Tantrums, violence, threats, and incoherent or unreasonable demands.
Gainesville, Florida, May 3 – University of Florida researchers have published a study in child psychology that shows professional diagnosticians lack the skills to tell the difference between the behavior of toddlers and that of the Palestinian leadership.
The study, printed in this month’s edition of the journal Child Psychology Today, describes how even the most experienced child psychologists, therapists, and social workers uniformly confused the documented behavior of the Palestinian political leadership with that of children between the ages of one and three. Most of the Palestinian leaders whose behavior was reflected in the study are over the age of forty.
University faculty and graduate students presented eight dozen child psychology professionals around the country with written descriptions of reactions to adversity and of approaches to attaining a goal. Two parallel descriptions of behaviors were presented at a time, with the child psychology specialist asked to identify which of the two represented a toddler’s actions and which to Palestinian leadership. Only one of the nearly one hundred professionals fared better than random chance, meaning that few, if any, of today’s child psychology professionals are equipped or trained to distinguish between toddlers and Palestinians in any meaningful way.
“I think it’s a wake-up call for the entire field of endeavor,” asserted Annie Brogez, who led the team of researchers. Brogez runs a private child psychology practice and teaches at the University of Florida.
“What you have here are behaviors typical of children who may have learned to talk, but are not able to handle failure or complex situations,” she explained. “But it turns out there’s no way to describe those behaviors coherently in any way that distinguishes them from the way Palestinian leaders – and to some extent the Arab world in general – have behaved for decades, if not more than a century.”
“We found that unless we included very specific information that gave away the game – references to politics, geography, terrorism, and economics – we could not come up with a way of describing the behaviors in a way that would allow the professional we surveyed to find a meaningful difference. Tantrums, violence, threats, and incoherent or unreasonable demands were basically all we had. Diagnosticians need better tools.”
“It’s certainly sobering,” admitted Tampa-area practitioner Khar Toum, who was not involved in the study. “When there’s someone visiting my practice, I need to know certain basic things, and whether he or she is a toddler or the collective leadership of the Palestinians is a key piece of data that helps me arrive at a proper diagnosis and path of treatment and care. As a field, we in child psychology are going to have to sharpen our tools to be able to make that important distinction.”
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