Parental Responsibility

Last updated: March 9, 2017

Should parents be held morally and legally responsible for the actions/needs of their children?

Parental Responsibility
Yes because...

Legal requirements for parental action, particularly those that include sanctions for non-action pro...

Legal requirements for parental action, particularly those that include sanctions for non-action provide an incentive for parents to act in a responsible fashion. If parents believe they will be held liable for their inaction, or the inappropriate actions of their children, they are more likely to make sure their children are supervised and well cared for.
No because...
The causes at the core of juvenile delinquency, abusive families, and child neglect are not necessarily the kind of problems that can be solved by the leverage of criminal or civil sanctions. In instances where parents are absent or neglectful, deep social problems are often the cause. Problems such as alcoholism, poverty, poor education, poor health care, and family histories of abuse can lock a family into a cycle of problems that continue to perpetuate behaviours others might view as irresponsible. There is a danger that the proposed sanctions will make families trapped in such problems afraid to seek help from social services for fear of punishment.

Parental Responsibility
Yes because...

Minor children should not be held legally accountable for their actions, nor should they be obligate...

Minor children should not be held legally accountable for their actions, nor should they be obligated to provide for themselves until they have reached the age of majority. Governments have established laws drawing distinctions between adults and juveniles for a reason. These governments believe that juveniles make mistakes and are not necessarily prepared to be fully responsible for their actions. Parents, and the community at large have a responsibility to raise children to act appropriately in society. If society, or more specifically, parents fail in the task it is not reasonable for the children to suffer sole responsibility for these acts.
No because...
While generally true, there are instances where the influence of parents over a child’s life is probably not realistic. Some children run away from home or forcibly separate themselves from their parents on their own accord. On occasion, juveniles commit crimes so heinous, and so unexpected, that no reasonable person would think that the parents were ultimately responsible. There are also significant differences between cultures as to what age constitutes 'adulthood'. While many western countries consider an 18-year-old an adult, other cultures see the onset of adulthood as being much earlier. The arrival of adulthood can also be regarded as a continuum of increasing responsibility, as in many countries the age of majority varies, with differing ages set for leaving school, having sex, getting married without parental permission, joining the armed forces, driving, drinking, voting and standing for public office. Thus, multinational or global accords on parental responsibility or children’s rights are potentially problematic.

Parental Responsibility
Yes because...

Laws that enshrine parental responsibility improve family life. As parents are encouraged to take r...

Laws that enshrine parental responsibility improve family life. As parents are encouraged to take responsibility for their children, and such responsibility becomes a cultural norm, families will develop closer bonds, marriages will become stronger, and the problems of broken families will decrease.
No because...
This argument stems from two flawed assumptions: first, that parents from separated or divorced families cannot act responsibly, and second, that doing 'the right thing', necessarily equates with positive family values. A parent may play a very active role in the lives of their children, yet still have a horrible marriage or be mentally or physically abusive to the children. A parent who is not married to a child’s other parent may still play an active and valuable role in the life of the child they conceived, even if they do not live in the same home.

Parental Responsibility
Yes because...

Parental responsibility laws help to compel parents who are delinquent in their support for a child ...

Parental responsibility laws help to compel parents who are delinquent in their support for a child to become involved - at least on a financial level. This can also discourage irresponsible men from indulging in promiscuous and reckless sexual behaviour, fathering a number of children by different mothers.
No because...
Decades of legal experience in countries that order child support from separated or divorced parents have demonstrated that parents who want to sever ties (financial or otherwise) can do so, either by defaulting on payments or hiding from the law. These laws may even have a reverse effect by fostering resentment toward the child or other parent on the part of the parent compelled to provide support. Child support orders may also harm any subsequent children an estranged parent may have by impoverishing a second family in favour of the first.

Parental Responsibility
Yes because...

Children are less likely to engage in acts of delinquency if they feel that their parents are likely...

Children are less likely to engage in acts of delinquency if they feel that their parents are likely to be held legally responsible for their actions.
No because...
Children prone to engage in acts of serious juvenile delinquency are rarely interested in the feelings of or effects on parents. In fact, the worst juvenile delinquents are probably more likely to act out if they believe, first, that the action will result in harm to parents they seek to rebel against, and second, that their parents will be held responsible in place of them.


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