When did you stop beating your wife? Challenging loaded questions in FQ

My concern here is that the moderators are failing to distinguish between a reasonable restriction of scope in a thread, and forcing acceptance of a dubious premise in the OP.

Regarding this thread:

Any evidence that teaching kids about healthy boundaries and consent to physical contact reduces abuse?

Although OP is asking for factual information, the OP is loaded with the assumption that any valid approach to parenting must derive from rigorous studies of outcomes.

And the moderation is tightly shutting down any challenge or discussion of this premise, such as:
(a) whether studies are feasible in practice, which speaks to whether we should reasonably expect to see empirical data;
(b) whether a parenting strategy can only be validated with empirical data, or whether it may have a foundation in ethical values - what our children should know about fundamental human rights such as bodily autonomy.

[My bold] Does this also mean that we cannot even discuss what hypotheses might be advanced, whether they are amenable to scientific investigation and whether they are relevant?

Moderation that forces acceptance of a dubious premise may have implications that are quite different from just restricting the scope of a thread. Even though OP is ostensibly asking for facts, this moderation effectively allows OP to advance an agenda by implying a false conclusion without challenge: that the absence of rigorous scientific studies and empirical data implies that teaching children about bodily autonomy and consent has no valid foundation.

I see no such assumption in the OP or in their subsequent posts to the thread. They’re asking for statistics on this childrearing philosophy. It might be that they’re going to base their parenting decisions entirely on such statistics. It might be that such statistics are going to be one influence on their decisions, but not the only one. It might even be that they’re not a parent at all, but merely curious. When a person asks for factual information, we don’t always need to analyze their reasons for wanting that information.

And that’s not what I’m doing. I’m not trying to guess OP’s subjective motivation for asking the question. I’m concerned with whether the line of reasoning implicit in the question is valid. Whether FQ or IMHO, a thread that anyone else might read on SDMB and draw conclusions from does not exist in a context-free vacuum.

What if someone does find some research and posts it in the thread? Is any discussion of the relevance and significance of that research also barred? I assume not - so why is it off limits to discuss the reasons and significance of the likely absence of such research, i.e. what research we might reasonably expect to exist and why.

I might also add another premise that I think may be worth challenging, but which I fear the current moderator stance would preclude:

(c) that the only or even primary reason people should teach their children (or that anyone should be taught) about things like healthy boundaries and consent is for its efficacy in preventing child sexual abuse specifically (as opposed to, oh, I don’t know, ensuring children and even adults understand socially and/or legally important concepts like consent and healthy relationship boundaries???)

But in general, I agree with what I believe to be @Riemann’s main point: that sometimes people start threads that assume a lot just in how they are framed (both in the title and in the body of the OP itself), and that we should be allowed to unpack what may be some dubious assumptions in order to have a productive exchange, rather than being strictly limited to the implicit scope of the thread as framed when that framing is problematic.

See also my perhaps poorly named thread of two years past:

You are reading too much into the question. I don’t have an agenda or an axe to grind about this parenting strategy. I’d like to learn whether it works. My reasons for wanting to know are my own.

It’s interesting that you think I have a premise. I don’t. I’m seeking information. Either it exists or it doesn’t. You, on the other hand, seem to be trying to force your premise on the thread.

There is no assumption in my post. There are plenty of valid approaches to parenting that lack scientific support. I’d say most parenting decisions are made in a vacuum. I’d like to know whether this is one decision that parents are making because it has support or if it just sounds nice.

I don’t have an agenda. Your militance on this issue makes me think you have an agenda.

For what it’s worth, I am sincerely curious about where this strategy came from and whether it works, for any reasonable definition of working. You can’t seem to contemplate whether there would be any reason not to employ this strategy. Here are a few potentially deleterious effects from this particular child-rearing philosophy:

  1. Perhaps kids that young can’t make the complex connection between a parent helping them enforce their right to bodily autonomy around hugging and kissing with a broader concept of self-guided bodily autonomy that relies on their own ability to stand up for themselves in higher pressure situations. Perhaps they can’t make the connection between public displays of affection with relatives and private abuse by manipulative abusers. So they learn narrowly that their parents won’t make them kiss people they don’t want to kiss but they miss that when their parents aren’t around and they are subject to pressure from manipulative older kids adults who want to touch their private parts that they have the same right and ability to say no when others aren’t going to back them up.

  2. I wonder whether this leads to worse outcomes for kids who are abused notwithstanding this upbringing. This strategy creates the expectation that the kid will play an active role in preventing abuse. If the kid fails to do so at a critical time because they lack the courage or the emotional maturity, will they feel worse about themselves because of what happens? If they feel that their behavior in failing to say no at the appropriate time is embarrassing, will they be less likely to tell their parents about abuse?

  3. Parents who think this works even if it doesn’t might be missing other strategies that work better. Perhaps the better strategy is to just directly talk to children about not allowing other people to touch their private parts, that people should not touch them in intimate ways without their consent, that they are always free to talk with their parents about people who touch their parts or try to touch their parts, that they should not keep secrets that an abuser might ask them to keep, that the child will be heard and believed about abuse, and that their parents will still love them because an abuser cannot interfere with the way their parents love them. But if parents believe, in the absence of evidence, that this strategy is the key one to keeping their kids safe from abuse and promoting healthy relationships later in life, they might not focus their child rearing strategies on the most effective things.

Of course, these strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. Every parent wants to do everything for their kids and teach them every desirable value all the time. But some lessons are going to be emphasized at the expense of others and some might contradict others.

And there might be downsides to this strategy. What if the kid decides to hug cousin Sal, cousin Hal, and cousin Val, but not cousin Jill because she has burns on her face and is in a wheelchair? Should a kid learn that his own preferences come first without any regards to the feelings of others?

You have repeatedly guessed my motivation. You’ve been wrong each time but that has neither stopped you nor contributed much to the original thread.

For what it’s worth, I asked that the thread be moved to Great Debates because people seem to want to debate the strategy more than find out whether it works.

If you want my personal opinion of this strategy, I think it makes sense and I think kids should probably be raised without being forced to hug and kiss people they don’t want to hug and kiss. It’s contrary to how I was raised where I was expected to show affection to an extended family I didn’t see regularly. I’m sure my parents thought showing affection was an important part of building relationships with my mother’s side of the family that was so enormously huge that we couldn’t hope to see them all regularly. But I’d feel more confident about my opinion if there were studies or information about whether teaching kids about bodily autonomy when they are toddlers and pre-schoolers has an effect.

My first post asked about sexual abuse broadly, not just among children. It also asked about whether it led to better adult relationships. It asked about rates of depression in older kids. And whether it had any positive effects. There was no indication that I was interested only in effects related to child sexual abuse. When asked to describe an ethical study, the study I described imagined a follow-up period of decades explicitly because I am not interested solely in the effects that end at age three.

Here’s the nut of my thread: I don’t know the first fucking thing about how to research child rearing strategies. Some people here my be experts and can help me learn something. Instead of helping me learn something, people question my motives while offering no useful information. If we were in the Pit, I’d have some closing words.

I have no concern with your personal motivation, nor have I tried to guess it. When I say “agenda”, I mean the line of reasoning that you are obviously advancing here. Do you really think these comments leave any doubt about what conclusion you want to imply if there are no such studies?

As for this:

If that’s the case, did someone other than you report posts for moderation and seek to stifle any broader discussion? I really don’t see why a discussion of the premise of your OP would somehow prevent people from also posting links to research and discussing its relevance and significance, if such research exists.

Perhaps without the attempt to poison the well.

The thread is not suitable for GD, maybe IMHO.

What you call poisoning the well I would call focusing the discussion.

Thanks for the consideration. Move it where you see fit. I doubt I’ll look at it again. Raising the question was a waste of my time. I don’t intend to go back to it.

This is incorrect.

The OP states this:

And the OP is clearly focused only on this.

The OP is quite clear that they do not want the premise challenged. However, this does not mean that you are forced to accept the premise. But, if you disagree with it, you must provide a cite that it does not work.

Parts of your replies were on-topic, but parts of them were not. You clearly wanted to question the premise though, and that goes completely against both the spirit and the wording of the OP, who is only for proof or disproof of the premise.

You tried to focus the discussion too narrowly, and reported every post that did not fit your preconceived notion of what the answers should be as off-topic, including requests for clarification.

If cites do not exist (as apparently they do not in this case) then people are going to give the best answers that are available factually, which in topics such as this are likely to involve some opinion and speculation.

I would recommend that you consider the overall picture when people are responding in the best way that they can, and not ignore all of their replies because they do not fit your preconceived notions of what the responses should be. You will get more out of the discussions.

[ My bold ] I don’t know what you mean by this.

The OP was not framed as a neutral factual question. It was loaded with the premise that only empirical evidence about outcomes, specifically abuse outcomes, can justify this parenting strategy. I disputed the premise thus:

So disputing the premise here is a question of ethical beliefs, not something for which an objective factual cite is applicable. And you responded by saying it was a good point but off topic - thus barring any further discussion of the dubious premise.

Ok, let me try to explain it this way.

OP: I’m looking for scientific cites for or against this premise.
Your response: I question the premise!

This is not a helpful answer, is not a cite for or against the premise, and is not a factual answer.

It’s not a question of ethical beliefs. The OP clearly states that they are looking for scientific studies. Nothing else.

A request for scientific cites on a topic (even a dubious topic) is an FQ discussion. A discussion of ethical beliefs is not a topic for FQ.

I responded to requests for clarification in several cases. Of course, once I clarified my question, no one responded with any facts. Maybe there are no studies on point. I can accept that conclusion from someone who has looked into it and can reasonably confidently say there are no such studies. And yes, I reported some responses that I thought were off topic. When I recognized that the discussion was not going where I’d hoped, I requested that the topic be moved so the discussion could continue organically in the direction it was going. It’s not the discussion I requested nor the result I hoped for but people are free to contribute how they choose.

This doesn’t make any sense as a representation of the exchange. The “premise” I was challenging is not thing that OP is seeking evidence for. The premise is OP’s loaded assumption that empirical evidence should exist, and that empirical evidence is the only way to justify that thing.

The synopsis should be:

OP: I’m looking for scientific cites in support of X, because empirical evidence is the only valid way to justify X.

Response: I question your premise that the absence of rigorous empirical evidence should lead to skepticism about X, because
(a) such evidence may be difficult to obtain, so its absence does not justify such strong inference;
(b) X may be justified for non-empirical reasons.

So regarding this:

And I wasn’t seeking to do that. OP was implying what conclusions should be drawn from the existence or non-existence of the empirical evidence they asked for. That’s what I was disputing. It does not require a debate of the ethical issues, but it requires pointing out that non-empirical ethical arguments do exist.

If it’s not fair game to discuss the implicit assumptions of an OP that is loaded in this manner within FQ, then the entire thread should be kicked to another forum. You can’t allow an OP to advance a line of reasoning under superficial cover of a neutral “request for facts” and leave it immune to challenge.

No, it’s not. There are many reasons for adopting a parenting strategy. The OP asking about one of them says nothing of the validity of others. And if you want to discuss the others, nobody is stopping you from opening another thread about them.

For too long FQ threads have been overrun by the IMHO crowd. If you don’t know the answer to a factual question, just don’t post.

I’m starting to wonder if people are reading the same thread as me. To quote OP again:

Are you really claiming that OP is not implying any opinion here as to what conclusions we should draw about the validity of this approach to parenting if empirical data from rigorous scientific studies does not exist?

If an OP in FQ wants to avoid this kind of problem, it should ask neutrally, it should not itself not advance a questionable line of reasoning that amounts to an opinion.

And one of the things that was moderated out of bounds was even to question what kind of hypothesis might sensibly be tested in a scientific study, and the potential difficulty and likely long delay in obtaining reliable empirical data. Without that kind of context, we cannot possibly interpret any cited study sensibly, or infer anything reliable from the absence of data. Is that discussion an “opinion” that should be out of bounds in FQ?

The quoted portions are critical of poor science or non-science being trotted out as scientific rationale and do not address non-scientific rationale — most of what I rely on when interacting with children FWIW — that is recognized as such. I ask more experienced adults “what works/worked for you?” but that’s completely different from asking “has this been studied?” and, particularly important for sociology research, “how?”

Go ahead and start the thread you want instead of trying to turn someone else’s into the one you want.

Sorry, no. OP does not own a thread, and if a thread advances a line of reasoning, I don’t want to be told that the appropriate place to dispute that line of reasoning is to open another thread.

…the premise, as presented in the OP, is that it’s a “parenting strategy” designed so that “if they learn about consent and bodily autonomy early, they will be more likely to maintain those boundaries later and so will be less likely to be sexually manipulated or abused.”

But is it though?

I don’t think it is.

I think consent is consent. And if I ever have kids, I’d teach this to my kids not " so will be less likely to be sexually manipulated or abused", but so that they won’t sexually manipulate or abuse other people. Its about teaching them to respect other peoples boundaries.

Its an ethical position. Not an abuse prevention strategy.

The question “Is there any scientific or sociological evidence that this parenting strategy reduces rates of sexual abuse?” assumes the premise the OP sets up is correct. But I don’t think it is, and the OP doesn’t present any evidence to back that premise up.

The question on its own is fine.

But to answer the question effectively additional context should be allowed. Because I think the question is fundamentally based on an utterly bullshit premise, and its important to be able to point that out.