Re: Child abuse (Was Re: Is the death penalty Extropian?)

Charlie Stross (
Wed, 2 Dec 1998 12:52:06 +0000

On Mon, Nov 30, 1998 at 05:11:01PM -0800, Zenarchy wrote:
> >
> >> How to deal with it?
> >>
> >> a) Compulsory psychological screening and parenting tests for
> >> everyone who wants children
> >
> >(Fine, so people who want children are screened by some sort of agency
> >that gives bureaucrats power over their personal life. "Want to have
> >children? Great! If you can't satisfy me that you're sane, sensible, and
> >will bring them up appropriately, you can't have a license. By the way,
> >do you intend to bring them up as good, honest, god- fearing Christians?")
> Departments of Motor Vehicles issue licenses based on testing. They don't
> ask about religiosity. A Department of Family Planning could offer
> certificates of training for prospective parents as a way for them to
> demonstrate that they truly have the best interests of their children at
> heart.

Testing _what_?

Look, it is ridiculously easy to create a child. The really irresponsible types will ignore your bureau completely and just spawn anyway. What is the department going to do afterwards -- mandate a post-natal abortion? Take the child away and foster it out? Meanwhile, you're adding more bureaucratic nonsense that only the responsible citizens are going to have to deal with, and adding another small pork barrel/campaigning point for fundies and religious whackos to target.

> If psycho parents tortured their kids in complete secrecy, it would not
> become a social problem. The trouble begins when the community has to deal
> with the psychological wrecks that dysfunctional parents produce. So I say,
> leave families alone until an actual crime, violent or otherwise, comes to
> light. Then either punish unfit parents along with their miscreant
> offspring, or put into the public record that this family suffers from a
> condition demonstrably damaging to the community.

This is -- in theory -- being tried in the UK. Unfortunately, holding parents responsible for the actions of their children (a) violates a natural principle of law (punishing someone for another person's acts is Bad), and (b) gives you the problem of determining the extent to which the criminal behaviour was caused by the parental abuse or was something the kid would have done anyway. ("It's not my fault! My parents made me do it!" Yeah, right.)

> >I'd rather see the problem prevented before it occurs, or a fix applied
> >such that it is less likely to recur. Can you show me any studies
> >suggesting that flogging and hard labour reduce recidivism in paedophiles
> >more efficiently than psychiatric counseling and probation?
> Or how about extending the Megan Law (which requires offenders to register
> and notify neighbors) to include all violent offenders and their parents.

Cue lynch mobs.

They're trying this one with sex offenders in the UK. It turns out that the non-dangerous types (eighteen-year-old lads caught necking in a public lavatory) are registering (and opening themselves up for having bricks put through their windows at night) while the potentially dangerous ones are disappearing.

It doesn't seem to be very workable.

Yours in pessimism,