Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children

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Yale University Press, Jan 10, 2012 - Social Science - 320 pages
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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 his "Nichomachean Ethics."" In "Childism, " 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, "Childism" draws 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.

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Q. Are you aware that Elisabeth died in 2011? A. Yes, I saw it on the Internet. She was only 65 and I am a year younger than her. When I first started reading the book, I saw her picture on the book jacket and saw a person in good health, but she died of a coronary embolism. So did my sister, who was only 58 when she died. Embolisms could be genetic. Q. So what about the book? A. I found it confusing. Elisabeth knew a lot about the field of Child Abuse and Neglect and presented a short history of the field. I was hoping, by childism, she would offer more like what she calls the radical children rights people, but she was more conservative than that. Q. What were you hoping she would advocate? A. Like a bill of rights for children, maybe segmented by age. It would include voting rights and the right to work instead of going to school, or just to be truant, if the child chose. Q. Yes, that is too radical. So did Elisabeth present case studies? A. Yes, with the permission of her clients, of course. But these clients were able to afford her fees and lived in the metropolitan New York area. Most of them were highly educated. They were not a representative sample for the population as a whole, I do not think. Q. So would that invalidate her conclusions, the lack of a larger sample? A. Some readers might think so. As for myself, a baby boomer like many of the abusive parents Elisabeth describes (and like herself), I found her case studies odd and hard to believe. I know she was writing the truth of what she found, but in my little world, the things that happened to these men and women, her clients, seem very alien to me. Q. Maybe you are in denial? A. Yes, maybe. Still, I am glad these abuses did not occur in my family. I was spanked, but never hit elsewhere and never after about 4 years. I did not hit or even spank my children, though my wife did. Q. Yes, you are in denial. Can you pay for a shrink? A. No, sorry. Any free services around?  


IntroductionWhats in a Word?
CHAPTER ONEAnatomy of a Prejudice
CHAPTER TWOThree Forms of ChildismAnnas Story
CHAPTER THREEChild Abuse and NeglectA Study in Confusion
CHAPTER FOURThe Politicizationof Child Abuse
CHAPTER FIVEMass Hysteria and ChildSexual Abuse
CHAPTER SIXForms of Childismin Families
CHAPTER SEVENEducation and theEnd of Childism
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About the author (2012)

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (1946-2011) was a psychoanalyst and the award-winning author of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, Anna Freud: A Biography, and Why Arendt Matters. She lived in Toronto.

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