Should Parenting Require a License?
SOC120: Introduction to Ethics & Social Responsibility
Instructor: Russell Tompkins
September 12, 2011
Should Parenting Require a License?
Raising a child is probably the most important thing a person will ever do in life. Yet we constantly hear stories of child abuse and neglect. What makes a good parent? Is it the money you earn? How about fancy schools? In liberal societies many people decide whether or not they wish to become parents. One of the key questions in making this decision is, what kind of parent will I be? Parenting skills range from excellent all the way to nonexistent. Do you think people with low parenting skills have the right to have children? This has been an issue for years. Many people argue that in order to have children one should require a parenting license. Others say that it’s in-just to require a license for something that is “our right”. There are many different ethical theories such as utilitarianism that would say you should require a license to parent, but an alternative perspective much like ethical relativist say having children is up to one's own ethical standards.
You cannot end a life. Depending on your beliefs, this is free to a bit of leeway. Abortion, euthanasia, or what have you. Murder is very clearly a big no, and manslaughter is a mixed bag, usually left at the discretion of a judge and/or jury. Whether it is to protect yourself or others, accidentally or deliberately, knowingly or otherwise, ending life is not allowed. In the cases where it is, war, policing, etc., the ending of a life is fraught with psychological and emotional problems. So if ending life is such a big deal, why is starting it treated so liberally? A person can never pick who they want their parents to be, so why should they have to suffer the consequences of individuals who may not even want to spend an entire evening together, never mind a lifetime? Due to biological development, our bodies often mature faster than our minds. Hence, our society is faced with what is casually referred to as “unwanted pregnancies”. How awful to think that an innocent child who enters this world through the choices of “parents”, are not wanted and viewed as a burden. However, by implementing a parenting license procedure we could do our best to make sure that no child is left unwanted, neglected or abused. “Utilitarianism argues that, given a set of choices, the act we should choose is that which produces the best results for the greatest number affected by that choice. (Mosser, 2010)” Utilitarianism would very well support the parent license when you look at all the positive facts. It’s more or less moral reasoning. Hugh Lafollette argues that in order to drive a car, be a doctor, practice law, and psychiatry they have satisfied certain licensing requirements (1980). So why shouldn’t one have a license to be a parent. Lafollette also argues that “any activity that is potentially harmful to others and requires certain demonstrated competence for its safe performance is subject to regulation” (1980). And a parent must be competent if he is to avoid harming his children. You have to be competent to drive a car, so why not be competent to raise children. “Parenting is an activity potentially very harmful to children. The harm is apparent; children are neglected and abused, not given love, respect, or a sense of self-worth” (Lafollette, 1980). Children who are abused are more likely to abuse their own children, and never be well-adjusted, happy adults (Lafollette, 1980). The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral, and societal consequences. In reality, however, it is impossible to separate them completely. Physical consequences, such as damage to a child's growing brain, can have psychological implications such as cognitive delays or emotional difficulties (Westman, 2001)....
References: Bernard G. Prusak. (2010). What are parents for?:
Reproductive ethics after the nonidentity problem
Cassidy, L. (2006). That many of us should not parent. Hypatia, 21(4), 40-57. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hypatia/v021/21.4cassidy.html
Lafollette, Hugh (1980)
pp. 182-97Retrieved 9/5/2011, 2011,
Mosser, K. (2010). Introduction to ethics and social responsibility. San Diego, Bridgepoint
National child abuse statistics | childhelp Retrieved 9/5/2011, 2011,
Westman, Jack. (2001) Licensing Parents: Can We Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect.
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