Friday, September 12, 2003


I have recently had a brief correspondence with a fellow psychologist as a result of the critique I wrote for "Front Page" of the "Berkeley study". He wrote to say that in his view some of his findings supported the conclusions of the Berkeley study. Although left-leaning, he seems a decent guy so I will not disclose his name but here is what he wrote:

We found in a telephone survey (not just college students) that experiences of harsh punishment in childhood predict support in adulthood for punitive public policies like the death penalty, opposition to abortion, and support for the use of military force (all of these results are controlling for respondents' education and their parents educational level).

I wrote back:

I would be interested to know how strong the correlations were. Unless they are very strong I think it is highly likely that you will find childhood trauma not to be predictive of adult Republican voting. There is a bit of survey evidence to show that Republican voters in the general population had happier childhoods than Democrat voters.

He replied

Our research also found that conservatives reported happier childhoods than did liberals. The issue, I think, becomes one of denial of the emotional pain associated with childhood punishment, as we discuss in the paper. I don't know if you have seen Alice Miller's book, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelties in Childhood and the Roots of Violence. We draw on her work and on Lasswell's Psychopathology and Politics ... for our theoretical foundation.

So if the facts don't suit there is always a theory to explain them away! Those silly conservatives just don't realize when they are unhappy!


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