Tim Clinton Channels Urie Bronfenbrenner with Borrowed Quote

Urie Bronfenbrenner was a legendary developmental psychologist who is best known for his influence on the creation of Head Start and his theory of environmental influences on child development. Family Talk Radio head and Tim Clinton’s boss, James Dobson, thinks highly of Bronfenbrenner. In his book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, Dobson said:

Dr. Bronfenbrenner, is in my opinion, the foremost authority on child development in America today, and his views should be considered carefully.

Dobson’s new understudy, American Association of Christian Counselors president and Trump advisor Tim Clinton apparently considered Bronfenbrenner’s views so carefully that he channeled them into a quote he is now claiming as his own.

Bronfenbrenner believed that parenting should be child centered in such a way that children feel secure and significant. Capturing that sentiment is a popular quote attributed to Bronfenbrenner:

Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.

The quote exists in various forms and may never have been used by Bronfenbrenner himself. After an extensive search, I have been unable to find it in any primary source. However, about 1979, the quote began to be associated with him by child psychologist Henry Maier due to his frequent assertion in his writings and talks that every child needs an adult to have an irrational involvement with him or her. Bronfenbrenner often followed that claim by saying: “In short, somebody has to be crazy about that kid!” Several of Bronfenbrenner’s colleagues and followers summarized this sentiment in the now popular quote associated with him.

There is no mistaking that the quote represents Bronfenbrenner’s work to his colleagues and students. For instance, a 2005 obituary published by the International Child and Youth Care Network, concluded with the quote:

We remember Urie Bronfenbrenner for one of the best known and most evocative dictums in our work – that “Every child needs at least one person who is really crazy about him or her”.

Bronfenbrenner taught at Cornell University. The quote is considered a fitting conclusion to a tribute to him published by the college newspaper.

A proponent for the power of family ties to help children reach their full potential, Bronfenbrenner saw Head Start as a buffer against the stress experienced by impoverished parents. Day care would allow parents to spend more time with their children, forming the passionate attachments he saw as a cornerstone of lifelong success.

“Every kid,” Bronfenbrenner frequently declared, “needs at least one adult who is crazy about him.”

It is very possible that Bronfenbrenner said this informally and that it will eventually turn up in a speech or obscure source. However, no published citation which points to the quote actually contains it.

I will provide just one more instance (of many) where the quote is considered a representation of Bronfenbrenner’s work. Larry Brendtro considered the quote Bronfenbrenner’s epitaph.

Urie Bronfenbrenner was a deeply compassionate man committed to the belief that there are no disposable children (Brendtro, Ness and Mitchell, 2005). His vision was rooted in boyhood memories of his father struggling to reclaim cast-off troubled children in an institution. For all of his fame, the spirit of this pioneer is his enduring epitaph: Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her.

Brendtro told me via email he never heard Bronfenbrenner say that but the quote was always associated with him because that was exactly what he taught his whole career.

Enter Tim Clinton

Clinton in several places take credit for a quote which, in essence, is the same. Most recently, it appeared on the AACC Facebook page. Perhaps anticipating that attention would come to that quote, someone has removed it from the page. The image which was on the page is at the top of this post.

Clinton takes credit for various versions of the quote (some closer to Bronfenbrenner than others) in notes to his radio show, in a 2008 Christian Counseling Today column, a 2012 book with Gary Sibcy, and a book with John Trent. In a 2013 interview with Tony Wheeler and John Trent, Clinton expressed the quote verbally without giving anyone else credit for it. Here is a tweet from his personal Twitter account:

I did not do an exhaustive search so there may be others.

If there wasn’t a pattern of this sort of thing, one might consider this an oversight. One hears many quotes over a long career and can easily bring something back from training or a lecture and think it came from your own thoughts. I do know what should be done about it and it will be worth watching to see if it happens.

Concerning Clinton’s use of the quote, it doesn’t matter that Bronfenbrenner may not have used the exact words. What matters is that the quote existed for many years before Clinton came along, was attributed to Bronfenbrenner, and was well known to people in the developmental psychological community as representing Bronfenbrenner’s work. There are many sources which Clinton could have cited for the quote. I don’t see how he can blame an intern or employee for this one.

Bronfenbrenner was a giant in his field and a true innovator. I can’t think of any other psychologist who was more passionate about the needs of children and families. His concepts of “irrational involvement” and parents being “crazy about their kids” weren’t new ideas but his manner of expressing them was unique to him.  On the whole, his ecological approach was truly innovative and for many people this quote embodies the Bronfenbrenner approach to children and families.

Because of this, Clinton should do more than remove all obvious signs that he ever tried to appropriate this great man’s work.  This seems more serious than some of the other instances which have come to light previously. He needs to step up and personally explain what happened.


After I published this post, I ran into a wrinkle. Clinton attributed this quote in the past to Fran Stott who was once the Dean of the Erikson Institute for Advance Study of Child Development. Others have also attributed the quote to her. I wrote to the Erikson Institute who in turn reached Dr. Stott about the origin of the quote. A representative of the Institute said that Dr. Stott said that the quote might have come from Bronfenbrenner (as demonstrated above it has been associated with him since the late 1970s). The representative also said Stott reiterated the quote in her classes, but the “takeaway being that attributing this directly to Fran would be an incomplete/inaccurate attribution.” The earliest I can find anyone attributing the quote to Stott is 1995. Henry Maier attributed the quote to Bronfenbrenner in a 1979 article based on a 1977 Bronfenbrenner lecture.

The fact remains that Clinton has for years borrowed a quote that he knowingly took from another source and has continued to use it as his own. Now others are attributing it to him (see also herehere and here). If his defense is to blame interns or employees, then my next question is: what, if anything, that has his name on it did he actually write?

Like this article and want to see more like it? Support this blog at Patreon.com.

[email-subscribers namefield=”NO” desc=”Subscribe to receive notification of new posts.” group=”Public”]

Image: Fair use from AACC’s Facebook page. 

James Dobson and Family Talk: Who Really Wrote These Articles?

(In the photo above, Tim Clinton is above Donald Trump’s head, to the right of V.P. Pence, Image: Johnnie Moore’s Twitter feed)

On Thursday, I brought to you news about the website maneuvers of American Association of Christian Counselors president and owner Tim Clinton after psychology professor Aaron New called out unsourced material in one of his online devotionals. Dr. Clinton has been removing articles identified in my post and in one case an article has been removed from the website of his new organization James Dobson’s Family Talk Radio. This morning, I submit Family Talk’s web team may have some more work to do.

Coping with Crisis

Currently, an article titled “Coping with Crisis” is hosted on Tim Clinton’s Family Talk blog page. However, if Clinton’s Bible for Hope can be believed (can we doubt anything with Bible in the title?), H. Norman Wright wrote that article. Clinton’s personal website also lists this article on his page without attribution to Wright.

UPDATE: After I wrote this, “Coping with Crisis” was removed from Family Talk’s website. It is available to view via the Wayback Machine.

Strive to Excel

Another article which may need scrubbing is “Strive to Excel.” Clinton has already removed it from his Medium, AACC, and personal pages. This article borrows material verbatim and without citation from a 1999 St. Petersburg Times article. Furthermore, this piece is taken from Clinton’s book with Max Davis, Ignite Your Faith without giving credit to Davis.  Go to the end of this post for a comparison of Clinton’s article with the 1999 newspaper article by Bruce Lowitt.

UPDATE: After I wrote this, “Strive to Excel” was removed from Family Talk’s website, It is available to view via the Wayback Machine.

Scrubbing in Progress

I see some scrubbing is underway. Clinton’s article citing Wikipedia without citation on respect has been scrubbed. The archived copy is here with the Wikipedia material in the first paragraph.

Family Talk Radio is aware of the situation because yesterday I asked them about another article which Family Talk attributed to Clinton which was actually written by Joshua Straub. That article was removed and I am waiting for some clarification about why. Since they are now scrubbing articles with uncited material, I can only assume that they know why they are doing it.

Celebrate Freedom

UPDATE: The articles I referred to above have now been scrubbed. Oddly enough, Clinton’s “Celebrate Freedom” post remains on the site even though he included inaccurate historical information from a source he didn’t cite.

UPDATE (8/13/18) – Ok, now “Celebrate Freedom” has been removed from Family Talk’s website. It is available to view here. It has also been removed from Clinton’s other websites.

Perhaps, Family Talk should just give me a call for the other posts which should be removed. I will have another one for you soon. Stay tuned…

A New Day A New You

UPDATE (8/13/18) – This piece has been posted at AACC‘s and Family Talk’s websites. It was also posted without an author back on 12/31/2010 on the AACC website. It has been scrubbed from the AACC website with that date but can be found via the Wayback Machine. Perhaps someone other than Clinton wrote it originally. In any case, it has material in it which appears to be lifted from a 1/4/10 Miami Herald piece by Jack Hardy titled, “New Year’s Resolutions Can Be Useful, Even When They Fail.”* Compare:

Clinton – It’s the “keeping them” part that gets us. In fact, 40 to 45 percent of people do make a New Year’s Resolution, and while it is true that 97% of resolutions are never fulfilled, 75% do make it past the first week, and 46% make it past the six month mark.

Miami Herald, Jack Hardy – Oscar Wilde wrote: “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.” It’s true; statistics confirm that almost 97 percent of New Year’s resolutions are never fulfilled.   Even so, some 40 to 45 percent do use New Year’s Day to make resolutions and set goals.

While many may eventually ditch their resolutions, statistics show that setting goals is valuable. Research shows that 75 percent do make it past the first week; 46 percent make it past the six-month mark.

Not only is the phrasing and information identical, Clinton presents the information as the president of the AACC, an expert in mental health. However, he doesn’t cite his source. While any writer should take care with research, it is more necessary for mental health professionals to do so with social science data.

Like this article and want to see more like it? Support this blog at Patreon.com.

[email-subscribers namefield=”NO” desc=”Subscribe to receive notification of new posts.” group=”Public”]

Here is a pdf of Clinton’s article, “Press On.” (In Google’s cache for awhile)

Here is the archived copy of the original St. Petersburg Times article by Bruce Lowitt.

The articles use very similar words and phrases. Here are some examples.

Lowitt: At the start of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., the U.S. team was, like its gold-medal predecessor, little more than an afterthought — even in the mind of its coach.

Clinton: At the start of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., the U.S. hockey team was little more than an afterthought.

Lowitt: The Soviets were seeded No. 1, and deservedly so. They had won five gold medals and one bronze in the previous six Olympics. The seventh-seeded U.S. team could cling to one piece of history.

Clinton: The Soviets were seeded №1, and deservedly so. They had won five gold medals and one bronze in the previous six Olympics.

The U.S. team was seeded seventh.

Lowitt: The Soviets unleashed 30 shots in the first two periods to the United States’ 10. Only one dramatic save after another by former Boston University goaltender Jim Craig kept the United States close.

Clinton: The Soviets unleashed 30 shots in the first two periods to the United States’ 10. One dramatic save after another by goaltender Jim Craig kept the U.S. team close.

Lowitt: The explosion of cheers was deafening, and most of the 10,000 fans squeezed into the 8,500-seat arena began a chant of “USA! USA!” that never abated in the final 10 minutes.

Clinton: The explosion of cheers was deafening, and most of the 10,000 fans began a chant of “USA! USA!” that did not end for the final 10 minutes.

Lowitt: Later, Brooks pulled from his pocket a yellow card with a scrawled message. He said it contained the pregame message he read to his team:

“You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here.”

Clinton: After the game, coach Herb Brooks pulled a yellow card from his pocket with the scrawled message on it that he had read to his team just before the game:

“You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here.”

The quotes from the players in Clinton’s article were the same as in the Lowitt article although shortened. Read both pieces and decide for yourself.

*Hardy’s article isn’t available on the web. I was able to obtain it via the Miami Herald archives. A reprint of it is available via this chiropractic website.