Childism: Confronting Prejudice against Children

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In this groundbreaking volume on the human rights of children, acclaimed analyst, political theorist, and biographer Elisabeth Young-Bruehl argues that prejudice exists against children as a group and that it is comparable to racism, sexism, and homophobia. This prejudice—“childism”—legitimates and rationalizes a broad continuum of acts that are not “in the best interests of children,” including the often violent extreme of child abuse and neglect. According to Young-Bruehl, reform is possible only if we acknowledge this prejudice in its basic forms and address the motives and cultural forces that drive it, rather than dwell on the various categories of abuse and punishment.

“There will always be individuals and societies that turn on their children," writes Young-Bruehl, “breaking the natural order Aristotle described two and a half millennia ago in his Nichomachean Ethics." In Childism, Young-Bruehl focuses especially on the ways in which Americans have departed from the child-supportive trends of the Great Society and of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Many years in the making, Childism draws upon a wide range of sources, from the literary and philosophical to the legal and psychoanalytic. Woven into this extraordinary volume are case studies that illuminate the profound importance of listening to the victims who have so much to tell us about the visible and invisible ways in which childism is expressed.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post - Steven Mintz

"[Childism] concludes with a clarion call for programs of parent education and abuse prevention, for expanded parenting support services, and for closer attention to children’s voices. . . Among the book’s key insights is that many behaviors that we don’t think of as abuse are in fact abusive because they place parental needs above children’s developmental needs."—Steven Mintz, Washington Post
Chronicle of Higher Education - Peter Monaghan

"More than a study of child abuse, [Childism] excavates the psychological foundations of destructive attitudes toward children."—Peter Monaghan, Chronicle of Higher Education
Huffington Post Blog - Jesse Kornbluth

"Shattering. . . You'll need an open mind and a willingness to consider that, for many of us, parenting is about the parents, not the kids. . . . Provocative."—Jesse Kornbluth, Huffington Post Blog
Carol Gilligan
“By giving a name to the prejudice against children, Young-Bruehl makes it possible for us to see what is right before our eyes. It’s not easy to speak about this prejudice—it comes too close to home—and yet Young-Bruehl does so in a way that is engaging, intelligent, humane, and enlightening. Read this book, and then give it to your partner, your friends, your representatives. This is something we can change.”—Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice
Diane Ravitch

"Childism is an alarming analysis of the policies and behaviors that are so harmful to our children. Young-Bruehl's deeply humane insights should be required reading for policymakers and parents."—Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System
T. Berry Brazelton

“What a brilliant testimony as to why children’s issues have taken so long to become of importance. Everyone who wants to change this, and I hope all professionals who are involved with families and children do, should read this work.”--T. Berry Brazelton, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus Harvard Medical School, and Founder, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Children’s Hospital Boston
Dr. Rudy Crew

 “Elisabeth Young-Bruehl offers a profound and useful means by which educators, policymakers and parents can get a handle on the absence of strategy in the debate over the efficacy of public education. Childism calls for us to be more conscious in how children are treated, more thoughtful about how they are taught, and more courageous in how we lead the national discussion.”—Dr. Rudy Crew, professor, University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, and former chancellor of New York City public schools
Ken Corbett

“I am often struck by how children are not treated as people, not accorded equal status as humans, neglected, underestimated, and overlooked. And how that childism goes un-thought. It is a social, historical, and psychological phenomenon that is desperately in need of redress. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's timely and insightful Childism is a crucial step towards this goal.”—Ken Corbett, author of Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities
Child in Mind - Claudia M. Gold

"This book has helped me, like nothing else I've read, to understand why it is so hard to get the kind of help for children that all the best science of our time is telling us they need. I hope everyone reads it. As Young-Breuhl states, 'prejudice has to be recognized in order to be overcome.'"—Claudia M. Gold, Child in Mind
Buffalo News - Michael D. Langan

"A road map for according our children their basic human rights. . . This is a terrific book, scholarly and persuasive, able to help as a guide."—Michael D. Langan, Buffalo News - Dominique Browning

"Childism is a significant achievement towards an understanding of the ways in which we, as a society, do not act in the best interests of our children."—Dominique Browning,
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300173116
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,540,063
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (1946-2011) was a psychoanalyst and the award-winning author of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, Anna Freud: A Biography, and Why Arendt Matters. She lived in Toronto.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: What's in a Word? 1

Chapter 1 Anatomy of a Prejudice 18

Chapter 2 Three Forms of Childism: Anna's Story 59

Chapter 3 Child Abuse and Neglect: A Study in Confusion 98

Chapter 4 The Politicization of Child Abuse 140

Chapter 5 Mass Hysteria and Child Sexual Abuse 195

Chapter 6 Forms of Childism in Families 229

Chapter 7 Education and the End of Childism 266

Bibliographic Essay 299

Index 337

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