Based on Biased Reading of New Mortality Study, Paul Cameron Gives Sen. Portman Parenting Advice

In this month’s edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology, Morten Frisch and Jacob Simonsen reported a new study of mortality in Denmark. Paul Cameron wasted little time trotting out the study to give Senator Rob Portman advice on how to parent his gay son – tell him to get married to a woman. Apparently, any woman will do. After all, in the words of the song, what’s love got to do with it?
Cameron says he even went to Ohio to deliver his advice:

COLUMBUS, Ohio, April 24, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — Dr. Paul Cameron, the first scientist to document the harms of secondhand smoke, went to Ohio’s capital to call upon U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to reconsider his recently announced support for gay marriage. “Sen. Portman, gay marriage is hazardous to one’s health. For the sake of the son you love, urge him to marry a woman.”

Cameron did say at least one thing that was true in his presser:

Cameron said, “Bad science is bipartisan…”

Proven by Cameron’s own press release, bad science is indeed everywhere.  And bad advice. One of the findings of the Frisch and Simonsen study is that mortality for same-sex married men is better than “unmarried, divorced and widowed men.” It is also important to note that the mortality rates for gay married men have improved since Frisch’s last study. Cameron doesn’t tell you that.
Cameron and Frisch tangled on this blog back in 2007 and 2008. Cameron made his mortality claims in a “study” presented before the Eastern Psychological Association and Frisch responded to him as a part of a nine-part series I did on gay mortality claims. Frisch’s first study on gay mortality was done in part to address Cameron’s spurious claims.
To understand more about Paul Cameron and his feelings about gays, read part 9 of the series. Disturbingly enlightening.
I have asked Morten for additional reactions and will have more reflections on the study in a coming post.

Frisch & Hviid and reparative drive theory revisited

Commenter Evan recently posted a link to a informative powerpoint produced by colleague Morten Frisch regarding his study of social and family factors associated with homosexual and heterosexual marriage in Denmark. Morten is no stranger to this blog as he commented at length regarding the Cameron’s biased attempt to estimate homosexual lifespans. I reviewed this study for a Washington Times article (the WT link is disabled but it is here)and believe it is a significant contribution to the literature regarding causal factors associated with sexual orientation.
I would like to look at the significant findings in Frisch’s study in relationship to predictions made by reparative drive theory. According to the powerpoint, the purpose for the study was

To use a unique national set of demographic data free of selection bias to
-identify possible childhood family correlates of adult sexual orientation and partner choices
-evaluate the fraternal birth order (FBO) hypothesis (Blanchard) for male homosexuality

Regarding the latter purpose, the study found no evidence to support the FBO. What I want to do now is reproduce a few of the slides in light of predictions from reparative theory. Reparative theory proposes that disruption in the same-sex parent relationship in the crucial years of gender identity formation is responsible for homosexuality as a “gender identity problem” (Joe Nicolosi used to call homosexuality a gender identity disorder). His newer iteration of the theory refers to male homosexual “enactment” as deriving from feeling cut off from authentic masculinity. This deficit is located in a failure of the boy to successfully disidentify with mother and identify and bond with father between 18 and 36 months of age. Rejection from male peers builds on the bonding failure resulting in an eventual experience of same-sex attractions in a false and futile effort to return to masculinity. He has less to say about female homosexuality and most reparative therapists say that just about anything can lead to lesbianism as long as it is traumatic in some way or a deficit of upbringing.
Based on these premises, we would expect research on large groups of homosexuals to show an increase in problems during those crucial periods of early childhood. Further, we would expect the differences between groups to be large since reparative therapists say that the environmental experiences are necessary causes of same-sex attraction. With this in mind, let’s look at the Frisch results.
Birth place and marriage
On all of these tables, one (1) is the baseline and deviation from one is considered to be an increase or decrease in likelihood of homosexual partnership. In this case, the likelihood of same-sex partner choice goes up with the urbanicity of birth place. It is hard to know what this means. One might suppose that attitudes toward same-sex marriage are more liberal in the urban area if one assumes people are married where they are born. In a smaller country like Denmark, it seems that gay people in the rural areas might just move to the city where attitudes are more accepting. Perhaps, the social attitudes in the area where one grows up plays a role as well.
Parental characteristics
First note that none of the variables here are significant for women and only one is for men – mother’s age. There is a slight increase in odds of homosexual marriage for men if one’s mother was over 35 at birth. I do not see any clear theoretical connection for this finding. However, apropos to this post, note that awareness of the identity of one’s father has no significant impact on marital direction. A reparative paradigm would expect disruptions or ambiguity of paternal identification to lead to an increase in homosexual partnering.
Parental vital status and marriage characteristics
Reparative theory would predict disruptions in the same-sex parent bond in early childhood. As indicated by parental death, Frisch does not find the predicted disruptions. First of all, such circumstances for men or women are infrequent (only 22 cases each of paternal death before age 11) and second, there is no relationship to partnering in males. In females, the relationship to partnering is not in the early childhood years but during adolescence. As with all of these differences, the effect size is quite small so the variable does not account for much variation between gay and straight partnering.
Regarding parental marriages, I am a bit unclear how this finding relates to reparative drive theory. I initially wrote that there is a very small effect of short parental marriages for both men and women. However, I asked Morten to read this summary prior to publication and he took some exception to this point. He wrote,

Actually, there is a 36% higher likelihood of same-sex marriage among boys whose parents’ marriage lasted less than 6 years compared with boys whose parents’ marriage remained intact until age 18 years, and the corresponding estimate was 26% higher same-sex marriage rates among girls whose parents’ marriage lasted less than 6 years compared with girls whose parents’ marriage remained intact until age 18 years. Our data on duration of parental marriage duration and, for boys, duration of father-absent cohabitation with mother obviously don’t prove anything in relation to the reparative theory, but they are not in conflict with it.

On the other hand, effect sizes calculated in the way I am used to seeing finds a trivial amount of variance.
The only marriage duration that related to homosexual marriage was the “less than 6 years” category.” It would be tempting to see this as meaning that the children were all under 6. However, in Denmark, it is not uncommon for couples to cohabitate, have a child and then get married. In other words, we cannot assume the ages of the children involved based on duration of marriage.
In any event, this finding, even if of some substance, would neither confirm nor disconfirm the specifics of reparative drive theory – especially in light of the data which do not find a push toward homosexual partnering among males who experienced father absence due to death or unknown identity.
Parental cohabitation
This slide depicts data which seems more promising for a reparative theorist in that father absent cohabitation shows a slight relationship to partnering for males. However, if I was a reparative drive theorist, I would be disappointed. First, the number of gay males who experienced this factor is relatively small (80 of father absent cohabitation of between 6-17.5 years). Most partnered gays did not experience this event. Second, the effect is very small. If same-sex parent disruption was a necessary condition, might expect more dramatic results with application to both sexes.
I find myself in the unusual position of qualifying Morten’s conclusions. I think there is a need to qualify the factors by the non-significant results found. For instance, Morten lists father absence as a factor related to gay marriage. However, I would note that paternal absence via death was unrelated to outcome as was lack of knowledge of father’s identity.
On balance, I do not think Frisch and Hviid’s massive study of marriage choice provides significant support for reparative drive theory. If anything, the predicted findings are mixed.
If parental bonding and was massively and necessarily related to homosexual outcomes, it seems that some large study would find greater differences on the relevant dimensions. However, neither the recent Francis study nor the Wilson and Widom study of abuse and neglect demonstrate the expected results. While Frisch and Hviid report some impact of marital disruption, it is unclear what is the potent element of those events.

ReutersHealth covers Frisch gay mortality study

I talked about it here and yesterday, ReutersHealth published an article about Frisch’s gay mortality study. With a sure to be provocative title, the article summarizes the main findings.
I have been surprised that only bloggers – and few of them – have picked up on this research. There is a little something here for everyone; there is some evidence of reduced longevity but not to the degree hoped for by the Camerons.

Mortality declines as same-sex marriage endures
Last Updated: 2008-11-24 13:33:59 -0400 (Reuters Health)
By Joene Hendry
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Mortality among same-sex married men and women in Denmark is higher than that of the general population within the first 3 years of marriage, but then declines to more closely resemble mortality the general Danish population, researchers report.
Nevertheless, these findings sharply contradict what Frisch’s group describes as “flawed claims” that people in same-sex marriages live an average of 20 years shorter than heterosexually married people.

The last sentence, of course, refers to the Camerons.

New Danish study reviews mortality among married gays

In April, 2007, I posted a rebuttal to Paul and Kirk Cameron’s claims that gays die 20-plus years sooner than straights. That post was the first of a nine-part series, Only the Gay Die Young? The links will show up if you click here, here and here. Also, I brought them all together in an article with additional commentary in an article presented at a research summit I conducted in 2007.
Participating in that exchange was Morten Frisch, Danish epidemiologist. I initially corresponded with Dr. Frisch concerning his 2006 article on environmental influences in homosexual versus heterosexual marriage decisions. When Paul and Kirk Cameron produced their mortality study at the Eastern Psychological Association, I contacted Dr. Frisch for comment. Dr. Frisch dismissed the Camerons’ methods saying,

Cameron and Cameron’s report on “life expectancy” in homosexuals vs heterosexuals is severely methodologically flawed
It is no wonder why this pseudo-scientific report claiming a drastically shorter life expectancy in homosexuals compared with heterosexuals has been published on the internet without preceding scientific peer-review ( The authors should know, and as PhDs they presumably do, that this report has little to do with science. It is hard to escape the idea that non-scientific motifs have driven the authors to make this report public. The methodological flaws are of such a grave nature that no decent peer-reviewed scientific journal should let it pass for publication

In this case, Dr. Frisch did more than critique the Camerons. He, along with colleague Henrik Brønnum-Hansen, conducted a study using the data from Denmark regarding married gays and straights. The study will be published in the January, 2009 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, but is being released today via the journal’s website. Dr. Frisch was kind enough to forward a copy which I summarize here.
Frisch and Brønnum-Hansen found that Danish men marrying soon after the Danish same-sex marriage law was enacted had markedly higher death rates than men in the general Danish population. They speculate that these men were ill, ordinarily with AIDS or AIDS related illnesses, but also from other life-threatening diseases, and wanted to marry to establish rights of survivorship or other benefits for a surviving spouse. However, the mortality for homosexual men marrying after 1996 is virtually the same as for heterosexual men in Denmark. Thus, since HIV/AIDS has been more successfully managed, the mortality rates have declined dramatically.
During the height of the AIDS crisis, life expectancies were understandably depressed. This study indicates that mortality has improved substantially.
In the article, Frisch and Brønnum-Hansen directly address the methods of the Camerons.

Flawed Claims of Major Excess Mortality
Authors from the Family Research Institute, a US-based institution fighting to ‘‘restore a world . . . where homosexuality is not taught and accepted, but instead is discouraged and rejected at every level, ’’have produced a series of reports in which they claim homosexuality is incompatible with full health and as dangerous to public health as drug abuse, prostitution, and smoking. In a recent
report, the authors obtained data from Statistics Denmark and Statistics Norway and compared the average age at death among men and women who had ever been in a same-sex marriage with the average age at death among people who had ever been heterosexually married.
Because the age distribution among persons in same-sex marriages was considerably younger than that of people who had ever been heterosexually married, the average age at death among those who actually died during the observation period was, not surprisingly, considerably younger in the population of same-sex married persons. The Family Research Institute presented the lower mean age at death (by 22–25 years) for persons in same-sex versus heterosexual marriages as evidence that persons who married heterosexually ‘‘outlived gays and lesbians by more than 20 years on average.’’ Elementary textbooks in epidemiology warn against such undue comparisons between group averages because they lead to seemingly common-sense yet seriously flawed conclusions.

I am still reviewing the details and will add more as I complete my review. For now, I will say that I appreciate Dr. Frisch’s work and efforts to gain an objective look at this controversial topic.
The study reference is: Frisch, M. & Brønnum-Hansen, H. (2009). Mortality Among Men and Women in Same-Sex Marriage: A National Cohort Study of 8333 Danes. American Journal of Public Health 99,(1), available online at