In "soft" sciences like sociology, it's much more difficult to detect manipulation of research, than in "hard" sciences like physics. Soft science researchers who strive for objectivity deserve an extra measure of respect. Sadly, far too many researchers are more concerned with pushing an agenda than with objectivity. These same problems are not unknown in the world of journalism. Since the soft sciences and the media have a powerful influence on social policies in this country, this affects every family and every individual.

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Straus Says NNEDV Viewer's Guide to Breaking the Silence Cites His Research Out of Context

By Mark B. Rosenthal

November 23, 2005

The National Network to End Domestic Violence has produced a Viewer's Guide to Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories containing a section entitled "Know the Facts" whose purpose seems to be to build a case that the primary danger of abuse to children is from their fathers. At http://www.nnedvfund.org/default.asp?Page=83, they cite the sources for these claims. The first two statements in their list are based on work done by Professor Murray Straus, founder and Co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, and one of the U.S.'s leading authorities in the research of family violence.

Prof. Straus has provided the following responses, regarding this use of his work in the context of supporting the premise of Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories:

NNEDV Viewer's Guide:
Three million to 10 million children witness abuse each year in their homes. [Carlson, Bonnie E. (1984). Children's observations of interpersonal violence. Pp. 147-167 in A.R. Roberts (Ed.) Battered women and their families (pp. 147-167). NY: Springer. Straus, M.A. (1992). Children as witnesses to marital violence: A risk factor for lifelong problems among a nationally representative sample of American men and women. Report of the Twenty-Third Ross Roundtable. Columbus, OH: Ross Laboratories.]”
Response by Straus:
“The statement in bold above is quoted from my 1992 article. However, the research results in that article do NOT demonstrate that men and fathers are the primary source of danger to children, as is implied by quoting this statistic in the context of a document intended to prove that men and fathers are the perpetrators of physical child abuse. On the contrary, the evidence in that article shows that mothers perpetrate violence against their male partners at about the same rate as do fathers. The evidence in another article reporting more results for that same sample shows that the percent who hit the other parent in self-defense is about the same for father and mothers. The evidence from many studies, including Federal statistics on child abuse, show that mothers physically abuse children at a slightly higher rate than fathers.”
NNEDV Viewer's Guide:
In a national survey of more than 6,000 American families, 50 percent of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children. [Strauss, Murray A., Gelles Richard J., and Smith, Christine. 1990. Physical Violence in American Families; Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.]”
Response by Straus:
“This is another example of a statement taken out of context to imply that it is only or predominantly violent men who physically abuse children. On the contrary, the research results presented in the cited book (and in a more sophisticated analysis of the same data in an article by Susan Ross (Ross 1996)), shows that the focus on just men in the quote is contradicted by the evidence. The evidence shows that:
  1. Relatively few fathers "frequently assault" their partners - less than five percent.
  2. The percent of mothers who frequently assault their partners is about the same.
  3. The link between violence against a partner and physically abusing a child applies to mothers as well as fathers.”
REFERENCES
Ross, Susan M. 1996. "Risk of Physical Abuse to Children of Spouse Abusing Parents." Child Abuse & Neglect 20:589-598.
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