Blogs > Liberty and Power > Legitimate prerogative or child abuse?

Jan 30, 2006 10:32 am

Legitimate prerogative or child abuse?

I found something disturbing about the parents' lack of concern for their own children in this story in Sunday's NYT Magazine. Is this a parent's legitimate prerogative or is it in some way child abuse? Discuss. (I'm not trolling; I'm seriously interested in reading different people's take on this. Please RTFA before commenting though.)

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Sudha Shenoy - 1/31/2006

1. Is there a perfect way to raise children?

2. Presumably these parents have the option of sending their children to boarding school in Nairobi. They've chosen not to.

3. Lots of children grow up in similar isolated circumstances, & have done so in the past. Most have had ordinary adult lives; some have not. Would these last have done better 'at home?' Is there any way of answering that question?

4. Immense numbers of children who grow up in happy families & happy circumstances, nevertheless go far off the rails in adulthood. ???? Would they have done better in circumstances of isolation? Can there be an answer?

5. Everywhere, at all times, there have been parents who have been totally absorbed in themselves & their own concerns. Most of the children concerned have turned out well; some haven't. ??? Can there be a general rule?

Roderick T. Long - 1/30/2006

The only child abuse I could detect in the article was by the Samburo toward their daughters, but not by the missionaries. If it's child abuse for an American couple to move their children to Kenya, is it also child abuse for a Kenyan couple to keep their children in Kenya rather than moving them to America?

Stephen W Carson - 1/30/2006

I read this article with great interest. As a PK (Preacher's Kid) I am often grouped with MKs (Missionary Kids) in terms of the unusual nature of our upbringing. My own assessment is that our upbringing is not categorically better or worse than other children but I would say that it tends to be, shall we say, heightened.

For example, I had my taste of cross-cultural experiences due to our church's mission to one of the most violent areas of St. Louis's inner city. For some years when I was young this ministry met at my family's house. Later one young man from the inner city lived with us for several years due to trouble at home, (becoming a sort of foster brother who we stay in touch with to this day). As an adult I worked with a class of inner city kids for 10 years. All of this gave me experiences far different from my suburban neighbors.

Though there were challenges to my upbringing and though there are certainly regrets we all have for how we could have functioned better as a family (aren't there always?) my overall feeling about my childhood is quite positive, (except for the gov't school bit that I mentioned). My parents had radical commitments and they lived them out in a way that we children largely experienced as fun, unusual and fascinating. My own regrets have largely to do with the ways that I went along with the worst parts of typical suburban behavior... Especially the many tragically lost hours to TV.

I don't know what to think of the article. My MSM paranoia leads me to wonder whether a similar article about the family of an archeologist or anthropologist in a remote area would be handled similarly. Is the article intimating that taking American children and having them grow up in remote areas of the world is fundamentally bad? Is it intimating that it is only bad when missionaries do it? I don't know.

Stephen W Carson - 1/30/2006

No. It is not child abuse. These children, at least as far as the article reveals, are not physically or sexually abused. They are not being deprived of food, housing, education or any other basic need.

The article highlights social, emotional and cultural challenges. Compared to the terror and physical abuse I experienced in gov't schools growing up in their situation sounds like heaven.