Developmental Psychology I Debate The topic: Licensing for parents The question: Should being a parent require a license? The problem:
The evidence of bad parenting is hard to miss Much child abuse; over 3.5 million cases each year Many parents have limited control over their own lives, they have limited commitment to
child rearing, and they have little knowledge of effective child-rearing
High positive correlation between out-of-wedlock births and violent crimes
Cycles of abuse and violence between parents and children
The possibility: (Jack Westman, child psychiatrist and professor at the University of Wisconsin Medical School; and David Lykken, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota; both have written books, Licensing Parents: Can We Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect?, and The American Crime Factory, respectively)
People who want children should meet certain criteria for licenses
Parents would have to be at least 18 years of age
Parents would have to make a written commitment to rearing a child in a signed
document similar to an application for a marriage license
Parenting classes would be required before the birth of a child
Only married couples would be licensed Parents would have to be self-supporting
No one who is actively psychotic would be licensed
Children of parents who fail to meet these requirements would be placed in foster care
and ultimately put up for adoption, pending the termination of parental rights
Parents could appeal the process If children were born to unlicensed parents, the state would intervene immediately.
Licenses would be checked in hospital maternity wards Repeat offenders might be required to submit to an implant of birth control such as
Norplant (a chemical contraceptive) as a way to keep from having another baby for five years
Students are randomly divided into two groups
Perspective 1 – Being a parent should require a license
Perspective 2 – Being a parent should not require a license
Groups are given 10 minutes to prepare their argument
Group 1 presents their perspective in 3 minutes
Group 2 presents their perspective in 3 minutes
Group 1 presents their rebuttal in 2 minutes
Group 2 presents their rebuttal in 2 minutes
Typical responses by students to each perspective include the following:
Perspective 1: Being a parent should require a license
1. We need permits to do nearly everything else - to fish, to hunt, to drive, to marry. Isn’t
the raising of children more important than these things?
2. Crime (especially violent crime) will be cut by weeding out minimally competent
3. People may feel sorry for the parents, but aren’t the innocent and helpless children to be
4. Parenthood is earned. Parenthood is not a biological right. 5. The child is not the possession of his/her parents. Parenthood is a responsibility, an
6. This is not racially based, since most of the parents who neglect and abuse their children
7. This is not classist, since half of the children who are neglected and abused do not receive
8. As a society, we’re not reacting appropriately to the 3.5 million children a year who are
9. In the long run, licensing parents would save the nation billions of dollars, since we
wouldn’t need all of the governmental services which are brought to bear because of incompetent parenting.
10. This is one way to break the cycle of abuse. 11. Imagine a world in which every child was being reared by biological parents who were
mature, grown up, self-supporting, and not crazy or criminal. That’s what could happen if we implement this plan.
12. The cost of incompetent parenting under a worst-case scenario amounts to a total
monetary loss to society of $1,975,475. This includes a child born to an incompetent single parent in a welfare family, who grows into a habitual criminal and spends 40 years of his/her life incarcerated. Payments include AFDC, social services, arrests, court costs, probation services, correctional facilities, juvenile facilities, jail detention, prison, loss in federal income taxes, and loss to national economy.
Perspective 2: Being a parent should not require a license
1. This proposal is simply too radical, too totalitarian, too extreme. 2. This proposal is sexist, racist, classist.
3. This is representative of Big Brother intrusion by government into the most sacred of all
institutions, the family. This is frightfully intrusive.
4. This is another cold-hearted attempt to punish the victim 5. This evokes images of babies being torn from the arms of crying mothers. 6. Enforcement of this would be impractical. 7. Setting standards for the parents would be impossible and politically hopeless. 8. How would one know who is going to be an incompetent parent? Even the scientific
community probably doesn’t know enough about what makes a good parent in order to make that kind of a judgment.
9. This is a case of blaming the victim. Our real investment needs to go with strengthening
the family and providing them with resources for staying intact.
10. Regulating parenthood goes against a basic concept of our democratic society, which is:
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