James Dobson Misrepresents Research In Time Magazine

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2006

Updated: Dr. Kyle Pruett denounces James Dobson for misusing his research as well

Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out, is reporting that James Dobson distorted research in an op-ed that appeared in this week’s Time magazine. In his op-ed, Dobson comments on Mary Cheney’s pregnancy with a child she will raise with her partner Heather Poe. He claims that children do best in heterosexually-married families, citing Dr. Carol Gilligan’s research as “proof”:

According to educational psychologist Carol Gilligan, mothers tend to stress sympathy, grace and care to their children, while fathers accent justice, fairness and duty. Moms give a child a sense of hopefulness; dads provide a sense of right and wrong and its consequences.

Wayne contacted Dr. Gilligan, who responded with a copy of a strongly letter she wrote to Dobson:

I am writing to ask that you cease and desist from quoting my research in the future. I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine. Not only did you take my research out of context, you did so without my knowledge to support discriminatory goals that I do not agree with. What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work.

Dr. Gilligan isn’t the only researcher whose work Dobson abused in the Time piece. Since the op-ed isn’t footnoted, it’s not easy to track down all of his sources. But in that same op-ed, Dr. Dobson writes:

The fact remains that gender matters–perhaps nowhere more than in regard to child rearing. The unique value of fathers has been explained by Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale Medical School in his book Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. Pruett says dads are critically important simply because “fathers do not mother.”

When Wayne Besen contacted Dr. Pruett about Dobson’s use of his work, Dr. Pruett responded with a letter to Dobson and Time, saying:

Dr. Dobson, I was startled and disappointed to see my work referenced in the current Time Magazine piece in which you opined that social science, such as mine, supports your convictions opposing lesbian and gay parenthood. I write now to insist that you not quote from my research in your media campaigns, personal or corporate, without previously securing my permission.

You cherry-picked a phrase to shore up highly (in my view) discriminatory purposes. This practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles. There is nothing in my longitudinal research or any of my writings to support such conclusions. On page 134 of the book you cite in your piece, I wrote, “What we do know is that there is no reason for concern about the development or psychological competence of children living with gay fathers. It is love that binds relationships, not sex.”

Wayne did a great job tracking this down and bringing this abuse of science to light.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has undertaken an exhaustive review of the professional literature and found that “children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.” That is what the overwhelming research really shows.

See also:

Dr. Kyle Pruett Speaks Out Against Dr. James Dobson — On Video
A Third Researcher Condemns Dobson
Dr. Gilligan Speaks Out Against Dr. James Dobson — On Video
Dobson Doesn’t Know When To Quit
James Dobson Misrepresents Research In Time Magazine

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