Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Sprigg and six crackpot studies of conversion therapy

Peter Sprigg
Hate group troll, Peter Sprigg
Peter Sprigg works for Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group. Sprigg is the author of a pretentious “issue analysis” which concludes that “evidence for the effectiveness of SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] far outweighs the evidence of its harm.”

Sprigg bases his science-defying conclusion on six “studies.” Let us review them, oldest first:

2000 – Nicolosi, Byrd, and Potts, Psychological Reports:

Psychological Reports is a very substandard journal with a very low impact factor. The journal averages (over five years) less than one cite per article. Contrast that with JAMA which averages 48 cites per article. It is ranked 131st among behavioral health journals (a couple of slots below Dreaming).

This particular study fails to define a longitudinal cohort. The title of the article is: Retrospective Self-Reports of Changes in Homosexual Orientation: A Consumer Survey of Conversion Therapy Clients. The study was designed by Nicolosi (an ultra-conservative Catholic conversion therapy practitioner) to produce what looks like a satisfactory result. It would never have survived peer review at a respectable journal which is just one of the reasons no one takes it seriously.

2003 – Spitzer, Archives of Sexual Behavior

At the time it was published Spitzer conceded that he had a very difficult time assembling study participants. He ultimately settled on people who claimed to have changed. They were culled from reorientation ministries and NARTH. Spitzer concluded that although change could occur, it was probably very rare. In 2012 Spitzer said that he agreed with his critics and asked that the paper be retracted.

2010 – Karten and Wade, The Journal of Men’s Studies

At the time this journal was published by Men's Studies Press which is now defunct (now maintained by Sage). It is a miserably substandard journal.
Participants were adult men who had participated in any form of SOCE at least six months prior to participation in the study. Participants were required to have some past or current form of same sex attraction, but did not necessarily have to possess more homosexual feelings than heterosexual feelings to be included.
The authors relied on Spitzer and Nicolosi for evaluative metrics. Moreover, like the Spitzer and Nicolosi studies they rely on a convenience sample culled from reorientation practitioners including Exodus and NARTH. Spitzer revealed that these were people who claimed to have successfully changed in advance of the study. Karten and Wade make no such disclosure but that is clearly the provided sample.

Karten is, or was, an orthodox Jew living in Israel. Wade is, or was, on the faculty of Fordham University.

2011 – Jones and Yarhouse, Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy

“The authors conducted a quasi-experimental longitudinal study…” I have no idea what that means. The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy is slightly better than some of the other journals mentioned above. Just slightly. It is still substandard. Yarhouse is with Pat Robinson's Regent University. Jones is with Wheaton College which is also a Christian institution. This was a five to six year study and some pre-publication material was submitted to the APA in 2009 when it was reviewing conversion therapy. The authors, by the way, were quite modest in their claims. The APA maintains that conversion therapy is ineffective and possibly harmful.

2017 – Black, First Stone Ministries Effectiveness Survey

This is not research. It has not been published to an academic journal and has not been peer-reviewed. The actual title is Freedom Realized: First Stone Ministries Effectiveness Survey. The survey is part of Stephen Black's book. Black is the head of the pray away the gay ministry.

July 23, 2018 – Santero, Whitehead, and Ballesteros, The Linacre Quarterly

Linacre Quarterly is the “journal” of the Catholic Medical Association. This supposed study was not peer reviewed and it was actually done in 2011 as a book with a very similar name by the lead investigator (Zack Ford mentioned that the book was a doctoral thesis). Liberty Counsel has been touting this junk as authoritative.

Sprigg's conclusion:
In 2009, the American Psychological Association asserted that “the recent studies do not provide valid causal evidence of the efficacy of SOCE or of its harm.”10 The words “valid” and “causal” are qualifiers due to the methodological limitations of the available studies—they do not indicate there is no evidence at all. The “recent studies” make clear that the evidence for the effectiveness of SOCE far outweighs the evidence of its harm.
In the way of review: One paper is not a study at all. Another is not peer reviewed and published to a Catholic outlet. Three are published to substandard journals. The one study published to a respectable journal has been retracted. If anything, these “make clear” that there is no peer-reviewed study published to a respected academic journal that counters the conclusion of the APA: Conversion therapy does not work and is possibly harmful.

Allow me to take this a step further. These “studies” are of willing adults. None of these examine the effects on children who are either involuntary participants or whose own sense of shame makes them want to convert from gay to straight. The toxicity of conversion therapy on kids is immeasurable but likely to cause considerable damage.

Once again I will state that the purpose of conversion therapy is not to turn people from gay to straight. It exists for the purpose of supporting discrimination and opposition to nondiscrimination laws. That is why hate groups like Family Research Council are so interested in promoting what could generously be called pseudoscience.

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