Fundamental Values and Research Bias


Last week we discussed the controversial “New Family Structures Study” by sociologist Mark Regnerus, and we saw how fundamental differences in values and assumptions about human nature can result in intractable disagreements about how to interpret the facts of human society.  In this 1-3 page Journal reflection, analyze the values that influence research bias, as illustrated by the Regnerus case.  Explain the differing assumptions that lead Mark Regnerus and his critics to opposing conclusions about the same data, and evaluate the possibility of value-neutral research about such controversial topics. 


Was Regnerus’s research biased?

The research was slightly biased. The study did not acknowledge the timeframe of the childhood of their participants. The participants underwent childhood between 1971 and 1994. This was a period where the same-sex relationships were outlawed and shunned by the society; therefore, the families of the same sex couples could not be stable or integrated at the time (Saletan, 2012). The research also did not have many classifications for their participants. The intact biological families did not factor in the possibility of having broken homes, but this factor was considered in the lesbian mother and gay father families.

Is it possible to do unbiased research on a politically controversial topic like same-sex marriage?

Doing unbiased research on such a controversial topic is hard. This is because of the challenges that the researcher faces during the research process. The researcher will often encounter a relatively small sample size in the society from which they can draw conclusions. Since the sample size is not representative of the entire population, it may yield biased results (Umberson, Thomeer, Kroeger, Lodge, & Xu, 2015). It is also hard to get a comparison group for the research. This is because of the distinct demographic of the people in the same-sex marriage. These individuals tend to be young, educated and not willing to have a family. It is hard to find a group to compare such individuals too, which may make the research biased.

Should liberals take Regnerus’s research thoughtfully, even if they disagree with his conclusion?

Yes, they should. The study, even though flawed, exposed a very important fact; the children from broken homes of the gays have the same issues as children from broken heterosexual homes. This shows that family integrity is essential with every type of home (Saletan, 2012). The investigation also revealed that the effect of broken homes was higher in the gay families than in the heterosexual families. Many of the children who grew up in broken same-sex relationships reported a lower quality of their life than their counterparts. The liberals should take these points into consideration as they are vital for the proper growth of the children.

Did Regnerus break any principles of research ethics? What lessons about research can we learn from this controversy?

He did not violate any of the research ethics. He obtained the consent of the participants before deriving data from them and ensured that the study did not harm them in any way (Kimmel, 2007). The research was only biased, but it was conducted in an ethical manner. The lessons we learn are that when one is conducting research, they should ensure that their sample size is reflective of the entire population and shows the characteristics of the entire population. This will ensure that they get final unbiased results that will be accepted by all people. One should also ensure that they uphold the research ethics when conducting their research. This will ensure that one receives validation for their work.


Kimmel, A. (2007). Ethical issues in behavioral research: basic and applied perspectives. Oxford, UK Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Saletan, W. (2012, June 11). Back in the Gay. Slate. Accessed on 2017, April 12. Retrieved from:

Umberson, D., Thomeer, M. B., Kroeger, R. A., Lodge, A. C., & Xu, M. (2015). Challenges and Opportunities for Research on Same-Sex Relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 77(1), 96–111.

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