Parental Rights (cont.)

I’m reaching the end of my mid-month guest stint here at and before I sign off, I want to respond to some of the comments made in my last post about the video of the father shooting his daughter’s computer — in particular, comments about my concluding remark, “I have no doubt that if a husband shot a .45 into a wife’s laptop, it would be considered an act of domestic violence.”   Some disagreed.  But I spent a year as a Joint Bunting Institute/Children’s Hospital Fellow in Domestic Violence back in the 1990’s, and in training materials and other work by advocates, destruction of  property is almost always included in the definitions of domestic violence.  See the National Coalition on Domestic Violence (  and  the Department of Justice (  Destruction of property is among the acts defined as domestic violence in many states – see, e.g.,California and Colorado ( “Domestic violence also includes “any other crime against a person or against property, or any  municipal ordinance violation against a person or against property when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.” (Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-6-800.3(1))).  Domestic violence offenders can also be charged with criminal destruction of property or criminal mischief.  There has been considerable discussion about whether destruction of property can be charged where the offender is a co-owner of the property, but New York, e.g., recently amended the law to ensure that criminal mischief could be charged even in such cases.

What I was driving at in the remark concerns the general  subject of the post:  parental  rights.   It is assumed  that physical (and other) forms of violence can be inflicted on children  because parents have a right to do so, a right that at its core includes a kind  of property claim:  This child belongs to me.  Parental rights advocates most loudly assert their rights against the state, but the  right of the parent is also of course a right against the child.  This includes the right – and this was the  focus of my post on recent research on physical punishment – to commit battery against children that would not be tolerated against adults or against  strangers.   The argument that it is  “logically flawed” to compare a husband’s relationship to a wife to a father’s relationship to a child begs the question of what the scope of parental rights should be.  (And it should be remembered  that it was not so long ago that women were considered property of their  husbands as well and that husbands had “rights” against their wives very different from what they are thought to have – the marital rape exception was eliminated very recently).

It’s been a pleasure blogging here at CoOp.  Thanks to Sarah Waldeck and the rest of the group for having me.




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