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Andrea Harner
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November 27, 2007

Status: Struggling with support from psychological sources for parental rights advocacy paper

I've found one study showing that generally speaking foster care is worse than a child remaining with their abusive parents (sigh, the world can be depressing) which is good for my paper but other than that, I am left with legal and philosophical support only. I mean, how can psychological studies support the idea that parents should be able to deny their children medical treatment or a public school education?

Why did I choose this topic again??



just thought of something i would run by you. i'm betting that there has been a lot (or at least some) work on the psychological effects of being a teenage mother. with that in mind it might be interesting to look at states that require parental consent for minors to have abortions or, more generally, parents denying abortions to their children.

Posted by: Eric Buth at November 27, 2007 11:24 AM

I think Eric is on to something, assuming his point is that if parents were involved and making the decisions for their teenage daughters, the teenage mother would abort it instead of have it. The notable psychological surveys will most likely be when there is a negative or abnormal psychological effect, right? And I think your assertion is that a negative/abnormal effect should not occur where parents are making the decisions affecting their children's lives until the age of majority. So perhaps your point is proven by lack of effect? (A tough position to take on a term paper, I know.) Or perhaps your point is proven by the converse - lack of parental involvement = negative psychological effect. I'm wondering if there are studies showing the positive psychological effects of parental hyper-involvement: curfews, chaperoned parties, etc. Also, I don't really know which way this would go but "stage parents" could be another model to consider - parents who push their kids (and make the decisions for them) in entertainment. Good luck!

Posted by: smallstatic at November 27, 2007 2:33 PM

wait, are you trying to show that parental interference is a good thing? my example was intended to show the opposite.

Posted by: Eric Buth at November 27, 2007 7:50 PM

yeah... so you *chose* this topic? the reason i say that is i think most psychologists (developmental ones, or at least the developmental psychologists I work with) believe that parents DON"T always know best. they're just human, too. so in extreme cases a cooler, objective head must prevail. this is not to say you won't find any support at all, but it's hard to find psychology studies that find parentally-absolute decisions as "better" because, well... they don't tend to be. as far as i know.

also compounding your difficulties- most psychologists who do research are academics, and most academics are liberal. the parental rights argument is typically associated with libertarians (at best- conservatives at worst) so you'll be hard pressed to find a good, objective study from a population that doesn't lean that way.

good luck!!

Posted by: koleen at November 27, 2007 9:23 PM

One of the recent cases in the courts that you might be interested in--is around special needs and educating kids...
it went like this--a parent decides that the DOE placement of their kid does not FIT with his needs...the parent sues the DOE and places their child in another school which is private and then asks the DOE to compensate them for the financial burden of paying for their kids private education bec the DOE demanded that the child be educated in a public school...the parent won the right to educate their child as they see fit!!---power to the parent--
in some cases--the parent knows how best their kid can learn--not some administrators at the board trying to save a buck...
let me know if you want more info on this case..it was just settled to the parents favor!

Posted by: beth Rosenberg at November 27, 2007 11:25 PM

have you ever seen Jesus Camp? I don't really have a fully formed idea of where to take this, but I'm sure there are some psychological studies of parents forcing religion down the throats of their youngsters. Maybe the kids t Jesus Camp end up being super law-abiding citizens or something? Don't know :)

Posted by: shaya at November 28, 2007 1:34 AM

So...just a couple of practical considerations.

1) What do we do if we remove parental rights? If courts or agencies would have to decide all situations involving children, where would that leave us; in a lot of difficulty, and overwhelmed i would think. Everytime the state assumes authority over a child, there are costs and consequences which occur, some of them long term and extremely costly, monetarily, and psychologically for the child and parents too. It is hard to put those pieces back together.

There is an unstated assumption that parents have responsibility for the well being of their children, (in the credos of the law too i think), and parental responsibility is always the default position unless overridden. Removal of this responsibility, authority cannot be taken lightly.

2) Usually not mentioned, but what child would want to be removed from their parents? (Very few do want this, even in extremis situations; perhaps there is an unconscious self-preservation response happening here.)

3) What about the effect of well-intentioned mental health laws for instance that "free" the child from parental authority to make decisions for the wellbeing of the child as young as 14, despite the fact that many of the children affected by this are in a mental health crisis and for all practical purposes unable to make sound decisions (and even the state won't make them for the child, unless it can be shown clearly that the child is a danger to himself or others).

(You'll find there is alot of case study and case law around the mental health and capacity issues. Plus alot of actual cases where the child has been seriously harmed or has harmed others, directly resulting from the circumstance that the parents had no authority to help the child make safe/sound decisions due to the age restriction).

The arguments probably aren't all either/or, but rather WHEN parental authority, responsibility should be/needs to be restricted in the interest of (and immediate safety) of the child. (Restrictive view of law and bureau action).

Posted by: D. at November 28, 2007 9:58 PM
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