Should Parenting Require a License

Parenting skills range from excellent all the way to nonexistent. Do you think people with low parenting skills have the right to have children? This has been an issue for years. Many people argue that in order to have children one should require a parenting license. Others say that it’s in-just to require a license for something that is “our right”. There are many different ethical theories such as utilitarianism that would say you should require a license to parent, but an alternative perspective much like ethical relativist say having children is up to one’s own ethical standards.

You cannot end a life. Depending on your beliefs, this is free to a bit of leeway. Abortion, euthanasia, or what have you. Murder is very clearly a big no, and manslaughter is a mixed bag, usually left at the discretion of a judge and/or jury. Whether it is to protect yourself or others, accidentally or deliberately, knowingly or otherwise, ending life is not allowed. In the cases where it is, war, policing, etc. , the ending of a life is fraught with psychological and emotional problems.

So if ending life is such a big deal, why is starting it treated so liberally? A person can never pick who they want their parents to be, so why should they have to suffer the consequences of individuals who may not even want to spend an entire evening together, never mind a lifetime? Due to biological development, our bodies often mature faster than our minds. Hence, our society is faced with what is casually referred to as “unwanted pregnancies”. How awful to think that an nnocent child who enters this world through the choices of “parents”, are not wanted and viewed as a burden. However, by implementing a parenting license procedure we could do our best to make sure that no child is left unwanted, neglected or abused. “Utilitarianism argues that, given a set of choices, the act we should choose is that which produces the best results for the greatest number affected by that choice. (Mosser, 2010)” Utilitarianism would very well support the parent license when you look at all the positive facts. It’s more or less moral reasoning.

Hugh Lafollette argues that in order to drive a car, be a doctor, practice law, and psychiatry they have satisfied certain licensing requirements (1980). So why shouldn’t one have a license to be a parent. Lafollette also argues that “any activity that is potentially harmful to others and requires certain demonstrated competence for its safe performance is subject to regulation” (1980). And a parent must be competent if he is to avoid harming his children. You have to be competent to drive a car, so why not be competent to raise children. Parenting is an activity potentially very harmful to children. The harm is apparent; children are neglected and abused, not given love, respect, or a sense of self-worth” (Lafollette, 1980). Children who are abused are more likely to abuse their own children, and never be well-adjusted, happy adults (Lafollette, 1980). The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral, and societal consequences. In reality, however, it is impossible to separate them completely.

Physical consequences, such as damage to a child’s growing brain, can have psychological implications such as cognitive delays or emotional difficulties (Westman, 2001). Psychological problems often manifest as high-risk behaviors. Depression or anxiety, for example, may make a person more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, drugs, or even over eat (Westman, 2001). High-risk behaviors in turn, can lead to long-term physical health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, and obesity (Westman, 2001).

Here are some statistics of reported child abuse and neglect that would help support the utilitarianism argument. In 2009 approximately 3. 3 million child abuse reports and allegations were made involving an estimated 6 million children (Childhelp, 2011). Almost five children die every day as a result of child abuse. 80% of those children are under the age of four. 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse (Childhelp, 2011). If that’s not enough to convince you let’s take a look at criminal behavior. 4 % of all men and 36% of all women in prison were abused as children (Childhelp, 2011). Or how about that 59 % of children who experience child abuse and neglect are more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30 % more likely to commit violent crimes (Childhelp, 2011). An estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2007 is $104 billion (Childhelp, 2011). If the statics don’t put you on the utilitarian side, then let’s look at some other facts.

When you choose to have a child a lot of us think how will parenting impact me? But shouldn’t the bigger question be how will my parenting will impact my child? Young children are vulnerable before their parents, and as parents we are to provide for the child’s physical well-being, education, and moral development (Cassidy, 2006). The vulnerability of young children on their parents is heightened when we remind ourselves that children’s dependency makes them unable to seek alternatives to their parents if the children did perceive such a need (Cassidy, 2006).

So the concern for the future welfare of children should override the desire to parent. An alternative perspective on parent licensing is through the eyes of a relativist. “Relativism is the idea that one’s beliefs and values are understood in terms of one’s society, culture, or even one’s own individual values” (Mosser, 2010). Relativist would say that I believe that it is our right to have children, but you are right to license parents if your culture sees fit. With a relativist you would simply agree to disagree, much like the many people opposed to allowing parent licensing.

Some say that licensing is unacceptable since people have a right to have children, just as they have rights to free speech and free religious expression. Some people would say that by having children the state gives you advantages over people without children. These advantages include tax breaks, though pressures such as that are more symbolic than substantive as pressure; also the fact that the acceptance and availability of abortion has been steadily undermined. In addition federal sex education classes have been cut and abstinence-only programs are in place (Cassidy, 2006).

Another pressure of having children is all of the social and religious peer pressure (Cassidy, 2006). “In some cultures women having children is the only way to become a real woman, a fulfilled person, a true adult, or a valued citizen” (Cassidy, 2006). Another argument people have with licensing parents is who decides who is a competent parent or not? People administering the process have the authority to disqualify people they dislike, or people who espouse views they dislike from rearing children (Lafollette, 1980).

We just don’t have the knowledge to know who will abuse their children, and without that knowledge not only would licensing be unjust but also a waste of time. Others also argue that agreeing to a parent license is allowing the government into our bedrooms. How would the government implement the program without invading our privacy? Parent licensing is something that I was always very controversial about until I was reading the pros and cons for this paper. Now I am for the license, and there are several people that agree with me. An ongoing poll done by the Freakonomics. om “Should Being a Parent Require a License” so far states that 59% of people say it’s a “good idea, but no way to feasibly implement it”, opposed to only 6% of people saying “Terrible idea, shame on you for proposing it. ” 59% of people are for the program if they could find a way to properly distribute the licenses. That’s more than half the people that took this poll. New parents are rarely ever knowledgeable enough to raise a child in the world we know today. It is a learning experience that takes much deliberation and attention, but there are people, institutions, and information that can help.

The requirement of a potential parent to utilize these resources regularly throughout the child’s years would be more than beneficial to society and the economy. Current and post parents should be required to take educational classes on productive parenting and the ill effects of neglect and abuse, As well as ensuring the home that they will be raising their child in is suitable. One might ask what condition a suitable home entails. However simply put, it is a safe environment clear of danger to a child’s health or well-being. This would greatly increase living quality for children.

Through mass media we hear the horror stories of how mothers leave their babies in dumpsters to die, babies born drug or alcohol addicted, parents who “forget” about their children and bake them to death in cars, “fathers” who murder their pregnant “partner” because they don’t want to pay child support, or people who leave their children home alone and unsupervised because they wanted to pursue their own wants – drugs, alcohol, gambling, whatever. As the general public, our reaction is horror and disgust – wringing our hands wondering, “how could this happen? These activities need to cease. It should be the role of the public to take a more active stance so that these egregious events do not happen. By creating a licensing procedure, parents would be required to demonstrate a level of competency which would require them to examine whether or not they are truly ready to accept the challenges, responsibilities and rewards of being a full time parent. It would require conscious forethought be given to finances, education, and values BEFORE a couple conceives and realizes that they are not a match.

Similarly, when a couple takes their wedding vows, what is said is more than just words. Lifetime promises are made to one another that are to be upheld – therefore the statement, “for better or for worse”. The potential for a change in thought in which the vocation of parenting would become more highly regarded would be of value to all in society. More time should be dedicated to considering, evaluating, planning and educating families considering children, rather than just focusing on conceiving them.

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