THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THE PUBLICATION OF RIND ET AL.
"The historical approach to understanding of scientific fact is what differentiates the scholar in science from the mere experimenter." --E. G. Boring
The publication of Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman's 1998 meta-analysis in, the Psychological Bulletin, the leading scientific journal of the American Psychological Association, caused a great deal of controversy. A brief historical overview of the controversy is provided below.
More detailed information on the controversy can be found in an paper titled: Science or Propaganda? An examination of Rind, Tromovitch & Bauserman (1998)
July 1998: Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman's meta-analysis is published in the Psychological Bulletin. Their paper suggests that societal believes about child sexual abuse being harmful and a negative experience for children are incorrect. They say that it usually doesn't harm children to be sexually abused.
Abstract: Many lay persons and professionals believe that child sexual abuse (CSA) causes intense harm, regardless of gender, pervasively in the general population. The authors examined this belief by reviewing 59 studies based on college samples. Meta-analyses revealed that students with CSA were, on average, slightly less well adjusted than controls. However, this poorer adjustment could not be attributed to CSA because family environment (FE) was consistently confounded with CSA, FE explained considerably more adjustment variance than CSA, and CSA-adjustment relations generally became nonsignificant when studies controlled for FE. Self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women. The college data were completely consistent with data from national samples. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported [NCBI PubMed Abstract]
These conclusions are consistent with Rind et al.'s prior writings which have questioned society's condemnation of sex between adults and children. In addition, Rind et al.'s recommendations for changing how psychologists view child sexual abuse are identical to those being called for in pro-pedophile publications during the previous decade.
December 1998: Rind and Bauserman are the key note speakers for a conference hosted by a pedophile advocacy group in the Netherlands. The purpose of the conference (titled "The Other Side of the Coin") was to shed light on the positive side of sex between adults and children.
Spring 1999: Pedophile groups celebrate the publication of Rind et al.'s paper as a huge leap forward in their struggle for social acceptance.
March 22, 1999: Dr. Laura Schlessinger criticizes the Rind study on her show. She expressed her concern that the study "could be used to normalize pedophilia, to change the legal system"
Numerous newspaper articles picked up the story and criticized the APA for printing what they viewed as "pedophilia propaganda."
March 23, 1999: The APA releases a resolution titled "Statement on Childhood Sexual Abuse: Childhood Sexual Abuse Causes Serious Harm to its Victims ." In this statement, the APA reaffirmed its strong historical stand against child sexual abuse and claimed that "those who are reporting that the [Rind] study says that childhood sexual contact with adults is not harmful to children are misreporting the findings."
May 12, 1999: The American Psychological Association releases a statement by Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman on APA letterhead. In the statement, Rind et al. asserted,
Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman also asserted that their findings are no different than those reported by a study of children with cancer by Noll et al. (1999). Noll and colleagues reported that cancer patients were as well adjusted socially, emotionally, and psychologically as controls. Rind et al. asserted: "A response to this study analogous to the criticism of our own would be to claim that the authors and the AMA are promoting cancer because it's less harmful psychologically than previously thought" (p. 2). Rind, B., Tromovitch, P., & Bauserman, R. (1999, May 12). Authors' statement. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Full text available: http://www.ipce.info/ipceweb/Documentation/Documents/99-115_rbt_may_12.htm
NOTE: Rind et al.'s comparison of their study to the one by Noll et al. is misleading. Although the two studies did indeed have similar findings (better than expected adjustment), vastly different conclusions were drawn by the researchers. When the conclusion sections of the two studies are compared. the sociopolitical nature of Rind et al.'s conclusion section becomes clear. For instance, Noll et al. never suggested that cancer should be redefined as a neutral experience. Nor did the finding of better than expected psychological adjustment lead Noll et al. to conclude that having childhood cancer is not traumatic or that the harm associated with childhood cancer has been exaggerated. Instead, Noll et al. noted the appropriate limitations of their findings and concluded that children are remarkably resilient and that "negative consequences of exposure to adversity" appear to be ameliorated through social support and "normative parental functioning" (p. 76).
May 12, 1999: Rep Matt Salmon (R-Ariz) introduces U.S. House Resolution 107 "rejecting the conclusions of a recent article published by the American Psychological Association that suggests that sexual relationships between adults and children might be positive for children." Rep. Salmon expressed disbelief that Congress was being forced by the APA to defend the position that child sex abuse is harmful to children.
May 13, 1999: Rhea Faberman, the APA's director of public affairs, is quoted in the Washington Times as saying that the belief that the Rind study seeks "to normalize pedophilia is ridiculous."
May 14, 1999: APA Chief Executive Officer Raymond D. Fowler, Ph.D., debates Congressman Dr. David Weldon (a co-sponsor of HR107) on national television (MSNBC). Folwer defended the Rind study, stating: "It isn't a bad study, it's been peer-reviewed . . . it's a good study."
May 24, 1999: The Leadership Council issues a press release criticizing the study's misleading and flawed methodology.
June 9, 1999: Fowler hand-carries a letter to Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex) in which Fowler admitted that the APA failed to "evaluate the article based on its potential for misinforming the public policy process." Fowler also acknowledged that "some of the language in the article, when examined from a public policy perspective is inflammatory," and included opinions "inconsistent" with APA's policy on child protection issues.
Fowler pledged that in the future his organization would be more cognizant of the potential for publications to misinform the public on important issues and promised to create legal briefs attacking misuse of the article in the courts. In addition, Fowler announced that for the first time in its 107-year history of publishing it has sought independent expert evaluation of the scientific quality of an article. Fowler noted that an external review "is unprecedented in the Association's history of scholarly publishing, but, in view of the criticism of this study by various groups and individuals, we believe that such a review is appropriate." The American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) was asked to perform the review.
June 30, 1999: The False Memory Syndome Foundation cites Rind and Tromovitch's 1997 meta-analysis in a friend of the court brief on behalf of a man appealing his conviction for sexually abusing both his daughter and step-daughter. Rind and Tromovitch's 1997 meta-analysis which concluded that CSA is not associated with significant maladjustment. The brief was written by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF), a nonprofit organization that advocates for parents accused of sexual abuse by their children [FMS Foundation. (1998). FMSF Amicus Curiae Brief - Crt. of Appeals. 4th Dist., California ].
July 12, 1999: The United States House of Representatives unanimously passes House Concurrent Resolution 107 which rejects "the conclusions of a recent article published in the Psychological Bulletin , a journal of the American Psychological Association, that suggests that sexual relationships between adults and children might be positive for children." The resolution explained that "elected officials have a duty to inform and counter actions they consider damaging to children, parents, families, and society." Rep. Salmon was the sponsor - there were 47 co-sponsors. The bill was then sent to the Senate.
July 30, 1999: The U.S. Senate unanimously passes the resolution condemning the Rind study . Thus, the meta-analysis by Rind et al. became the first scientific study to be formally denounced by the U.S. Congress.
August 17, 1999: Rind et al.'s 1998 meta-analysis is cited by a prominent psychological expert who was testifying on behalf of a confessed pedophilic priest. In a deposition, Dr. Charles Brainerd, a defense expert representing Father Bredemann (a priest and confessed pedophile) cited Rind et al. (1998) as proof that CSA does not cause harm to children in his deposition. Referring to the Rind study, Brainerd stated: "the current scientific literature does not support the existence of such a relationship [between maladjustment and sexual abuse] in the population at large. And that's the interpretive framework that I bring to this particular case, that there isn't scientific evidence for that assumption."
October 4, 1999: The AAAS's Committee of Scientific Freedom and Responsibility declined the APA's request for them to review the Rind study, saying they saw "no reason to second-guess the process of peer review used by the APA journal in its decision to publish the article in question." The AAAS also reported that they "saw no clear evidence of improper application of methodology or other questionable practices on the part of the article's authors." However, they added that "if there were such problems, uncovering them would be the task of those reviewing it prior to publication or to readers of the published article" (McCarty, 1999). The AAAS further noted that, "The fact that the Committee has chosen not to proceed with an evaluation of the article in the Psychological Bulletin should not be seen either as endorsement or criticism of it."
October 20, 1999: State v. Steward: An attorney for convicted pedophile, Kevin Eugene Steward, used the Rind study as evidence that the judge should give Steward a lenient sentence. Steward, an Arizona elementary school teacher, was convicted of molesting 5 boys ranging in age from 6 to 13. Steward's attorney, Bruce Blumberg, said Steward is not a threat to society and can be helped. He complained about the injustice of the sentence and cited Rind et al.'s research saying that it shows that children who are touched inappropriately often have no ill effects. A sentence to die in prison is much too harsh, he said.
November 6, 1999: Rind, Tromovitch and Bauserman (1999, November 6) present a paper titled "The Clash of Media, Politics, and Sexual Science: An Examination of the Controversy Surrounding the Psychological Bulletin Meta-analysis on the Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse" at the 1999 Joint Annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists in St. Louis, MO. Rind et al. labeled their critics as anti-intellectual or right wing fundamentalists.
November 17, 1999: An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer indicates that Rind and Tromovitch view the AAAS's decision as a vindication of their work. Tromovitch is quoted as saying: "Their comments indicate to me that they consider our work to be up to par." A spokesperson for the APA is quoted as saying that it had no plans to ask any other organization to review the Rind study.
March 13, 2000: Bruce Rind and Carol Tavris present a continuing education workshop titled: " When Politics Clashes With Science: An Examination of the Controversy Surrounding the Psychological Bulletin Article Meta-analysis on the Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse" at the University of Tennessee. Rind claimed that he and his co-authors are victims of political persecution promulgated by religious and moralistic zealots.
March 16, 2000: SafeHaven Foundation a pro-pedophile group released a book called Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers. The book relies heavily on the Rind study to justify having sex with children. The Introduction to Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers.
The book is available on Amazon, and the following description of the book is provided:
Spring 2000: The journal Sexuality and Culture publishes an article by Rind et al., where they defend their work and attack their critics. They conclude by arguing for separating morality and science.
July 2001: The Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine for skeptics, publishes a paper by Rind et al. in which they defend their study and attack their critics.
August 2001: The journal Archives of Sexual Behavior publishes a paper by Rind highlighting the positive aspects of man-boy sex. The article provides a series of interviews with men who discuss how much they enjoyed having sex with adult males when they were adolescents. Based on these positive reports, Rind concludes that "Alternative models should be sought that incorporate the consistent finding that adolescent boys generally react neutrally or positively to ADSRs [age-discrepant sexual relationships] that are willingly engaged in and involve adults of the gender consistent with the adolescent's sexual orientation" (p. 362).
Rind, B. (2001). Gay and bisexual adolescent boys' sexual experiences with men: An empirical examination of psychological correlates in a nonclinical sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30 , 345-68.
November 9, 2001: Psychological Bulletin publishes two scientific critiques of Rind et al.'s meta-analysis. Rind et al. reply by claiming that their original methods, analyses, recommendations, and conclusions are correct and that criticism of their paper is invalid and biased.
May 2001: Rind is part of a panel discussion titled: "Unpopular Results: Providing Incremental Validity at the Price of Being Rejected" at the the 14th annual meeting of the American Psychological Society. Rind discussed "The Importance of Skeptical Inquiry into Assumptions about Child Sexual Abuse, and the Costly Consequences for this Inquiry."
See also: Science and Politics: Weathering the Storm Around Unpopular Results. APS Observer, 14(6).
2003: Rind, B. (2003). An Elaboration on Causation and Positive Cases in Child Sexual Abuse. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(3), 352-357.
2005: Rind's paper titled: "Pederasty: An Integration of Cross-Cultural, Cross-Species, and Empirical Data" is published in a special issue of The Journal of Homosexuality on Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West.