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Fact check debunks FamilyVoice Australia’s Ros Phillips: Author of NIS-4 study comments

Image: NIS-4 report co-author Dr Andrea Sedlak, PhD. [Source: LinkedIn]

An update to the fact check that Say Yes has been performing on the recent letter by FamilyVoice Australia’s Ros Phillips in the Australian.

As we previously reported, FamilyVoice Australia confirmed that the study that Mrs Phillips quoted was this study, the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress.  We also asked both FamilyVoice Australia and Mrs Phillips to respond to a series of questions, and we also contacted one of the study’s authors.

While FamilyVoice hasn’t gotten around to replying, one of the study authors has.

Report co-author Dr Andrea Sedlak, PhD, has given us her views on exactly what the NIS-4 research says:

The NIS-4 did find that children in homes with two married birth parents experienced lower rates of maltreatment (abuse or neglect) than children in other family structures.

The findings are publicly available at the following link:
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/nis4_report_congress_full_pdf_jan2010.pdf

Details on the findings you cite are on pp. 5-18 through 5-26.

Dr Sedlak also confirmed that the study does not deal with sexual orientation or gender identity of parents, but family structures, and claimed that such generalisations were not defensible:

The NIS-4 did not classify parents by sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not defensible to generalize the findings to same-sex couples or to LGBTI-parenting households because they were not separately identified in this research. Further study would be needed to document the reason(s) why children with two unmarried birth parents experience higher rates of abuse/neglect than those with two married birth parents. The category of two married parents with legal (but not birth) relationship to the child is substantially filled with birth-and-step-parent households, although there are some adoptive parents in that grouping as well. Again, further study would be needed to understand the underlying dynamics. But whatever is going on to account for these differences, it appears that commitment to the relationship and to the child is key for any family arrangement to maximize child well-being.

Dr Sedlak also offered a specific criticism of Mrs Phillips’ use of particular terminology in her letter to The Australian:

By the way, we have concerns about use of the phrase “natural parents.” That implies that adoptive or step parents are somehow “unnatural.” “Birth parents” is a clearer phrase and it conveys that the parents have been related to the child throughout the child’s life.

Enough said, really.

It would appear that FamilyVoice Australia and Roslyn Phillips has now been debunked directly by one of the co-authors of the study.  We eagerly await their reply to our questions, but Say Yes has a strange feeling that — now their misuse of a study has been exposed — they may not even reply.

Say Yes

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