Home > Children, Homosexuality > Where is the science behind California’s ban on orientation change for minors?

Where is the science behind California’s ban on orientation change for minors?

October 23rd, 2012

Christopher Rosik

“The attack on parental rights is exactly the whole point of the bill because we don’t want to let parents harm their children,” he said. “For example, the government will not allow parents to let their kids smoke cigarettes. We also won’t have parents let their children consume alcohol at a bar or restaurant.” – California State Sen. Ted Lieu, as quoted by the Orange County Register, August 2, 2012

Introduction

Sponsored by state Senator Lieu (D-Torrance), California Senate Bill 1172, which will prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in SOCE with minors under any conditions, appears on its way to the desk of Governor Brown and could very well become state law.   The most important revision to the bill reads as follows:

865.2 – Any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall  be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject a mental health provider to discipline by the licensing entity for that mental health provider.

As is plainly evident, should SB 1172 become law, licensed therapists in California who would otherwise be willing to assist minor clients in modifying their unwanted same-sex attractions and behaviors will be seriously jeopardizing their professional livelihoods.  In defense of this bill’s clear intent to intimidate therapists and supplant the rights of parents, Sen. Lieu has publicly compared the harms of SOCE to minors with those of alcohol and cigarettes.  This comparison certainly sounds like a compelling analogy and clearly implies there is a conclusive body of scientific evidence behind the legislation.

But like so many claims of SB 1172 supporters, this analogy seems to have been accepted at face value.  Since Sen. Lieu’s claim can be subjected to empirical verification by searching relevant databases, I decided to conduct such a search.  Assuming the scientific basis for banning SOCE with minors is similar to that of banning cigarettes and alcohol, we should expect that the number of articles in the scientific literature for each of these health concerns would be roughly equivalent.

Procedure and Results

To test this hypothesis, I conducted a search of the PsycARTICLES and MEDLINE databases.  PsycARTICLES is a definitive source of full text, peer-reviewed scholarly and scientific articles in psychology, including the nearly 80 journals published by the American Psychological Association.  MEDLINE provides authoritative medical information on medicine, nursing, and other related fields covering more than 1,470 journals. I searched all abstracts from these databases using combinations of key words best suited to identify studies related to the question of interest.  Below are the totals for articles on cigarettes and alcohol (words preceding an asterisk indicate that the search included all words with that stem, so that a search for “minor*” would include both “minor” and “minors”).

Key Words Total Articles Earliest Article
Children & Alcohol 4465 1917
Children & Cigarettes 883 1970
Adolescent* & Alcohol 6180 1917
Adolescent* & Cigarettes 1252 1971
Minor* & Alcohol 2670 1944
Minor* & Cigarettes 356 1973

These totals make clear that the literature regarding youth as related to alcohol and cigarettes is extensive, with studies numbering in the thousands.  With such a sizeable database, one could reasonably expect that observations relative to the harms of cigarettes and alcohol among youth reflect reliable scientific information that has been replicated in numerous ways. These results, then, form the standard by which we can evaluate the volume of scientific literature from which any claims about SOCE and youth are based.

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