Here is a summary of a study that demonstrates why I think Pearl's paradigm has the potential to be so insidiously dangerous.
Albert Bandura did one of many studies concerning how we lose moral perspective and how it affects behavior when we define people as “animals” or as deserving of punishment.
In a study where students believed that they were administering shocks to students from a rival school to help improve their ability to learn through discipline, a very disturbing pattern emerged. The nice guys received less voltage and fewer shocks. The group about whom the researchers said nothing received a level of shocks and voltage that was significantly greater than the “nice guy” group but was less than that of the “animals.” When it came to the group of people who were defined as rotten and animalistic, the true subjects of the study, the “teachers,” delivered more voltage and more shocks in their efforts to help those animals learn and to improve their rotten skills.
Human beings have an intrinsic sense of justice, and their preconceived ideas about people will determine how they treat those people. People who are cast in a negative light seem deserving of punishment, as though society owes them a debt to punish them. Bad people should be treated badly. However, when a person's moral compass remains intact, people will extend a general level of respect and consideration to those whom they do not know and of whom they have no opinion. For those who are idealized, people feel obligated and owe those good people good treatment and respect to an even higher degree than the general beneficence that they owe to strangers. It shows that dehumanization holds the power and the key to disrupt a person's morality, objectivity, and critical thinking ability. Dehumanization causes a loss of true and reasonable perspective.
The Pearl Method redefines the traditional view that children are either innocent or are a mix of both good and evil, just like every other human being on the planet. Children are evil and are said to be the parent's evil adversary. The Pearls teach the parent that their relationship with their child is a war zone in a war that must be won at all costs, otherwise, both parent and child are deemed sinful. The war has eternal consequences for all involved, and salvation depends on following the method. (There is a promise of a good outcome, and parents are told that thinking of their children as enemies that must be subdued is something that the parent does in the best interest of the child, a show of love to them.) The child must be broken as an Amish farmer breaks the spirit and will of a horse in his stables, but breaking them becomes the parent's act of love towards them. Love = punishment, and love must be exacted well, or both child and parent are threatened with eternal hell.
This is what we saw in the Williams boy before his parents made him clam up. It becomes morally justifiable and an idealistic duty to punish someone that deserves it. People like his sister Hanna are destined for the fires of hell. If punishment gets out of hand, there are no moral checks and balances to limit the behavior. The ideology and greater good overrides it because the end justifies the means. It is insidious and subtle, but the consequences can be devastating as they were in the case of Hanna and Lydia.
From the October 25, 2011 CNN Transcript about Hannah Williams:
TUCHMAN: In the affidavit, Hannah's 9-year-old brother told detectives that people like his dead sister got spankings for lying and go into the fires of hell.
Detectives say Larry Williams made his son stop talking to authorities after that. We met Larry Williams with his attorney in court during a motion hearing.
Read more about Bandura's study: