chapter  3
20 Pages

Children

It makes sense to begin our investigation of social relationships by examining the relationship between children and their parents, the first relationship each of us encounters. This is a peculiarly intimate relationship, and the intuition that parents owe their children critically important duties is ‘fundamental’, ‘unassailable’, 1 and for one writer so obvious as to resist explanation. 2 The relationship-duties nexus is as vivid here as anywhere. Powerful though most parents’ emotional attachment to their children is, however, that does not by itself explain the nature, grounds or limits of those duties, nor does it prevent some parents from setting back their children’s interests even as they regard themselves as fulfilling their duties. Further, the fact that parents are typically strongly attached to their children amplifies, rather than resolves, the problems involved in identifying who the custodial parents of a child should be in cases where this is in dispute. In this Chapter I set out to do three things. First, while surveying competing views on what it is that makes someone a parent, I point out that these views are relatively uninformative when it comes to determining the nature of parenting duties. Elucidating the latter involves considering the parent-child relationship itself, and that is the second task of the chapter. I make use of the idea of intimacy articulated by Brighouse and Swift and argue that this helps ground the duties which parents owe their children. 3 A further valuable aspect of the relationship between parents and their children I call family experiences. Together, intimacy and family experiences are the distinctive goods of family life and are hence at the core of a nonreductionist account of parental duties. Finally, I consider the extent to which parents are permitted to raise their children according to their own moral, ethical and religious views at the cost of that child’s prospective autonomy. This is an internal respect issue in the parent-child relationship, and internal respect is an important dimension of the moral challenge to associative duties. I argue that parents have no right to raise children according to their own comprehensive doctrines, 4 their sets of ideals and values in life-and urge instead the exchange of reasons between parents and children where those doctrines or other important

interests of children are at stake. I enlarge on that view in the final section of the chapter where I connect it to children’s interest in autonomy, as well as to the relationship goods of intimacy and family experiences.