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More Addenda

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I don’t usually sign in on Mondays, but there were a couple of things overnight, and I’ve got just a few minutes.

1)Lymaree’s problem can be solved if we stop thinking in modern ideas of “sexual orientation” as a singular sort of thing. 

To the extent that any sexual orientation is hardwired, any such orientation that produced no children would fade out if practiced exclusively.

But there’s no reason to believe that most people at most times ever practiced one and only one form of sexuality exclusively–homosexuality in classic Greece, for instance, was almost never practiced exclusively.  You had one sort of sexual relationship with your partner in battle, and another with your wife.

What’s more, to assume that the gold standard for what is sexually “normal” is to whether or not it can at least theoretically produce natural children is to go back to a very old standard of normality indeed, and completely undercuts most arguments for full civil rights for gay people.

I don’t understand why one has to class any form of sexuality as a “disorder.”   Things don’t have to be psychologically diseased to be bad for us.  What is natural is not necessarily good.  Arsenic is natural.  It will still kill you.

The attraction of older men to young girls and young girls to older men is perfectly natural, but there are good reasons why so many societies have worked overtime to discourage and control it–and better reasons for us to do so, living in a world where women are expected to take their places beside men in the professions.

2) I do know that there have been attempts made to reign in the depredations of “expert testimony,” but they don’t go nearly far enough.

My problem is not that some particular clinical psychologist has an abysmal track record at predicting recidivism rates, it’s that all of clinical psychology does.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which psychological “experts” are embedded into our legal system.  Their pronouncements are the basis for policy not only in criminal courts and on parole boards, but in social services of all kinds. 

And their track record is abysmal on a lot more than recidivism rates.

The book I recommended–Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology–has a long article on the anatomical dolls debacle.

For those of you who don’t know it:  for a long time, one of the methods used to “prove” that child sexual abuse had occurred was to give the child an anatomically correct doll and see what she did with it.  If she pulled at the genitals or otherwise inspected them–well, there it was.  She must have been sexually molested.  No normal child would do that.

This “evidence” was then brought in to court to prove that molestation had occurred, even when the child herself denied it.

In fact, the denial was another “proof” of molestation–the expert advice was that children never lie when they say they have been abused, but will often lie when they have been because they’re ashamed to tell anybody. 

It was a perfect example of circular reasoning–if the child said abuse happened, it happened, because we must believe the children.  If the child said abuse didn’t happen, it happened, because saying it didn’t happen was really a cry for help and a way of saying it did. 

The anatomically correct doll test was done over and over again and never failed to confirm abuse–and it send dozens of people to jail, ruined hundreds of lives, tore families apart.

The problem was this:  nobody had ever checked to see what a normal, unabused child would do with such dolls.

When people started checking, it turned out that all children of a certain age grabbed at the genitals.  And unless you wanted to claim that all children everywhere had been sexually abused, then pulling at the genitals proved nothing but that the child was a child.

What I want is to delegitimize clinical psychologists as experts in all settings, not just in court testimony.  We should not be making public policy on the basis of “research” that is not only not science, but is often barely voodoo.  We should not be allowing teachers to classify children on that basis, or social workers to classify families, or courts to demand a stint in rehab to addicts.

When the profession gets its act together we can revisit the field to see if it should be installed in government operations, but until then–no.

3) For what it’s worth, in the short run, the medications we give to children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD always work.

They increase concentration and the ability to focus in everybody. 

That’s why parents in upscale neighborhoods often go out of their way to get their children diagnosed–and why a thriving black market in Ritalin exists in every upper middle class suburb in America. 

In my experience, though, what parents are actually looking for is a way out of what has become a terrifying maw of competitiveness.

It’s not 1950 any more.  The difference between graduating from college and not graduating from college is enormous.  Consider the fact that during the last three years, unemployment among college graduates has stayed fairly level at between 4.5% and 6%, but unemployment among people with only a high school diploma has been over 12%.

Granted, the plumbers and the electricians are doing fine, but most people with only a high school diploma won’t be plumbers and electricians.

A middle class parent faced with the fact that one of her offspring is…what shall we call it?–not academically talented can find herself in a real state of crisis. 

Not to be able to get into a “good” university means a dismal prospect for employment for the rest of your life–and the dismalness is worse the higher the parents’ own educational attainment and career success.

In some places on the Connecticut Gold Coast, getting into “only” Bucknell or Vanderbilt is failure.   It’s the Ivies, the Seven Sisters or the Little Three, or you might as well write off your entire life.

Yes, I know.  It’s silly.  But the worry about kids who can’t compete in academics being unable to compete in the job market is not, and parents do what they have to do to get their children what is necessary to succeed in life.

Connecticut was the most highly medicated state not just because the schools pushed it–although they did–but because the parents did, convinced that doing so would give their children an advantage in the race towards college admissions.

4) But here’s the thing:  as nuts as this sort of thing makes me, I’d consider it absolutely none of my business if it weren’t for the fact that it was never a matter of individual choice.

The entire mindset has become entrenched and established as “science” in schools and elsewhere, and that means that anybody who dissents from the orthodoxy is likely to be hit with reprisals, and the reprisals have teeth.

Parents who refused to allow their children to be medicated for ADD and ADHD were, in Connecticut, often threatened with being reported to CPS for “neglect,” since “obviously” they weren’t getting their children the “medical help” they needed.

Others found principles and guidance counselors who refused to provide recommendations for private school and college admissions.

All the families found their children’s records littered with the “conclusions” of “experts,” thereby affecting everything the kid did as long as he stayed in school.

And, like I said, we have absolutely no material evidence that ADD and ADHD actually exist.

5) Clinical psychology as it is now practiced consists mostly of an attempt to create and impose social  norms from above, and to police behavior based on a standard of “normal” that’s actually a standard of perfection.

And now I have to go off and have a sensible dayl.

Written by janeh

May 2nd, 2011 at 5:25 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'More Addenda'

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  1. “And, like I said, we have absolutely no material evidence that ADD and ADHD actually exist.”

    You never had to try and get my oldest son up and dressed for school when he was 6. If you didn’t give him his meds half an hour before you woke him up to get him ready — it wasn’t happening

    You’ve never had you son kicked out of a day care and refused readmission. 3 times.

    In elementary school for the first couple of years, my wife would take Will in — and then in order for her to go work, the teacher would have to hold him – wailing and screaming, every morning — while my wife would have to walk back to the car, in tears, listening to her son screaming. And that was with him on meds.

    If we wanted to go somewhere, we had to start telling him a half an hour before we were going to leave that he was going to have to stop what he was doing and come with us — unless you wanted to have to wrestle with a screaming, kicking child all the way to the car and most of the way to where ever you were going. And that was ON the meds.

    You have simply never experienced an actual ADHD child.

    You did NOT want to deal with him off meds


    2 May 11 at 8:22 am

  2. Michael? Forget half an hour. I always had to tell my son at least a day in advance, and yes, he escaped from day care as late as kindergarten. (We never tried daycare before kindergarten.) No meds. He grew out of it about third grade. I am not saying there are not children with chemical imbalances which can be corrected by ritalin. But I would like to see a diagnosis based on blood work and not behavior.

    Homosexual behavior still doesn’t seem to be exclusive. The one survey I saw indicated a vanishingly small percentage of self-described homosexuals who had practiced homosexual sex exclusively–as I recall, somewhat smaller than the percentage of self-described heterosexuals who had practiced homosexual sex, but greater than the percentages of life-long celibates.

    There is also a theory of overall benefit to the genome, as the percentage chance of male homosexuality seems to rise with the number of sons borne by the same mother. Pretty roughed in, but intriguing.

    Ah, yes, the anatomically correct dolls–the weapon of choice for prosecutors in all the child-care center abuse cases. Those, I think will come to rank with Salem as examples of judicial abuse–once all the judges and prosecutors have retired.

    As for the sexual predation “experts,” getting individuals tossed is the necessary first step, I think. But what we ultimately need is for a case to get tossed because the expert was consulted at all–the same way a sentencing or parole board decision would be overturned if they brought in an astrologer or palm-reader. That will happen, I think–but not soon.

    I’ll save school competiveness for later.


    2 May 11 at 6:29 pm

  3. You can’t really jump from “people are overdiagnosing ADHD and using stimulants to give their kids an advantage” to “there is no such thing as ADHD.”

    We get better at identifying it all the time.

    And please don’t blame everything that social workers and counselors and state bureaucrats and psychiatrists do on psychologists. I know we’re not saints, but we are not responsible for a lot of what you’re complaining about. I have personally threatened teachers who tried to tell parents they have to put their kids on meds (it is illegal, and could easily be construed as practicing medicine without a license).



    2 May 11 at 11:14 pm

  4. If anyone should have been identified with ADHD (had it existed at the time) it would have been me, my totally hyperactive, essentially uncontrollable self. It’s only by sheer good luck and some fancy doctoring and nursing that I survived to beyond the second grade. There was a lot of it about in those days when active little boys were being raised in families where their fathers were away at the war or recovering from their war-time experiences and, thus, leaving the raising of the boys to their mothers, aunts, older sisters and grandmothers. Little boys tie their doting mothers around their fingers every bit as easily as little girls manipulate their fathers.

    I don’t know it to be so from any substantive evidence, but anecdotally I think that there is a history here. There is a common thread between the 1940s and the 20-oughties – a large minority of single-parent families in our western societies. I suspect that many of the problems faced by parents of little boys arise from that single thing, and/or from the fact that modern family/work dynamics make it more likely than not that young children will be placed in the care of strangers from a very early age, sometimes just weeks after birth. Routines go to hell, parents try to expiate their guilt by over-indulging the kids they barely see in daylight hours during the working week, and socialisation becomes a very hit and miss business indeed.

    While I only know one young man diagnosed with ADHD personally, and he is heading for a sticky end indeed, having been in and out of juvie since his early teens, he is the product of a single mother who was herself a major problem child (in an otherwise model family).

    So, while there are no doubt those with serious underlying medical issues, I suspect that many of the problems would be overcome by treating the parents rather than the kids.


    3 May 11 at 1:50 am

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