Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Integrating the Rights of the Child with the Responsibility of the Parent

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Integrating the Rights of the Child with the Responsibility of the Parent

Article excerpt


In reviewing the text from The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the responsibilities, rights and duties of the parent are mentioned in several places, notably in Articles 5, 12 and 18. Article 5 of the treaty addresses the rights and responsibilities of the parent as the child matures. The United States' objection to that seems to be that the rights of the parent are subjective to the rights of the treaty. Article 18 could be interpreted as parent's rights being subject to government control. These issues were negated by Kilbourne, as she redefined the articles not as threats of government taking over the family, but as guidelines to avoid parental neglect and abuse (Kilbourne, 1998).

In Article 12, the rights of the child to express himself freely were addressed. LuckerBabel, in her rebuttal, pointed out that any article, taken out of context, does not reflect the total intent of the treaty (Lucker-Babel, 1995).

Nowhere did I find a place defining the responsibilities of a child up to the age of 18. If we, in the United States, consider a person of age 17 to be responsible enough to marry (in certain states), bear arms, and leave formal education, where are their responsibilities that correspond to those rights?

In this paper, we will look at the family as a system, placing the child within the context of a family. We will appreciate the biological, psychological, social and cultural events that impact on the family and the individual, and offer suggestions on how and when to integrate the rights and responsibilities of both parent and child.

Family Systems

Prior to the 18t century, in literature and art, little was portrayed of a family as a private entity. In art, families were often portrayed as part of a larger community group, and children's facial expressions and dress were often that of their elders (Aries, 1962).

In the early days of the United States, John Demos described the place of children as ordinary, not unique, subject to obeying their parents. He described parental responsibility as that of providing a child's basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. The family was a businessthe goal, to survive. The children, as they grew older, were a means to that survival either as farm hands or store keepers. The industrialization of America placed children in a precarious position of factory work or worse, subject to poverty and starvation (Demos, 2000).

John Bell of Clark University and John Sutherland of the Tavistock Clinic in England were among the first to promote ideas of the family system (Sutherland, 1952). The family began to be formally acknowledged as a system by Alfred Adler as he explored the effects of family on an individual's mental health in the early 1900's (Adler, 1986). The connection between schizophrenia and family interaction began with Harry Stack Sullivan (Sullivan, 1953) and Murray Bowen, a child psychiatrist and early family therapist, in the 1950's (Bowen, 1960). In his research with clients with schizophrenia, Bowen noted that clients did well while in the hospital, and often resumed their psychiatric symptoms when returned home. His research included moving whole families into the hospital to educate them on how to handle clients successfully and in this way, family treatment evolved. Since that time, the family as a system has been approached in many ways and family therapy is successful in treating both families and individuals.

A family system has some unique characteristics. It has boundaries that may be open or closed, is amenable to morphostasis or morphogenesis, and sensitive to culture, ethnicity and developmental stages (Broderick, 1995). Each person within that system has a place and a purpose. In order to survive, that system has to have some sense of order, a hierarchy that tells who is in charge, who is welcome and who must be kept outside. Each generation sets the pace for future generations with habits, legacies and developmental markers (Anderson & Sabatelli, 2011). …

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