Elisabeth Young-Bruehl
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by:
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking volume on the human rights of children, acclaimed analyst, political theorist, and biographer Elisabeth Young-Bruehl argues that prejudice exists against children as a group and that it is comparable to racism, sexism, and homophobia. This prejudice-"childism"-legitimates and rationalizes a broad continuum of acts that are not "in the best interests of children," including the often violent extreme of child abuse and neglect. According to Young-Bruehl, reform is possible only if we acknowledge this prejudice in its basic forms and address the motives and cultural forces that drive it, rather than dwell on the various categories of abuse and punishment.

    "There will always be individuals and societies that turn on their children," writes Young-Bruehl, "breaking the natural order Aristotle described two and a half millennia ago in hisNichomachean Ethics." InChildism,Young-Bruehl focuses especially on the ways in which Americans have departed from the child-supportive trends of the Great Society and of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Many years in the making,Childismdraws upon a wide range of sources, from the literary and philosophical to the legal and psychoanalytic. Woven into this extraordinary volume are case studies that illuminate the profound importance of listening to the victims who have so much to tell us about the visible and invisible ways in which childism is expressed.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17850-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction: What’s in a Word?
    (pp. 1-17)

    There will always be individuals and societies that turn against their children, breaking the natural order Aristotle described two and half millennia ago in hisNicomachean Ethics(8.11.2): “The parent gives the child the greatest gifts, its existence, but also cherishment and education [kai trophes kai paideias]; … and because the child receives, it owes the parent honor and helpfulness.” People as individuals and in societies mistreat children in order to fulfill certain needs through them, to project internal conflicts and self-hatreds outward, or to assert themselves when they feel their authority has been questioned. But regardless of their individual motivations,...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Anatomy of a Prejudice
    (pp. 18-58)

    It seems a very simple matter intellectually to distinguish between acts that harm children or fail to meet their basic needs and the attitudes, ideas, or prejudices that rationalize such acts. Yet child-advocacy groups, Children’s Studies, and the field of Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) alike focus almost exclusively on the harmful actions, ignoring the even more harmful attitudes. Similarly, the lessons learned from studies of other victim groups that have helped analyze previously unacknowledged victim groups (as the racism model helped researchers understand sexism) have not been applied to children; the scientific field where these studies are gathered—today...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Three Forms of Childism: Anna’s Story
    (pp. 59-97)

    In 2001, a beautiful young woman in her late twenties, sexy in her tight blouse and long, flowing skirt, came into my consulting room, looked around as though she were in a museum, and asked me where she should sit. I gestured toward the chair opposite mine. She sat there but fixed her gaze on my couch. “This is where your patients lie?”

    “If they want to,” I answered her.

    “I have no idea whether I want to,” she said pensively.

    Anna took a deep breath and looked right at me, steadily, composed. “That is my problem. I want to...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Child Abuse and Neglect: A Study in Confusion
    (pp. 98-139)

    In anna’s home—in anna’s hell—the adults who abused her shared a childist belief that she, the one young child in the household, was theirs to do with as they pleased. They felt no responsibility to cherish and educate her, or to put her needs first. As a child, she was at their service to satisfy their needs and desires. But they had individual needs and desires, and Anna had to work hard to figure out what those needs were. And as she carefully studied her abusers she internalized both their shared prejudice that children are servants of adults...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Politicization of Child Abuse
    (pp. 140-194)

    By the end of the 1970s, with the defeat of the progressive Comprehensive Child Development Act and the field of Child Abuse and Neglect in disarray, the damage being done to the nation’s children was becoming evident to many Americans. Money to fund Child Protective Services was minimal. The child poverty rate was rising year by year, and the nation was declining on international measures of child well-being in almost every area. Daycare was scarce and often of poor quality—unless you could afford a nanny or send your child to a private program. The nation’s divorce rate was rising,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Mass Hysteria and Child Sexual Abuse
    (pp. 195-228)

    In the 1980s, child sexual abuse study did move forward, despite its complexities and the ruptures these produced inside the field of Child Abuse and Neglect, as well as between CAN researchers and feminist theorists and later among criminologists. The American public became more aware of the problem thanks to the efforts of the researchers and advocates who contributed to the study, but they also became more confused. At the same time, a situation was brewing that would soon erupt in mass hysteria and turn that halting, confusing progress back on itself. No comparable phenomenon had arisen to affect research...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Forms of Childism in Families
    (pp. 229-265)

    Most patients who have been victims of childism reveal the form or forms of the prejudice they have suffered at the beginning of treatment. If the patient has suffered more than one form, as Anna did, he or she can describe only a composite in the opening sessions, and a good deal of psychotherapeutic work is needed to reveal the full complexity of the prejudice. In Prejudice Studies, the comparable phenomenon might be, for example, the experience of an African American female who was unwanted because she was homosexual. She knows that she is a victim of racism, sexism, and...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Education and the End of Childism
    (pp. 266-298)

    Throughout this book, i have been arguing that there will always be people and societies that act against the principle Aristotle articulated in hisNicomachean Ethics:“The parent gives the child the greatest gifts, its existence, but also cherishment and education; … and because the child receives, it owes the parent honor and helpfulness.” Adults who do relate to children according to the natural principle, provisioning them for healthy growth and development, protecting them, preparing them for participation in family and community life, will never be able completely to change those who behave immaturely and harmfully toward children. But they...

  11. Bibliographic Essay
    (pp. 299-336)
  12. Index
    (pp. 337-353)