What are parents for?

“Whose child is she anyway?” was the headline screaming from the
cover of the Daily Mail above the story of 14-year-old
Michelle Smith who had an abortion without her mother’s
knowledge. Children and young people are not property, and parents
do not have ownership rights over them. But there is an irony in
this case which Maureen Smith, Michelle’s mother, was quick
to point out. While young teenagers can seek and get confidential
sexual advice services, and treatment, with no requirement for
doctors or other health staff to include their parents in the
discussion, parents can be prosecuted if these same children skip
school. Parents have now also been squarely blamed by a head
teachers’ leader for everything from obesity to youth

But parental responsibility surely has to cut both ways – either
teenagers are to be recognised as people capable of taking
responsibility for their own decisions, or parents should be
included when far-reaching issues such as pregnancy are being
discussed. The suspicion here is that the government would prefer
pregnant teenagers to get their advice and support from
professionals than from their parents. In many cases, this may be
in the young person’s best interests, but the government
should not be surprised that parents feel confused about what is
expected of them.

It has been reported that the Children Bill is to be amended to
acknowledge and even define the role of parents. This will be a
controversial and delicate task, but at least should stimulate a
much needed debate about what a parent’s job really is.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.