Thursday, June 9, 2011

Playing the bully card II: Maslow's hammer—UPDATED

It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.
Abraham H. Maslow, The Psychology of Science

On Monday, the CDC released a study of high-school student health-risk behaviors that showed a higher prevalence of unhealthy activity by students who self-report as gay or bisexual, including tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, sexual risk behaviors, suicidal behaviors, and violence. The overall prevalence for gay and lesbian students was measured at a median of 63.8% of the behaviors measured, and 76.0% for bisexuals.

Monday was also the first day of the LGBT Youth Summit, where HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health administrator Pam Hyde, who is gay, announced, “Your federal government has finally come out of the closet in support of LGBT youth.” The study shows that behaviors linked to depression and attempted suicide are significantly higher among gay and bisexual students; HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius explains it, “We know these behaviors are not the result of who these young people are. They are the result of what’s happening to them.”

Enter Maslow’s Hammer. “Sebelius went on to say a federal interagency taskforce is partnering the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Defense, Interior and Justice to come up with strategies and programs to fight bullying.”

Before we can critique the Obama Administration’s proposed response, let’s look at the report a little closer. The report includes Youth Risk Behavior Studies from seven states and six large urban areas. “To ensure stable estimates, each state and city was required to have ≥75 students per subgroup defined by sexual identity and sex of sexual contacts. To meet this minimum subgroup sample size requirement, multiple years of weighted YRBS data collected during 2001–2009 were combined by site” (p. 4).

As a result of this, while certain prevalences don’t vary significantly from site to site, others show major data swings. “… [F]or the nine sites that assessed sexual identity, a range of 25 or more percentage points or a fivefold variation or greater was identified among at least one subgroup defined by sexual identity for 45% of all the behaviors. … For the 12 sites that assessed sex of sexual contacts, a range of 25 or more percentage points or a fivefold variation or greater was identified among at least one subgroup defined by sex of sexual contacts for 63% of all the health-risk behaviors” (pp. 44-45).

Here, the 25% swing doesn’t mean necessarily that we’re dealing with wild-ass guesses but more likely with changes in the reporting populations over time, the details of which unfortunately we can’t know. Looking at the breakdowns, we can see that in some cases the prevalences don’t necessarily hold up for all sites. Combine this with the fact that the CDC is using a judgmental sampling frame, and that gives us a report we should be very cautious of generalizing from.

Even taking these limitations into account, though, the study design also shows a degree of confirmation bias. Here’s what I mean: The gay meta-narrative paints for us a picture of the homosexual teenager as the perpetually hapless victim of homophobic violence. In line with this, the YRBSs — not to be confused with ROUSs — ask the respondent students if they’ve ever experienced date violence, or forced sex, if they’ve had to miss at least one school day due to fear of violence, etc.

However, the data shows a higher prevalence of carrying weapons, carrying guns and carrying them onto school property, among gay and bisexual students — a mark of aggression, not passive helplessness. Students whose sexual contacts were only with the same sex were also more likely to have experienced date violence and forced sex than those who only experienced opposite-sex contacts; those whose contacts were with both sexes had even higher prevalences.

This is not to deny that effeminate boys have ever been roughed up by their classmates, or to pretend it was never a significant problem. But these figures do tell us that the gay meta-narrative paints a highly-slanted and incomplete picture. It also precludes us from looking at gay/bisexual involvement in fights and concluding that the numbers only illustrate gay-bashing, because sexual orientation is not the only cause of bullying.

The most telling numbers come when we look at students who first had sex before they were thirteen: gay, bisexual and unsure students were as much as four times more likely to report prepubescent intercourse (19.8%, 14.6%, 13.1%) than straight students (4.8%); however, those who had had contact with both sexes were more likely to have had sex before thirteen than students who had only had contact with one or the other sex. Though again we’re not given sufficient data, it’s difficult not to speculate that much if not most of the difference can be explained by child sexual molestation.

All in all, the report — as imperfect and tentative as it is — gives us a look into some of the complexities of adolescent sexual identity development; it also confirms previous studies showing correlations between homosexuality and self-destructive behaviors. However, far from giving the gay lobby an ironclad connection between bullying and risky health behaviors, it gives us reason to believe that the violence is not all one-sided.

As I’ve noted before, though, the mental-health establishment is currently locked into the “essentialist” model of sexual orientation; the gay lobby owns the American Psychological Association corpus animusque. We’re now in the process of imposing a defective model of child sexual development on our schools, health-care organizations and social-welfare agencies, complete with gay porn posing as educational resources.

And so the Obama Administration has latched onto anti-bullying measures as a “golden hammer” to fix the problem of LGBT self-destructiveness. Because it’s politically inconceivable that same-sex attraction could be unhealthy or dysfunctional in itself.

And Maslow’s hammer has put another nail into the coffin of the social sciences.

Update: June 15, 2011
Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report latched onto a report that seventh-graders in Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg, Mass., were being required to fill out the YRBS. Here's a crucial point of the story:

Principal Fran Thomas told Fox News Radio that students were indeed given the survey – and admits it was graphic. But Thomas said the school has nothing to do with the content and they were required to administer the survey to fulfill a grant requirement.
“I can take no responsibility for what’s on that survey,” Thomas said. “It’s not generated by the school system.”
To which Patrick replied:

Frannie, Frannie, Frannie. Just because you take no responsibility does not mean you are not responsible. Frannie, dear, if you were required to administer the survey to fulfill a grant requirement, then you write a nice letter back to the Government Bureau For The Destruction of Little Souls and tell them, politely of course, to give you euphemistic oral sex and shove the grant where the sun don't shine. You know, for the kids.
 Personally, I feel sorry for Ms. (Dr.?) Thomas, because she likely didn't have the authority to tell the Bureau for the Destruction of Little Souls to cram it up their six; in some ways, a school principal is very much a straw boss, and public schools — like many government institutions — are very good at creating hollow men.

But as I noted above, children are having sexual contact before the age of thirteen ... and in significant numbers, too. John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute (which is filing the DoE complaint against the Fitchburg School Committee), said to Fox, “One of the questions is, ‘have you ever had oral sex?’ You’re talking about kids who probably don’t even know what oral sex is.” Well, if he believes that, he'd better drink a can of Red Bull and wake his Beaver Cleaver butt up. I knew what oral sex was in fourth grade (not that I'm proud of that fact), and I wasn't all that precocious. (And this was 1974, long before the Internet made pornography available to any child smart enough to get around his parents' Net Nanny.) A thirteen-year-old may be naïve, unsophisticated and ill-informed ... but he isn't necessarily innocent.

Not being a father myself, I can yet sympathize with where Pat Archbold is coming from. And I'm sure that the Obama Administration has a GLBTQ-friendly agenda in putting the YRBSs in front of seventh-graders. Nevertheless, there is a problem, and we won't discover the depths of it if we go all squeamish and delicate. Moreover, the kids are less likely to answer the questions honestly if they have the slightest inkling that Mom and Dad know they're taking the surveys.

PARENTS! PLEASE WAKE UP! You have little to no control over what your child sees, hears, learns and experiences when she walks out of your house and out of your supervision! And when she steps into a public school, her socialization is mostly out of your hands; she's in a milieu that can infect and corrupt her identity, values and emotional well-being in a hundred hidden ways, from hundreds of seemingly-innocuous sources. You can no longer afford the comfortable fairy tale that tells you the teachers, the school system and the other parents are trying to protect her sexual innocence as much as you are. It's no longer true, and hasn't been for many years.