Ping (zestyping) wrote,

What Paul Cameron's study really shows.

I realized something interesting when i looked back at the data in the study of child abuse by foster parents that i discussed recently.
Cameron, P. Child molestations by homosexual foster parents: Illinois, 1997-2002. Psychological Reports, 2005, 96, 227-230. (available online)
Suppose you are the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services and you come across this study. Suppose further that your goal is to place foster children in the homes where they will be least likely to suffer sexual abuse, and you have no information other than the sex of the couples applying to be foster parents (indeed, quite unrealistic, but this is the assumption Cameron makes).

Among your placement choices are three types of couples:

  • A female-male couple of foster parents.
  • A female-female couple of foster parents.
  • A male-male couple of foster parents.

What does the study tell you about the risk of sexual abuse for these options? Here's that data again.

sexual abuse, # of cases abuser 100%
child F 67 148 215
M 30 25 55
  97 173 270
sexual abuse, % of cases abuser 100%
child F 25 55 80%
M 11 9 20%
  36 64 100%

Look at those red numbers. Girls are more than twice as likely to be sexually abused by a male foster parent than a female foster parent. Therefore, the option with the least risk of sexual abuse is to place a girl with two female foster parents.

Boys seem slightly more likely to be sexually abused by female foster parents than male foster parents, though there aren’t enough data points to be statistically conclusive. So the sex of the parents doesn’t matter very much, though the data suggests that placing a boy with two male foster parents would yield a somewhat lower risk of sexual abuse.

What Cameron’s study really shows is that, with all other things being equal, a foster child in Illinois has a lower risk of sexual abuse when raised by two parents of the same sex as the child than by a male parent and a female parent.

All other things are not equal, of course. There are certainly other factors that affect the quality of foster parenting much more than the sex of the parents, but Paul Cameron didn't bother to look at them.

And with that, now i'll put this study to rest.

(Update: After thinking about a comment from rebbyribs, i've replaced "homosexual couple" with "two parents," since the former suggests homosexual relationships and there is no data about them.)

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