I have suspected for sometime that Dr Bob's RWA's were more than a statistical anomaly, and perhaps also a pathology not a lot different from depression or schizophrenia, containing a wide range of severity and a somewhat nebulous array of symptoms that, taken together, still have clinical meaning.
Missing from this Idea was specific causes and what mechanics might be involved. I suspected trauma as a place to start, as I had seen Religious cults, and groups that behave as cults zero in on PTSD like sharks smelling blood. What I had missed was the possibility that the biggest pool of recruits was abused, and neglected children. Not just those from obviously dysfunctional families, where the parents have issues with drugs or mental disorders of their own, but also and most commonly from families without such excuses, that deliberately abuse and neglect their children (though they would not call it that) for reasons of religion or ideology, often passing on pathology they themselves were poisoned by.
Alice Miller puts a fine point on the problem
.... However brutally these people were brought up, they showed no immediate signs of the harm done to them. On the contrary. Many of them grew up into seemingly well--adjusted young people. But sooner or later, usually one generation later, when the tormented children had themselves become parents, the former victims did the same with their children as had been done to them, with no feelings of guilt. It was the only thing they knew, after they had repressed and denied their own pain.
Studying child abuse confronts us with the astonishing fact that parents will inflict the same punishment or neglect on their children as they experienced themselves in their early lives. But as adults they have no recollection of what they went through. In the case of sexual assault on children, it is quite usual for the perpetrators to have no conscious knowledge of their own early life--history or at the least to be cut off from the attendant feelings aroused by those experiences. It is not until they are in therapy‹always supposing they are given any‹that it transpires that they have been reenacting what they went through as children.
The sole explanation I can advance for this fact is that information on the cruelty suffered in childhood remains stored in the brain in the form of unconscious memories. For a child, conscious experience of such treatment is impossible. If children are not to break down completely under the pain and the fear, they must repress that knowledge. But the unconscious memories drive them to reproduce those repressed scenes over and over again in the attempt (and with the false hope) to liberate themselves of the fears that cruelty and abuse have left with them. The victims create situations in which they can assume the active role in order to master the feeling of helplessness and escape the unconscious anxieties.
Why were there people brave enough to risk their lives to save Jews from Nazi Persecution? Much scientific inquiry has been expended on this question.
Almost all rescuers interviewed reported that their parents had attempted to discipline them with arguments rather than punishment. They were only rarely subjected to corporal punishment, and if they were it was invariably in connection with some misdemeanor and never because their parents had felt the need to discharge some uncontrollable and inexplicable feeling of rage on them. One man recalled that he had once been spanked for taking smaller children out onto a frozen lake and endangering their lives. Another reported that his father had only ever hit him once and apologized afterwards. Many of the statements might be paraphrased thus: "My mother always tried to explain what was wrong about whatever it was I had done. My father also spent a lot of time talking to me. I was impressed by what he had to say."
What a different picture we get from the reports of the persecutors and hangers--on: "When my father was drunk he took the whip to me. I never knew what I was being beaten for. Often it was for something I had done months before. And when mother was in a temper she tore into anyone who got in her way, including me." ....
So child abuse and neglect produces high RWA's and child protection produces low RWA's, and not surprisingly they translate their ideas born of abuse (or lack of it)into their political philosophy and even religious doctrine.
George Lakoff deals more specifically with these differences and finds it the basis for progressive vs conservative framing.
On the whole, they are defining the conservative position for the current debate about childrearing, as well as for legislation incorporating their approach. Since the ideas in conservative Christian childrearing manuals are fully consistent with the Strict Father model of the family that lies behind conservative politics, it is not at all strange that such fundamentalist groups should be setting the national conservative agenda on family values.
I should say at the outset that virtually all of the mainstream experts on childrearing see the Strict Father model as being destructive to children. A nurturant approach is preferred. And most of the child development literature within the field of developmental psychology points in one direction: childrearing according to the Strict Father model harms children: a Nurturant Parent model is far superior.
In short, conservative family values, which are the basis for conservative morality and political thought, are not supported by either research in child development or the mainstream childrearing experts in the country. That is another reason why the conservative family agenda has been left to fundamentalist Christians.
To see more clearly what is at stake in knowing about research on such matters, let us look closely at what some conservative Christian childrearing manuals have to say about how children should be raised. These manuals are clear on many points:
1. Children are inherently sinful and defiant.
2. Only punishment and reward will train children away from defiance and pursuing their sinful desires.
3. The only way a child can be raised properly is for a father to demand absolute obedience to his authority. Any questioning of authority requires swift and painful punishment.
4. Obedience can be taught only through painful corporal punishment-by whipping with belts or beating with switches or paddles.
5. Continued disobedience requires greater beating.
6. Punishment for disobedience is a form of love.
7. Parental authority is a proper model for all authority, and children must learn to obey authority so that they can wield it properly in later life.
Reading the whole link is worthwhile as he details many major Right wing leaders as calling severe damage as good and wholesome support as causing "dangerous dependence"
Many other sources have noted the power wielded even beyond the political boundaries of the far right in recommending these destructive child rearing ideas. Notably this articlewith millions of emails, thousands of newspapers carrying his daily column calling for actions that researchers have shown causes trauma and even brain damage Dobson is paving the way for a new generation of Monsters who will feel nothing as they destroy civilization and murder millions without a thought of concern.