In Reply to: Re: Interview with Don Lattin posted by Perry on October 18, 2007 at 17:43:52:
That's a nice blog. Keep up the good work!
I just finished reading Lattin's book last night. I wasn't entirely happy with how Lattin handled Millikin's dismissal of child abuse in TF with a naive argument about cultural relativity.
Lattin does respond to Millikin's argument in his book, as well as in his interview with you, but I don't think it's as strong an analysis of the weakness in Millikin's position on cultural relativity as it might have been.
A stronger argument, imo, is this: Yeah, other cultures marry off kids at 13, but does that make it a good thing simply because it is accepted in some cultural groups as normal? Aren't there some objective criteria we can use to assess the goodness of promoting the practice of child brides?
There are physical health and economic reasons why marrying off a 13-year-old girl and getting her pregnant is not good thing for the individual, the family, or society as a whole. Life expectancy for women in cultures that practice child marriage isn't very high, which means many children grow up without long-term maternal protection and care. Economic development in cultures that promote the practice is also abysmal. Delayed gratification, e.g., delaying the onset of sexual activity and childbearing, has economic advantages. There is a relationship between delayed marriage, childbearing, longer life expectancy, and economic advancement.
I wish I'd known Lattin was going to cite my article in his book, btw. I would have talked with him at greater length about the issues I raised in the article and related concerns with existing academic research on TF if I'd known he was interested in reporting on the scholarly debates that surround the study of new religious movements like TF.
I really wish I had more time to write on the topic of cultural relativity and evaluating NRMs regarding child welfare. I was also disturbed my Millikin's discussion of Ricky's re-assessment of his childhood sexual socialization in Lattin's book. Millikin shows a very limited grasp of all the contextual factors associated with childhood sexual socialization. Millikin more or less suggests that if Rick hadn't left TF and hooked up with angry exers, he would never have become so enraged over his abuse because he would have continued to interpret his childhood sexual socialization (and that of Merry, Davida & Techi) as normal. Sorry, Millikin, there's a sound reason for the incest taboo--it didn't evolve in every culture on the planet for no good reason. Also, the sexual socialization of the children who grew up in The Unit wasn't even "normal" by broader Family standards.
Well, kudos to you again for getting published in a scholarly journal--I'm sure you're now painfully aware how much work goes into it.