P R E S I D E N T S P A G E
There they go again. The American Psychological Association has attacked families once again. This spring the APA created a stir by their publication of a report which claimed that research showed some positive effects of the sexual abuse of children by adults. This time the APA published a broadside against fathers entitled: Deconstructing the Essential Father by Drs. Louise Silverstein and Carl Auerbach, both of Yeshiva University.
This APA article claims that a review of the researchno new research was actually done for this articledemonstrates that fathers are not essential for a childs well being. Nor is marriage. Basically, any single or multiple adult groupings can take care of children with equal success.
What research you ask?
Consider the pioneering work of Smuts and Gubernick (1992) with marmosets. It seems that marmosets always have twin offspring and thus, the female marmoset has to nurse both, and so the male is needed to take care of one young. Male marmosets behave like full-time mothers, conclude Silverstein and Auerbach.
Our two authors also cite the work of feminist researchers who study non-human primates to buttress their theories. But, they openly acknowledge that even the scientific community whichinexplicably to mevalues evidence about marmosets to explain human behavior, has not agreed. Unfortunately, this feminist scholarship has not been integrated into most social science literature, they admit.
Their conclusion: Taken as a whole, the empirical research does not support the idea that fathers make a unique and essential contribution to child development.
Silverstein and Auerbach do make one valuable statement in the midst of their findings. We acknowledge that our reading of the scientific literature supports our political agenda. Our goal is to generate public policy initiatives that support men in their fathering role, without discriminating against women and same-sex couples. They correctly acknowledge that this propensity for bias is the norm in social science research.
Lets translate their fancy language into ordinary talk: Social scientists are little more than political hacks who manipulate data to suit their political agenda.
So why then do we rely on their research? Why should we make public policy decisions about people based on the observations of marmosets by social scientists?
Let me be blunt. Psychology is not a scienceat least as it is practiced by Drs. Silverstein and Auerbach. Moreover, true science can never explain what is good or better or best. In some circumstances, a researcher may be able to observe certain factors about efficiency, but efficiency is quite different from good or beautiful. Telephone poles are efficient. Trees are beautiful.
The entire premise of this APA article is that a care givers efficiency is a substitute for a fathers love.
Heres my advice based on 23 years of cross-examining psychologists and other social science researchers: Dont make life decisions based on their research. People may hear a radio news report on the conclusions of this research, saying, fathers are not essential, and use it as a justification for talking themselves into a divorce. But most people who would take the time to actually read this study wouldnt give it two cents worth of credibility.
A deeper examinationthe kind that lawyers do when these kinds of experts appear on the witness standusually reveals that such reports are built on a mound of presuppositions that defy common sense.
One public policy recommendation I would make is this: No social science research grant should be given unless an equal grant is given to another group assigned to reveal the weaknesses and biases in the main study.
Oftentimes when I go onto a talk show to discuss home schooling, I find myself facing a psychologist who opines that home schooling presents problems. I, of course, disagree. My opinion is based on nearly two decades of real life experience with my own family and interactions with tens of thousands of home schooled children.
If you watch such a show, whom should you believe? A psychologist whose opinion is informed by marmoset-watching, who is biased against fathers, and who favors homosexuality? Or a dad who has actually been there?
Perhaps instead of deconstructing fatherhood, we need to deconstruct psychology masquerading as science.