Doing Right by Children: Reflections on the Nature of Childhood and the Obligations of Parenthood

Doing Right by Children: Reflections on the Nature of Childhood and the Obligations of Parenthood

Doing Right by Children: Reflections on the Nature of Childhood and the Obligations of Parenthood

Doing Right by Children: Reflections on the Nature of Childhood and the Obligations of Parenthood

Synopsis

Doing Right by Children begins with an examination of the concept of childhood and how this concept has changed over the centuries. Once treated as a form of property were created out of a family's need for labor, by 1950, American parents had come to think of themselves as stewards looking out for the best interests of their children. In the 1960s, though, the status of children began to decline, as parents grew increasingly reluctant to put the interests of their children ahead of their own desires. Doing Right by Children investigates various ethical issues regarding the parent/child relationship. Among the questions it attempts to answer are these: What kind of upbringing do parents owe their children? What are the proper goals of parenting? How would we structure families if our primary interest were the well-being of children? Doing Right by Children offers a spirited defense of the stewardship model of parenting. It challenges the now-commonplace view that the freedom of parents-to pursue, for example career or sexual fulfillment-should not be sacrificed to the interests of their children.

Excerpt

America's views on the concept of childhood and the obligations of parenthood have undergone a revolution in the second half of the twentieth century. the magnitude of this revolution becomes apparent when one compares a typical childhood of the 1950s with a typical childhood of the 1990s.

In the 1950s, divorce was uncommon, and those who divorced were often subjected to a low-grade form of ostracism. It was widely agreed that children were harmed by a divorce and therefore that parents who got divorced were engaged in selfish behavior: They were putting their own desires ahead of the needs of their children. To avoid divorce, parents went to great lengths. in particular, they were willing to stay in a loveless marriage “for the sake of the children.”

And if divorce was bad, having a child out of wedlock was essentially unthinkable. If you got pregnant (or got someone pregnant) out of wedlock, the only way to make amends was to get married, and even then, you would have done your best to keep the circumstances of your “shotgun wedding” a secret. To get pregnant before getting married was, after all, a shameful act, evidence that you were willing to put fulfillment of your own sexual desires ahead of the interests of any children you might create.

When a married couple had children, one parent—almost invariably the mother—typically stopped working in order to be a full-time caretaker for their children. Doing this involved a significant financial sacrifice, but one that most couples made unhesitatingly. After all, the prevailing view was that raising a child properly was a full-time job and that no one was bettersuited to perform that job than the child's mother. and if the couple sacrificed money when the mother stayed home, the mother sacrificed even more, inasmuch as her departure from the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.