negative impact to children of same-sex couples.”