liz responds to yet another editorial from the prolific Wade F. Horn

The following is liz's response to an editorial by Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., which was published July 7, 1999, in the Jewish World Review, an on-line e-zine for which Horn writes an advice column on parenting.  liz's copy came via a father's rights group mailing list, one of many among which Horn's blatherings have been making the rounds.  Horn was bent out of shape by a scholarly article written by Louise B. Silverstein and Carl F. Auerbach, "Deconstructing the Essential Father," and published in AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 54, No. 6 397-407 (June 1999.)

But first, a quote from the Silverstein-Auerbach article, which, while not actually representative of everything the authors had to say, will give you a feel for what has set off Wade Horn and company:

"[O]ur research with divorced, never-married, and remarried fathers has taught us that a wide variety of family structures can support positive child outcomes.  We have concluded that children need at least one responsible, caretaking adult who has a positive emotional connection to them and with whom they have a consistent relationship... We share the concern that many men in U.S. society do not have a feeling of emotional connection or a sense of responsibility toward their children.  However, we 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."

Horn's text, excerpted here, is in red.
liznotes are interspersed in black.

Jewish World Review July 7, 1999
Lunacy 101: Questioning the Need for Fathers
By Dr. Wade F. Horn

JUST WHEN I THOUGHT it was safe to admit I am a psychologist, the American Psychological Association (APA) goes and does something nutty yet again.

The precursor.  Something unsafe and nutty (?) the APA has done...

Last year the APA published a study advocating that the term child sexual abuse be replaced, at least in some cases, with adult-child sex, a more "value neutral term." Fortunately, after several months of defending the publication of that study, the APA came to its senses and acknowledged that its not in the best interests of children to define pedophilia down (boy, now there's courage for you!).

Notice how he starts off -- not summarizing what he's really going to be talking about, but attempting to set the reader into an antagonistic mindset against his target by equating a scholarly article (debatable or not in its conclusions) with "lunacy" and a query into the essentialism of fatherhood with being a child molester.  This is propaganda.  Why would it be needed, unless Horn just can't argue with the facts.

No sooner had I completed my mental victory dance in celebration of this return to sanity within the APA, then what should appear on my desk but the June 1999 issue of the American Psychologist. Now, the American Psychologist is no obscure journal; in fact, it is the only APA journal sent to every member of the American Psychological Association. It is used routinely to espouse the viewpoint of the APA leadership.

So what was so upsetting about this issue of the American Psychologist?

So he didn't mean "nutty" in his first sentence.  He meant "upsetting."

In its infinite wisdom, the APA decided to publish as its lead article, a broadside against the fatherhood movement -- just in time for Father's Day. They should have just sent a tie.

"Father's Day" brouhaha now preempts the entire month of June?

Titled "Deconstructing the Essential Father" and penned by Louise B. Silverstein and Carl F. Auerbach, both of Yeshiva University, the authors of the article make two arguments: First, fathers are really non-essential to the healthy development of children. Second, marriage stinks.

Nonsense. There is nothing in the article denigrating marriage.  Nothing at all that would dissuade persons who want to get married from doing so.  Marriage STINKS?  This is hyperbole.  (And they say feminists screech...)

The authors begin their first argument by stating that their "research experience has led us to conceptualize fathering in a way that is very different from the neoconservative [Read: anyone who thinks fathers matter] perspective." And what is their vast research experience? Over the past six years they have studied the fathering experience of 200 -- yes, a whole 200! -- men. Now there's a representative, national sample for you!

Nonsense.  (Is there a logical response in here, Wade, or just mockery?)  This is no better than the rantings of the rest of the FR crowd.  In addition to their own research, the authors cite to other research.  While their own research bolsters their theories, certainly, they do not pretend that it stands alone.  See, e.g. FATHERHOOD: MYTHS AND FACTS for a summary of the research that's out there.

While acknowledging that "the presence of a father may have positive effects on the well-being of boys," two paragraphs later the authors come to the stunning conclusion that "...the empirical literature does not support the idea that fathers make a unique and essential contribution to child development."

There you go! Dads you don't make a difference! So don't worry about rushing home to play ball with your kid in the backyard, you won't be missed. According to these two psychologists, all that is simply non-essential!

In fact the empirical literature does NOT support the idea that fathers make a unique and essential contribution to child development.  But the readers of "Jewish World" and other popular media most likely are not scholars in "the literature."  Although he poses as such, Wade Horn is no objective authority.  For that reason, I put this right in the category of outright fraud.  Now I, liz, do not agree with much of what Silverstein and Auerbach conclude -- largely their unsupported assumptions and gratuitous agendas.  But I've managed to critique that aspect of their article without disagreeing with research findings or reality.

What the authors apparently missed, of course, is two decades of research attesting to the impact of father absence on the well-being of children, including increased risk for school failure, emotional and behavioral problems, juvenile crime, and teenage pregnancy.

Nonsense.  Two decades of research have "attested" to nothing of the sort.  Here's what an OBJECTIVE review of existing research indicates:

"While it would be a seemingly obvious proposition to most of us, that fathers' consistent and substantial involvement in child care would benefit the child, this appears to have not been well established.  The relationship between paternal involvement and children's well-being seems to be mediated by a number of other conditions that involve the father, the mother, and the child.  In other words, increased paternal involvement does not automatically result in improved child outcomes.  Nor is it clear whether the father's involvement provides unique nurturance that can not be as readily provided by substitute caregivers."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

For more, see liznotes.

But you don't have to take my word for it.  How about the word of Cornell University professor Urie Bronfenbrenner, one of the most eminent developmental psychologists of our time, who wrote: "Controlling for factors such as low income, children growing up in [father absent] households are at a greater risk for experiencing a variety of behavioral and educational problems, including extremes of hyperactivity and withdrawal; lack of attentiveness in the classroom; difficulty in deferring gratification; impaired academic achievement; school misbehavior; absenteeism; dropping out; involvement in socially alienated peer groups, and the so-called 'teenage syndrome' of behaviors that tend to hang together -- smoking, drinking, early and frequent sexual experience, and in the more extreme cases, drugs, suicide, vandalism, violence, and criminal acts." Ah, that Dr. Bronfenbrenner, he must be some kinda right wing nutcase.

Nonsense.  Silverstein and Auerbach cite to many researchers, not just one or two.  And unlike Horn's emotional rantings here, they came right out and set forth both sides, including citing to such fatherhood-and-marriage exaltation sources as Blankenhorn and Popenoe.  They ignore nothing.  Horn is propagandizing, misleading and committing intellectual fraud.  He's even substituted "father absent" for "single parent" in the quote above.  (Because that implies it might not be an issue of what a parent has between their legs that Bronfenbrenner is talking about but the advantages of having more adults available merely makes the work of chiild rearing and income-earning easier?)  Horn has yet to support his position with anything but this one quote from Bronfenbrenner, which does not even contain quantified findings, and which isn't supported by OTHER research. (Can you not support your position, Wade?  Is that why it's "upsetting" for the APA to have published something which -- note, in part only, and not even particularly supportive of single mother families -- disagreed with your fatherhood initiative stuff?)

But the authors of this diatribe...

(No, Wade.  A scholarly article with cites is not a "diatribe."  A "diatribe" is what you have written.  Webster's on diatribe: "a bitter and abusive speech or writing.")

... against the fatherhood movement are not content to merely toss fatherhood into the trash can of irrelevancy, No, not by a long shot.  The authors go on to suggest that fathers are actually downright dangerous.  The authors warn, for example, of "the potential costs of father presence," and especially their propensity to fritter away family resources on "gambling, purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, or other nonessential commodities" thereby "actually increasing women's workload and stress level."

Here's what the article actually says:

...father absence is not a monolithic variable... [discussion of some other researcher's findings edited out.] Of the 26 girls who did not live with their fathers, 7 reported weekly contact with them, 10 reported occasional contact, and only 9 reported almost no contact. Thus, father involvement exists on a continuum, whether or not fathers live with their children. Fathers can be absent even when they reside with their children and can be present despite nonresident status.

The essentialist position also fails to acknowledge the potential costs of father presence. Engle and Breaux (1998) have shown that 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.

The real target, however, is not fathers, but marriage. In an extraordinary section criticizing the idea that marriage matters, the authors assert that they can not find "any empirical support that marriage enhances fathering or that marriage civilizes men and protects children."

Really?  No evidence whatsoever?

If it's so obviously there, where is Horn's cite?

So all those studies showing that married fathers, on average, spend more time with their children than unmarried fathers are simply a figment of the collective imagination of time-use researchers.

Cite?  Just one from "all those studies?"  Is this the BEST Horn can do?  And the proof as to how this spending more time, which is just another way of saying "father presence," actually "protects children"?  His insistence on dogma and circular reasoning is astounding.

And I guess the two decades of research showing that marriage leads to men's lower use of alcohol and drugs and greater work effort is mere fabrication.

Marriage LEADS to men's lower use of alcohol and drugs?  There is no proof to that effect at all.  What the research says is that AMONG married men, there is less use of alcohol and drugs.  (Here's an innovative thought for you, Wade: perhaps that is WHY these men are "married!")  Substance abuse is one of the biggest causers of divorce -- not to mention a present factor in domestic violence, and I tend to think that women aren't clamoring to marry practicing alcoholics and drug addicts...  of course these are the men the National Fatherhood Initiative would impose on unwed mothers and their children.  The involvement of drug-addict, abuser, or convicted felon "daddy," often is the last thing these families need or want.

...The point of all this silliness is to advocate against providing any funding for programs that support fathers or marriage. Indeed, the authors assert that any attempt to use government resources in this way is, by definition, discriminates against mothers and "alternative family forms."

Just like Horn advocated against funding for Head Start programs?  And just like the government now is sponsoring the National Fatherhood Initiative patriarchal-religion drivel at the expense of taxpayers?

Exactly why spending billions of dollars to support father absent and non-married households is not discrimination against fathers and marriage, these enlightened psychologists don't say.

Ah... here we have it.  The anti-single-mother, anti-welfare, religious rightster bigotry seeping to the surface.  If the government spends money to assist paraplegics, would that be discrimination against those who can walk?  If the government spends money to put out a fire at a neighbor's house, would that be discrimination against one who hasn't had a fire at his house?  If the government pays for medicare for old people, is that discrimination against those whose employer provides insurance, or who have none?  If the government sends money overseas for foreign aid, is that discrimination against its citizenry?  If the government gives tax breaks for corporate welfare, is that discrimination against those of us who don't own controlling stock interests in our own multi-million-dollar conglomerates?  Supporting the National Fatherhood Initiative is DIRECTLY in opposition to a live and let live policy. The NFI seeks to IMPOSE men, many of whom are no role models, and some of whom indeed are outright dangerous, into the lives of women and children, whether or not those women want them there, and whether or not this is going to result in the disruption of an actual intact family unit.

So there you have it. Dads don't matter. In fact, they are downright dangerous. And the only thing marriage does is promote domestic violence against women.  Why?  Because these two psychologists say so, that's why. After all, they have studied 200 fathers!

(Whereas you, Wade, wouldn't let the truth or your lack of actual supportive research findings stand in your way at all!   I notice you haven't cited to a single one of the authors' numerous comments in favor of father involvement.  But although their article certainly evidences that they have been, indeed swayed by much of the trendy fathers rights propaganda, they don't parrot all of the father-exaltation agenda, which means that you will mischaracterize their entire article.  That's fraudulent, Wade.)

So here's my question for you, dear readers: Should I continue my membership in the APA so that I can keep on eye on what they are up to, or should I resign out of protest for their publishing this kind of junk science?

Do resign, Wade. In fact, just go away altogether.




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