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Children's Rights and Moral Parenting

Mark C. Vopat

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Children’s Rights and Moral Parenting offers systematic treatment of a variety of issues involving the intersection of the rights of children and the moral responsibility of parents. Mark C. Vopat offers a theory of the relationship between children, parents, and the state that can be applied to the real life decisions that parents are often in the position to make on behalf of their children. In many instances, our current view of parental "rights" has granted parents far more discretion than is morally warranted. Vopat arrives at this conclusion by carefully considering the unique status children have; socially, legally, and morally in most western societies.

Children's Rights and Moral Parenting is essentially contractualist in the Rawlsian tradition. While it may appear counterintuitive to speak of children in terms of the social contract tradition, there is much this approach can do to provide some conceptual clarity to the nature of the relationship between children, parents and the state. The overarching theme of the book is the moral independence of children from extreme forms of parental and, at times, social control. The objective of the book is to provide an argument for extending the range of things owed to children, as well as making the case for fully including children in the moral community.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 190Size: 6 x 9 1/8
978-0-7391-8387-8 • Hardback • February 2015 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-4985-1237-4 • Paperback • March 2017 • $42.99 • (£29.95)
978-0-7391-8388-5 • eBook • February 2015 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
Mark C. Vopat teaches philosophy at Youngstown State University.
1Children and Childhood
2Rawlsian Foundations
3A Contractarian Approach to Children’s Rights
4Parental Rights
5Religion and Education
6Freedom of Expression and School Uniforms
7Innate Talent, Magnet Schools, and Justice
8Parent Licensing
9A Global Perspective on Children’s Rights
10Children and Sexuality
One need not agree with Vopat's Rawlsian perspective to appreciate his distinction between parental rights and parental privileges, or his thoughtful discussion of particular moral issues connected to children's interests. His analysis of matters both philosophical and empirical raised by mandatory school uniforms and sexual education is a particularly welcome addition to these debates.
Amy Mullin, University of Toronto Mississauga


In recent years, more philosophers are finally turning their attention to the moral dimensions of the family. Mark Vopat offers an interesting contractarian perspective on the obligations of parents, the rights of children, and the role of the state regarding family life. The implications of his view for relatively neglected issues in practical family ethics will be of particular interest to scholars and practitioners working on moral and legal issues related to the family.
Michael W. Austin, Eastern Kentucky University


Vopat's book is a clearly written, groundbreaking work on children's rights. The first half of the book offers a compelling Rawlsian inspired contractarian approach to children's rights. Through the lens of his contractarian approach, which beautifully weaves together considerations of children, parents, and the state, Vopat argues that parents lack a right to parent per se and that instead they have a responsibility to their children. The turn from parental rights to parental responsibility will be a provocative thesis to some and an inquisitive one to all. It is instead, children, that have rights within Vopat's framework of the parent child relationship. The second half of Vopat's book puts his theory to work by examining a number of applied cases concerning: parental licensing, education generally and as it applies to religion and sexuality, and mandatory school uniforms. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a clear, robust, enjoyable, and thought-provoking account of children's rights.
Eric Roark, Millikin University


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