Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Forrest Lien, IACD, CASWJ, and Context
Looking at the website of the Institute for Attachment and Child Development (IACD), and especially at their resource library, you can see an interesting fact at https://www.instituteforattachment.org/resource-library/. It is correctly stated that Forrest Lien and two IACD colleagues have published an article in Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, a peer-reviewed journal.
Curiously, though, this article was not sent out for peer review. How did this come about? The details of the answer are probably of serious interest mostly to pathologically literate people like authors, editors, and publishers. Nevertheless, an explanation ought to be provided—because without it it will be much too easy for Lien and IACD to claim this publication as evidence that an important social work journal’s editors support IACD methods.
Here’s what happened. A couple of years ago, I published in CASWJ an article entitled "Conventional and Unconventional Perspectives on Attachment and Attachment Problems: Comparisons and Implications, 2006-2016”. In that article, I discussed the 2006 report of a joint task force of the American Professional Society on Abuse of Children and Division 37 of the American Psychological Association. The task force report had advised strongly against unconventional beliefs about childhood attachment issues, like those still espoused by IACD, and against a variety of practices based on those beliefs. In my article, I reviewed the evidence that these beliefs and methods were still very much a part of the childhood mental health scene in the United States, and that although holding therapy itself is less often or less obviously used, other related practices continue. These practices emphasize the idea that attachment disorders are characterized by antisocial, unmanageable, disruptive behavior problems, which is not correct. They also stress the role of authority and intrusive as well as strict adult behavior as a cure for antisocial behavior and attitudes (and therefore, according to this fallacious reasoning, for any past difficulties with attachment). I noted in the article the ongoing involvement of Lien and IACD with these positions, which are not only fruitless but potentially harmful to children and families.
One of the editors of CASWJ kindly decided to make my review a “target article”—that is, to publish it with invitations for discussion extended to a number of potential authors with interests in this topic. As I had referred in the article to IACD’s website material and the organizations positions on issues claimed to be associated with attachment, the editor invited Lien to provide a critique on my article, and Lien responded with the piece recently published in CASWJ. As this was an invited article, it was not sent out for peer- review (that’s right—not every article in a peer-reviewed journal gets peer-reviewed). Instead of the critique that was invited, however, Lien and his co-authors provided some general comments about attachment and some vague positive comments about the IACD program, what might legitimately be called a “puff piece” for their program. Although Lien has spoken of himself as a researcher, there was no actual research described, and a number of aspects of the program, such as the use of neurofeedback and of a commonly-used diagnostic checklist to identify Reactive Attachment Disorder, are without research support of any kind.
As is customary for authors of target articles, I was allowed the “last word” of rebuttal in the form of response to the various comments on the article. The abstract of my response is presently available on the CASWJ website. I noted in that publication that I stand by my original statement that beliefs and practices decried by the APSAC/APA task force in 2006 are still very much in existence. Lien and his colleagues had the opportunity to show that this was not true with respect to IACD, but they made no effort actually to do so, so I can only conclude that they are in agreement with me here. The context of their CASWJ paper indicates that if they thought otherwise, they would have seized on their chance to deny the unconventional beliefs and practices I attributed to IACD.