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House members criticize APA again, this time about fathers

WASHINGTON (BP)–Members of Congress again are criticizing an article in a publication of the American Psychological Association, this time about the value of a father’s role in the life of his children.
In a letter to other House of Representatives members, Reps. Joseph Pitts, R.-Pa., and Mike McIntyre, D.-N.C., have asked their colleagues “to stand up for Dads,” according to a July 28 report by the Conservative News Service, an on-line news provider. The co-chairmen of the Congressional Task Force on Fatherhood Promotion took issue with an article published in the American Psychologist, an APA journal, that criticizes the belief that fathers are essential in the development of children.
Pitts and McIntyre have included with their “Dear Colleague” letter another letter they wrote to APA Chief Executive Officer Raymond Fowler expressing their “dismay” with the article, CNS reported.
It is the second time recently the APA has received highly publicized criticism for publishing an article promoting unorthodox beliefs.
Earlier in July, the House condemned a 1998 article published by the APA that, according to the adopted resolution, “suggests that sexual relationships between adults and children are less harmful than believed and might even be positive for ‘willing’ children.” The House approved a resolution denouncing the article in a 355-0 vote even after the APA’s Fowler hand-delivered to a congressman an apology for the article, acknowledging “inconsistencies” and saying it should have been screened more thoroughly, The Washington Times reported.
The APA said it would initiate an outside review of the techniques used in the study upon which the article was based and also would have its lawyers write a friend-of-the-court brief challenging attempts in court to use the study in defending pedophiles, according to The Times.
After the APA released the letter, Pitts expressed in a written statement his appreciation for the “APA’s ability to see the implications of its published material and [I] laud their commitment to setting the record straight on child abuse and its severity. Clearly, our public pressure was enough to alert not only common-sense Americans, but the APA, to the danger of giving such ‘junk science’ a forum.”
Radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger had led a campaign against the APA article in recent months. The article was published in the July 1998 issue of the APA’s Psychological Bulletin.
At its annual meeting in June, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution calling for protection of children against sexual abuse and requesting the APA and other organizations not publish articles that seek to “legitimize immoral behavior, including ‘adult-child sex.'”
The APA stepped back into the harsh light of criticism when its journal published “Deconstructing the Essential Father” in June.
In the article, Louise Silverstein and Carl Auerbach, professors at Yeshiva University in New York, discredit the view that fathers are essential to the development of children, instead saying homosexual couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and single mothers can produce positive results in children.
While the authors say “neither a mother nor a father is essential,” they take aim at recent assertions by social scientists that fathers are vital and a host of social problems are the result of the absence of fathers in the lives of their children.
They wrote that they “do not believe that the data support the conclusion that fathers are essential to child well-being and that heterosexual marriage is the social context in which responsible fathering is most likely to occur.”
“Neither the sex of the adult(s) nor the biological relationship to the child has emerged as a significant variable in predicting positive development. One, none or both of those adults could be a father (or mother).”
Silverstein and Auerbach make it clear “our reading of the scientific literature supports our political agenda,” saying the policy growing out of the essential father framework “is of grave concern to us because it discriminates against cohabiting couples, single mothers and gay and lesbian parents.”
They also say there are “potential costs of father presence,” pointing to a study showing “some fathers’ consumption of family resources in terms of gambling, purchasing alcohol, cigarettes or other nonessential commodities actually increased women’s workload and stress level.”
One of the social scientists whose position was critiqued by Silverstein and Auerbach told CNS the article was “utter nonsense.”
David Blankenhorn, head of the Institute for American Values in New York, told CNS, “I always appreciate critical articles, because they can focus your argument and point out weaknesses. But this article was unusually silly. Not one thing they said was what I would call a serious insight.”
He gathered the authors “consider it a great insult to be called an essentialist, which simply means believing that there are differences between men and women,” Blankenhorn said, according to CNS. “It doesn’t matter that this belief is held by every human being outside of academia.”
Leslie Carbone, a policy analyst at Family Research Council in Washington, told CNS, “The APA has gone and demonstrated once again how out of touch they are with American society. They should have quit while they were behind.
“The attempt to draw a moral equivalency among all different kinds of living situations, including not just typical, single-parent families … but also homosexual parenting, ignores the vast body of research that shows that children do best in two-parent, married-couple households.”
Silverstein told CNS the article had been “widely misrepresented.”
“We do not consider fathers irrelevant,” she said, according to CNS. What they object to “is the notion that only marriage leads to responsible fathering … and to the idea that only a father can do this,” she said.