Family Groups Call APA Article "Absurd"; Authors Respond

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - One of the authors of "Deconstructing the Essential Father," published in the journal of the American Psychological Association (APA), told CNSNews.com that her article has been "widely misrepresented."

Dr. Louise Silverstein, with Dr. Carl Auerbach, wrote in her June 1999 article in American Psychologist that "the data do not 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."

In fact, the article claims that having a father present in a family situation may be detrimental to the child and the mother, said the authors, given what they called the male tendency to consume "resources in terms of gambling, purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, or other nonessential commodities," which "increase[s] women's workload and stress."

"Some of the claims that are made here are really absurd, including that claim that neither mothers nor fathers are really essential to the well-being of a child," Leslie Carbone, a policy analyst at the Family Research Center, told CNSNews.com.

Silverstein, in an interview with CNSNews.com, said that her article was actually a call to "expand the mother-child paradigm to include fathers. . . . We do not consider fathers irrelevant."

"What we object to in the neoconservative paradigm is the notion that only marriage leads to responsible fathering . . . and to the idea that only a father can do this," said Silverstein.

"Look at [the school shootings in] Littleton, Colorado," continued Silverstein. "Those boys had fathers in the home. Obviously, marriage does not lead automatically to responsible fathering."

Silverstein also said that she objects to "neoconservative privileging" of the ideal of heterosexual marriage that is used "to generate social policy that discriminates against mother-headed families, gay fathers, and lesbian mothers."

"The APA has gone and demonstrated once again how out of touch they are with American society," said Carbone referring to a recent flap in which the APA was forced to disassociate itself from a report that claimed that child sex abuse caused no pervasive harm to the child. "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," continued Carbone.

Calling the study "lunacy" in a syndicated column, Wade Horn of the National Fatherhood Initiative, a public advocacy group that seeks to improve the well-being of children by increasing the number of children growing up with committed fathers, said that "the point of all this silliness is to advocate against providing any funding for programs that support fathers or marriage."

Silverstein and Auerbach both teach at Yeshiva University. School officials declined to make any comment on the article and referred all media inquiries to the professors.