Stats Watch! 3 – Mainstream Steps up to the Mark

Go and read Lisa Nolland’s latest piece on Anglican Mainstream. It’s informative, it handles the paper being reported fairly, it cites correctly.

There is a rather modified account given of the research above in Kimberly Balsam and Theodore Beauchaine, Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solomon, ‘Three Year Follow-Up of Same-Sex Couples Who Had Civil Unions in Vermont, Same-Sex Couples Not in Civil Unions, and Heterosexual Married Couples’,Developmental Psychology, Volume 44, No 1, 2008. Echoing some the original research, these authors write (under the heading The Civil Union Study: Time 1) ’Men in same-sex relationships lived in larger cities, were less monogamous and more likely to agree that nonmonogamy was acceptable, and perceived more social support from their friends than heterosexual married men.’ (pp. 103-4)

However, things become dodgy when one goes to Table 1.  ’Sample Descriptive Statistics at Study Entry and Three-Year Follow-Up by Gender and Couple Type’, (pp. 106-7) which would appear to be giving the results from their initial study from 2005, and then updating them three years later.

Under ‘Initial Assessment’, ‘Understanding of sex outside relationship’there is the letter c, as a endnote which states that for this line of the table: ‘0=no, 1=yes’.

Then, we read:

Male Same-sex Civil Union: M: 1.7

Male Same-sex no Civil Union: M: 1.8

Male Hetero.:  M: 2.5

It is notable that in this follow-up study the more detailed results reported above have been dropped (even though the same set of questions were addressed to those included in the follow-up study). It is also notable that the numbers given are impossible in relation to the specification offered in note c, which would require a maximum value of 1.

Then, under the heading ‘Three-year follow up’ (and I remind my readers that it is responding to the same ‘Understanding of sex outside relationship’, with the letter c as endnote: ‘0=no, 1=yes’).

Male Same-sex Civil union: M: 0.4

Male Same-sex no Civil Union: M: 0.5

Male Hetero.: M: 0.1

These numbers are strikingly different to those in the previous set. This set would make sense, interpreted in line with note c, and are broadly in line with the results from the initial survey (note the summary of them as above). 40% of males in civil unions agreed to sex outside the relationship, compared to 50% among those not in civil unions, with only 10% of married heterosexual men agreeing to sex outside the marriage. (We should note from the first survey results that there is more sex outside the relationships than is agreed to in all categories.)

If I could add a few comments.

i) This paper is available online here in it’s entirety

ii) The figures on sex outside marriage for females show greater monogamy for lesbian couples (in or out of civil unions) then their married sisters. However, note the chi-squared value of 5. What that’s telling you is that we’re not terribly confident that if we repeated the survey on another similar set of lesbians who were partnered and their married sisters, that we would get the same kind of results. Probably the most certain statement we could make is that there is no real discernible difference in monogamy rates between lesbian couples and married women.

Stats Watch Ranking

4 out of 5

This is so much better then the previous posts on the same subject. There is the presentation of the original source material rather than secondary comment. There is accurate reference to the other material related to the ongoing study. If anyone wants to raise an objection to what Lisa presents they would not only have a hard time getting the research to say anything apart what she has written but also they would need to respond with accurate reporting of the same level of research which contradicted these findings.

A Final Thought

There has been a bit of rancour over my approach to Lisa’s original post on this subject. I stand by that original post – if you compare this latest offering from Anglican Mainstream with what was originally published, they are poles apart in approach and credibility. My public critique of the original posts has contributed to that and I believe that that has been a useful exercise. Iron sharpens iron.

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5 Comments on “Stats Watch! 3 – Mainstream Steps up to the Mark

  1. Hello Peter and all,

    thank you for all your work on ‘Stats Watch’ Peter – it’s something I’ve hoped you’d do :) – and also for sticking to your view and critiquing your own ‘side’ as well as ‘the other’. (Inverted commas partly because I think there’s something wrong with this ‘debate’ being so polarised…). 

    Also wanted to say that, for all that Lisa Nolland’s post is vastly better this time, it still doesn’t support the implied argument of the heading – which is ‘Good reasons why SSM is a bad idea’. If it’s fair to say that the stats above show that men in same-sex civil unions had more extra-relationship partners than straight couples or lesbian couples, then that I’d suggest says something about *male* sexuality but not *homo*sexuality. If that’s valid then this is not an argument against SSM per se because female couples show “no real discernible difference in monogamy rates” (in your words, Peter). 

    in friendship, Blair 

    • Solomon and Rothblum’s research (all of it, not just individual papers) seems to indicate that over time being in a Civil Union has a depressive effect on male gay promiscuity, that is, that overtime it decreases. No such effect in seen in lesbians in Civil Unions, but this may simply be that the monogamy rates are already at a high point.

      I’m trying to do much more of this stuff in the future. Firstly there’s the opinion polls on gender-neutral marriage in England, and I’m also exploring a very interesting angle on the whole issue from another source.

      • Hi Peter,

        well, again, thank you :) I take it you won’t be saying any more just yet about this ‘other source’? 

        Given your first paragraph could I just push the point a little further then? Do you think it follows that any argument against same-sex relationships (whether called marriage or not) that’s based on promiscuity is weak if not vitiated, since there’s evidence that committed relationships reduce gay men’s promiscuity and that of lesbian women is much less of a concern?

        in friendship, Blair 

        • I think I’ve made it very clear in the past that it’s not the kind of argument I would use. You would need to present a number of surveys dealing with issue AND you would have to get past the simple fact that there are plenty of gay couples who are “Permanent, Stable, Faithful”, even if others aren’t (and even if the proportions of the two were different in the straight and gay world).

  2. Well done, Peter, on this work showing us what the stats are really saying. It’s vital work in improving the accuracy, quality and tone of the debate between Christians and gay advocacy groups and their supporters. I think that is a thoroughly Christian objective. I look forward to your further posts critiquing the research – they’re very valuable. I also thought that you personally ran this particular exchange with Lisa Nolland in an exemplary manner – firm, on topic and polite.

    Well done, Lisa, for responding with a further critique of the paper that you’ve quoted before which now deals with both the research and deals with it accurately. It points out some problems with the research which are quite significant and your criticism is stronger for it. I’d like to encourage you to continue in the same vein.

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