On Psychology

Jewish World Review Aug. 25, 1999 / 14 Elul, 5759


Dr. Wade Horn

Shining a Light in the Darkness

By Dr. Wade F. Horn

I'VE GOT SOME BAD NEWS for the American Psychological Association (APA). An awful lot of people no longer trust you. And not without reason.

First, the APA published an article in one of its premier journals advocating that the term child sexual abuse be replaced with the more "value neutral" term "adult-child sex" when a boy or girl under the age of 12 years consents to having sex with an adult and suffers no long term harm. Just how a six year old child can ever consent to having sex with an adult, this esteemed article did not say.

Then, the APA chose to publish an article declaring that fathers (or mothers, for that matter) do not contribute anything "unique or essential" to the well-being of children and that there is "no evidence" that marriage really matters to children.

Econophone In reaction to these two articles, I asked the readers of my column to give me advice as to whether I should resign my membership in the APA in protest or whether I should stay and keep an eye on them.

Out of over three hundred responses, nearly 85% recommended that I remain a member of the APA -- not because the APA is a respected scientific/professional organization with which I should proud to be a member, but because the APA, in their opinion, has been taken over by a bunch of left-wing loonies who need to be monitored.

Here's a sampling of my readers' comments: "If you can stand it, remain a member of the APA and use what influence you can to try to bring back a sense of reason and logic." "Stay with them, protest loudly, and keep an ever watchful eye on them." "Stay in the APA, grit your teeth, and drive them nuts!" "If you leave the APA, there will be only the morons left!" "Keep blowing the whistle on these bozos." "Stay a member and fight this new age gobblely-gook."

Although one reader signed his response, "Dad of two, husband of one, and lifetime member of the vast right wing conspiracy," nearly a quarter of the responses were from women. Lorraine, for example, wrote "These people truly scare me and I fear the further damage they'll do to our traditional families and our children if they're allowed to continue spewing their radical ideas unchecked." Donna added this piece of wisdom, "Stay a member and fight. As Harry S. Truman said, 'To bury your head in the sand does not cure the problem of flies on your tail.'" Gloria simply wrote, "Hangeth thou in there!"

Many suggested that I not only stay a member, but try to actively change the APA. Several suggested that I run for president of the APA (now, wouldn't that be fun!). Others urged me to organize other like-minded psychologists and set up an alternative professional association. And there was this helpful suggestion: "Why don't you sue the APA for, say, academic malpractice?"

Fifteen percent did urge me to resign. Eric wrote, "Yes, definitely resign from the Antifamily Propaganda Association, oops, I meant the American Psychological Association." One suggested that I stage "...a public resignation, announced in advance with a press conference in the lobby of the APA, and punch them in their public nose!" One compromising sort recommended that I retain "an associate membership in your wife's name, at the most!"

Leiters Sukkah

Astonishingly, only one person wrote arguing that I was wrong. According to Patricia, "I am tired of the ivory towered people being so righteous and certain about a father in the home! Men do die, or haven't you noticed? Some are even nice enough to leave women so that they can forge ahead on their own!"

Much of my readers' outrage was directed not only toward the APA, but toward the authors of these articles as well. One wrote, "They remind me of Voltaire's response to Rousseau: 'Never has one written so elegantly trying to persuade us to act so foolishly.'" Another opined, "Apparently I should divorce my wife of ten years for her and my children's own good. I had no idea that my presence was doing more harm than good. Stupid me."

Others recommended that the authors conduct further research into the matter. One reader suggested, "Maybe they should go to their local jail and ask the prisoners what kind of relationship they had with their fathers."

Several readers wondered aloud about the psychological health of the authors. Said one, "Anyone who believes our society is better off without caring and loving fathers is in serious need of psychological counseling." Another suggested, helpfully, "Someone should put those authors on the couch and check into their relationships with their own fathers."

But the most poignant of all responses came from fatherless children, many of them now adults. Adrienne wrote, "I grew up without a father. I'm now in my mid-30s and I still long for him. What can those clowns from the APA tell me about how I fill the void in my life and how, if fathers don't matter, why the sense of loss and longing has never left me?" What, indeed.

The truth is, I get no pleasure out of criticizing the APA. I became a psychologist because I was (and still am) interested in bettering the human condition. I did not become a psychologist because I was interested in pursuing an extremist political agenda. It is, therefore, with a profound sense of sadness that I see the APA wandering away from its scientific roots and begin taking blatantly political stances.


In fact, if all of the above weren't bad enough, I recently found out that the APA also advocates that children as young as 11-years-old should be allowed unrestricted access to contraception and abortions -- yes, 11-year-olds, 5th graders, for goodness sake! -- without parental notification, let alone permission, of any kind. This kind of thing tears at my heart.

So, what should I do -- resign or stay a member of an organization I believe has lost its bearings?

Pleaded one reader, "Please hang in there for all of us." For now, I'll do just that. After all, as another reader pointed out, "What better place to shine a light than in the darkness?"


JWR contributor Dr. Wade F. Horn is President of the National Fatherhood Initiative and co-author of The Better Homes and Gardens New Father Book. Send your question about dads, children or fatherhood to him C/O JWR

Up

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© 1998, Dr. Wade F. Horn