APA Backpedals From Pedophilia Report

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) – The American Psychological Association Wednesday distanced itself from a report published by the group which claimed that child sexual abuse "does not cause intense harm on a pervasive basis," saying the group failed to consider the potential for misinforming the public by publishing the report.

The APA is also taking the unprecedented step of seeking "expert evaluation of the scientific quality" of the article, and will publish the results when the review is completed.

In a June 9 letter to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), APA Chief Executive Officer Dr. Raymond D. Fowler wrote that some of the material in the report A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples, was "inflammatory," and "inconsistent with the APA's stated and deeply held positions on child welfare."

Fowler also outlined a series of steps the APA will take to more adequately review similar articles in the future, particularly in matters where public policy are concerned.

The APA's publication of the report last year generated controversy earlier this spring, when radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger and other family groups took issue with the report's findings and methodology, calling it part of an attempt to "normalize pedophilia." Schlessinger was also openly critical of the APA's decision to publish the work, calling it "bad science."

The 31-page report and Schlessinger's criticism of it were followed by congressional concerns about the potential impact of the report's publication. DeLay, who received the APA letter Wednesday, is one of the chief sponsors of the Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act, which was introduced February 12, 1999.

After the report was published and subsequently denounced, the APA issued a statement reiterating its opposition to child sexual abuse. But Schlessinger and other critics saw the APA as giving de facto approval of the report's findings by virtue of its publication in the APA's highly regarded Psychological Bulletin.

Some concerns were heightened when APA spokesperson Rhea Farberman told CNS in March that the 159,000 member group's position is that "the scientific literature ought to influence public policy," and that "we ought to let the literature, the research, inform public policy so we can have good public policy."

But Fowler's letter to DeLay stated that the APA must "acknowledge our social responsibility as a scientific organization to take into account not only the scientific merit of articles but also their implications for public policy."

Fowler concluded that inconsistencies between some of the article's statements and the APA's position on pedophilia "should have caused us to evaluate the article based on its potential for misinforming the public policy process. This is something we failed to do, but will do in the future."

Among the groups seizing upon the report's release was the North American Man-Boy Love Association, which used the contents of the article to promote its agenda of legalizing sex between men and male children.