Childism

Confronting Prejudice Against Children

Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

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September 17, 2013
368 pages, 5 5/8 x 8 7/8
ISBN: 9780300192407
Paper

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Read an interview with Elisabeth Young-Bruehl on the Yale Press Log

A seminal volume on prejudice against children for parents, teachers, psychologists, social workers, policy-makers—anyone concerned with the crucial subject of child welfare.

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.

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.

"This brilliant, provocative book . . . exposes American society’s prejudice against its children—'childism'—and the harm it causes them. . . . A clarion call for urgent action."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"[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

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

"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

“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

"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

“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

 “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

“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

"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

"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

"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, Slowlovelife.com

"In this brilliant, provocative book, award-winning author and psychoanalyst Young-Bruehl exposes American society’s prejudice against its children—'childism'—and the harm it causes them. . . . A clarion call for urgent action."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"E. Young-Bruehl’s book "Childism" (sadly, published posthumously after her death in 2011) is pioneering work in fighting prejudice and demystifying realities of childhood." Rasa Baločkaitė, Springer.