Ask Dr. Gayle

Dr. Gayle Takes on Dr. Laura

By Gayle Peterson, Ph.D.

"Dr. Laura makes a mockery of the meaning of family"

Dr. Laura, the nationally syndicated radio advice expert, has perpetually fallen short of giving meaningful advice to those who call her in need. She judges rather than helps. But recently, she has resorted to hiding behind religion to attack families that fall outside of her narrow purview of "normalcy".

Her attack on gays and lesbians stimulates her ratings, but hurts our children. Families are groups of people who come together to nurture the growth and development of its members, adults and children alike. Being raised by heterosexual parents, or for that matter, parents that boast of being  "biologically intact", do not ensure healthy family relationships. 

In fact, the best interests of children are served by parents who are committed to their well-being, not simply heterosexually identified, or even biologically related. Indeed, research validates that families that remain intact and conflictual can be more harmful to children than divorce. And many a stepparent who has successfully filled a role that a biological parent abandoned can attest to the fact that the call to parenting lies in the heart and substance of the adult who chooses that commitment, rather than biological roots (or for that matter, sexual orientation). It is the family’s processes and the quality of the relationships between members that ensures healthy families, whatever their form.

The ability to consciously deal with complex life issues is at the heart of healthy family relationships. Rather than condemning differences, we should be concerned about how differences are handled in the family. Key family processes of communication, acceptance, tolerance for differences and the ability to negotiate conflict successfully contributes to an atmosphere in which a child can grow!

It is the substance of our families, not the form that makes a difference in our children’s lives! Family values that promote connection over disconnection form the basis for meaningful relationships. Tolerance and a willingness to understand differences is essential to making healthy families.

"Dr. Laura" does not promote healthy family processes. Instead, quite the contrary! Her intolerance for differences is an attitude which leads to breakdown of the family unit. Condemnation based on prejudice should not be entertainment. Prejudice based on superiority is dangerous and harmful, as historys bout with Hitler testifies. Where do we draw the line between entertainment and expert advice?

Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for, and the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Berkeley, California and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother.

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