Moral Landscapes

Living the life that is good for one to live

Are You a “Childist?"

Is prejudice against children universal?

Are you a childist? Elisabeth Young-Bruehl says that the USA is anti-child. 

It’s child abuse prevention month. But the focus has been primarily on preventing physical abuse, a focus that is too narrow according to Elisabeth Young-Bruehl in her new book, Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children. She points out that most children who are traumatized suffer from neglect; others are also emotionally abused and some are also sexually abused. Most traumatized children suffer from multiple forms of abuse. And it all stems from childism.

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl is a scholar of prejudice. Prejudice forms against a “target group…one whose members share characteristics and conditions that those prejudiced against them seize on and distort for their own purposes” (p. 19). Prejudice defends one group against another, charging that the other group is “not us.”

Those in the discriminated group need to be controlled or dominated by the privileged group (whether men over women, Christians over Jews, heterosexuals over homosexuals). The subordinate group becomes a scapegoat for problems of the dominant group that are not examined for their real roots or causes.

What makes childism fit into one of the prejudices of our time? “The natural dependency of children has been one of the key reasons for the prejudice against them not being recognized as such or its being so easily rationalized” (p. 55). Childism is a prejudice that represents adult immaturity—the capture of adults by their own childhood trauma.

Prejudice against children may be the most widespread of prejudices (likely the one from which all others spring).

In the USA, the anti-child trend began in the early 1970s and has escalated ever since. Vance Packard noted in his 1983 book, Our Endangered Children, that the USA had gone backwards on respect and support for children after a improvements post-WWII. See the film, the War on Kids, for some current stark examples of childism.

In the next post, see the questions and results of a poll (now closed) I put together based on Young-Bruehl's theory. It also discusses the types of maltreatment that many children face, according to Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.

Related posts:

Babies are needy--does that bug you?

Do we need a Declaration for the Rights of the Baby?

Darcia Narvaez is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Executive Editor of the Journal of Moral Education.


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