Child Abuse: parental rights and the interests of the child

Journal of Applied Philosophy 7 (2):183-194 (1990)
Abstract
I criticise the ‘liberal’view of the proper relationship between the family and State, namely that, although the interests of the child should be paramount, parents are entitled to rights of both privacy and autonomy which should be abrogated only when the child suffers a specifiable harm. I argue that the right to bear children is not absolute, and that it only grounds a right to rear upon an objectionable proprietarian picture of the child as owned by its producer. If natural parents have any rights to rear they derive from duties to bring their children into rational maturity where they can exercise rights for themselves. The presumption that natural parents are best suited to rear their own children should be discounted, as should the assumption that alternatives to natural parenting are unacceptably bad. I reject the suggestion that parents should be ‘licensed’but argue for a much closer monitoring of the family. Familial privacy, which such monitoring breaches, is shown to have a culturally specific and, given the facts of abuse, dubious value. In conclusion, I briefly specify the forms of monitoring I approve
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