With growing awareness about child psychology and understanding the harm bad parenting can do for a child, some academics propose introducing parenting licensing as a way to prevent child abuse and neglect. While there are some reasonable arguments in support of this idea, a closer look reveals that introducing parenting licenses bears higher costs than benefits and limits personal freedom.
Firstly, establishing even a minimum requirement to what good parents should be like opens the door for further restrictions and additions to such requirements. In the original offer of such a measure, LaFollette proposed to set a very low bar for receiving which would disqualify only those who are very likely to maltreat a child (2010). However, legalizing this minimal requirement increases the risk of more restrictions being added to it in the future, potentially leading to a very selective procedure of issuing a license.
Secondly, the potential benefits of preventing abuse and neglect of children are outweighed by the expected costs of implementing such a program. Thus, Pusic points to the fact that among all the families that would have to undergo license screening, only 2-4% would be disqualified as potentially abusive (2016). This means that the rest 96-98% of families will have to undergo the stressful procedure just to be able to exercise their right to procreate.
Thirdly, introducing parenting license means letting the state to control yet another aspect of private life (Marabito, 2014). Allowing the government to exercise control over family-planning opens the road for stiffer normative regulations over the autonomy or people’s personal lives and freedom.
Drawing conclusions, introducing parenting license appears to be a costly endeavor that bears real risks of increasing governmental control and thus limiting of personal freedom. While the offer to limit potentially abusive people’s rights to have children may seem reasonable, it is important to remember that legalizing a low selection criteria opens the way for bringing about more limits in the future.
- LaFollette, H. (2010). Licensing Parents Revisited. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 27(4), 327-343.
- Marabito, S. (2014, September 10). Licensing Parents: A Statist Idea and Libertarian Drag. Retrieved from http://thefederalist.com/2014/09/10/licensing-parents-a-statist-idea-in-libertarian-drag/
- Pusic, B. (2016). A Non-Ethical Argument Against Parental Licensing. Pro-Fil, 17(1), 2-