The study is a snapshot of a particular moment in history. The youngest people in the survey turned 18 in 2011 and the oldest did so in 1990, growing up in a time when social support for gay lifestyles, particularly those involving children, was less established. In 2000, the U.S. Census counted nearly 170,000 households headed by gay or lesbian parents of children under age 18. In fact, only two of the respondents reported living with their mother or father and a same-sex partner for their entire childhood.
"I'd be interested in seeing this study redone in 20 years with the more intact same-sex families we see now," Saul said.
Gary Gates, who studies the LGBT population at UCLA's Williams Institute, said the study offers no clear conclusions about the relationship between parents' sexual orientation and a child's wellbeing. Instead, the results say more about the role of instability in childhood.
"To determine whether a parental same-sex relationship affects a child's outcome, it is critical to know the length of these relationships, and whether the same-sex partners were actually living with, and parenting, the child for any length of time. The study does not assess this," Gates said.
Other studies have found that children raised by same-sex parents are not different from children of heterosexual couples. The American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America and other organizations have issued public support for same-sex parenting.
Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian families, said the study has no effect on the "overwhelming body of research" that has found that children of same-sex couples do as well as those of heterosexual parents.
"It is clear that families are stronger and more stable when they can stay together," she said. "That means what we should be doing is supporting policies that make it easier for gay and lesbian families to stay together."
Regnerus said he has no opinion on whether the study supports or refutes the benefits of condoning same-sex marriages and parenting.
"This study really can't answer any political questions," he said.
Editor's note: The original headline of this story was changed in order to reflect the nature of the piece.