I’m tired of people like brain neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaking on matters of family life, acting as if they were authorities, and their opinions, fact. These self-ordained experts dubbed “family values advocates” have been getting a free pass from journalists and the media for way too long, never challenged on their ignorance rooted in fundamentalist ideology.
As a marriage and family therapist specializing in human development and family relations, I don’t take kindly to Carson’s recent display of misplaced arrogance when he states in reference to same-sex marriages that “It is very clear that intact, traditional families with traditional, intact values do much better in terms of raising children. So let’s stop pretending that everything is of equal value.”
Better yet, let’s stop pretending that Carson’s opinion on the subject is valid or reliable.
As with most things Carson, facts are contrary to his claim. Classic parenting studies by developmental psychologist, Diana Baumrind, Ph.D. have shown time and again, that traditional values and related authoritarian parenting styles result in “negative developmental effects,” i.e. messed up children. Children raised in this manner tend to have lower self-esteem, lack basic trust in people, have rigid, black and white thinking patterns, don’t learn to deal with difficult emotions and frustration, and have a tendency towards physical or verbal aggression. (Sounds a lot like the GOP lineup of presidential contenders, doesn’t it?)
Authoritative parenting styles, on the other hand, that spring from a more enlightened, non-traditional value system where children should be seen and heard, are more conducive to optimal development. There are a host of positive personality traits associated with children raised in this manner–greater emotional maturity and social skills, cooperation, responsibility, optimism and general happiness. They tend to be more confident and have greater self-esteem as well. Under these circumstances, why on earth would traditional parenting values be superior? Because Ben Carson said so?
I’d really like the Ben Carson’s of the world to rein in the rhetoric, particularly when there is something as important as family life and the well-being of children on the line. It’s not brain surgery, but it sure as hell matters.