Role of Social Sciences in Policy Making Criticized at Hearing

The role of social science in policy making and the credibility of APA were attacked June 7 at a Senate Judiciary Committee Youth Violence Subcommittee hearing on 'Welfarežs Effects on Youth Violence.' APA Board Member Don Bersoff, PhD, JD, testified on the spurious links between welfare payments and violence, and welfare and out-of-wedlock births. In response to Dr. Bersoff's testimony, another panel member, Patrick Fagan, Senior Policy Analyst for Family and Culture at the Heritage Foundation, railed against APA's interpretation of current welfare research. Mr. Fagan dismissed the role of the social sciences in policy applications when conclusions drawn from research counter those of 'common sense' and argued further that social science 'is a very expensive way of confirming what we already know.'

Another panel member, John Wootton of Safe Streets, also belittled the role of APA and the social and behavioral sciences in policy making. Responding to a line of questioning from Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN), Mr. Wootton stated, 'The worldview of APA is that fathers aren't necessary to raising good kids.' This statement is not an accepted belief of APA, and in fact, APA has testified before Congress and other panels on the negative effects of marital separation on children.

In a letter to Sen. Thompson, APA has condemned these unfortunate and ill-informed remarks, which only served to distract attention from the serious matters before the committee.

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