WASHINGTON—The American Psychological Association has distanced itself from a study it published last year finding that sexual relationships with adults and children are positive for “willing” children.
It is also supporting congressional efforts condemning any future attempts at normalizing child sexual abuse.
As reported in the May 30-June 5 Register, the psychological association's study, “A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples,” concluded that the long-term effects of child sexual abuse are not as damaging as earlier presumed. The study said, “A willing encounter with positive reactions would be labeled simply adult-child sex, a value neutral term.”
Association spokeswoman Pamela Willenz said that following the public attention given to this study, the group will take into consideration the effect its publication can have on public policy.
“We acknowledge our social responsibility as a scientific organization to take into account not only the merit of articles published in our journal but the possible implications they may have on future public policy,” Willenz told the Register.
An association press release dated March 23 took the position that the group was not responsible for the content of the studies it published.
“As a publisher of psychological research, APA publishes thousands of research reports every year,” the release said. “But, publication of the findings of a research project within an APA journal is in no way an endorsement of a finding by the association.”
The study became the target of popular radio talk shows. Various pro-family organizations and several congressmen condemned the study, saying it was an attempt to normalize child sexual abuse and could be used in court to soften judgments against sexual predators.
The association is now supporting U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon's efforts to pass a House resolution which was scheduled to come to the floor in June. The resolution urges the president to join Congress in condemning the suggestion that pedophilia may not be harmful to child victims.
Heather Mirjahangir, press secretary for Salmon, called the association's turnaround “a victory in the fight against the normalization of adult child sex.” She added that it is important that the resolution still go to the floor of the House.
“Though we are changing the language to reflect the APA's change in position, we are going ahead with the vote because it is important that Congress and President Clinton go on record saying we cannot allow the normalization of adult child sex,” she told the Register.