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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