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Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children Hardcover – January 10, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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
(Publishers Weekly)

"[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
(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
(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
(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
(Carol Gilligan)

"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
(Diane Ravitch)

“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
(T. Berry Brazelton)

 “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
(Dr. Rudy Crew)

“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
(Ken Corbett)

"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
(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
(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
(Dominique Browning Slowlovelife.com)

From the Author

Why are you proposing that we need the word and concept “childism”?
The history of the word “sexism,” coined in 1965, shows how important it was to put under the same conceptual umbrella different acts, attitudes, and institutions that targeted women as a group. If you understand that domestic violence against women and wage discrimination against women are similarly rationalized or legitimated by a prejudice—sexism—you can develop ways to explore the prejudice and resist it. Without a synthesizing concept, you do not see that child poverty and child abuse are both rooted in and rationalized by prejudice against children.

Does prejudice against children—childism—operate like sexism?
All prejudices are rationalizations of actions. Prejudiced people think that their actions against a target group are right, necessary, normal. But not all prejudices are alike, nor are all prejudiced people alike—there is no “prejudiced personality.” In this book I argue that there are three basic forms of prejudices. Basically, people want to get rid of the members of a group; manipulate them into being servants; or erase their identities. The forms are usually to some degree intermixed, but sexism is fundamentally of the third form. Childism, on the other hand, comes in all three forms. This is one reason why it has been so hard to pinpoint.

Childism focuses in many different ways on “child abuse and neglect”—why is that?
First, abused and neglected children come, as children or as adults, into therapy situations where they can feel safe enough to tell their stories and talk about how they understand their abusers. Understanding their abusers’ motivations is crucial to them; they take a listener right to the topic and to how they have internalized the abusers’ motivations. They need to be cured of their internalizations as much as they need to be helped with external conditions that disrupt their growth and development. But—and this is the second reason—the field of Child Abuse and Neglect was, from its inception in the 1960s, set up in such a way, I believe, that it could not hear the experiences of abused and neglected children. It was focused on the types of acts they suffered—physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse—and children were classified by these types of acts. Treatment and prevention strategies are organized around these types of acts to this day. This has been very harmful for children. It matters how you think about children! Just as it matters how you raise them, and sponsor their growth and development—or fail to.

You are Anna Freud’s biographer—is this is an Anna Freudian book?
I use many of Anna Freud’s key insights, particularly those she came to when she directed a children’s residential nursery in London during the Blitz. The children she cared for were traumatized, and they had a good deal to say about what they experienced. The Best Interests of the Child, the book Anna Freud wrote late in her long life, with two colleagues from the Yale Child Study Center, was designed to teach lawyers and judges how to listen to children in the course of trials—custody trials, abuse trials. Clearly, she was writing about childism, how to recognize it and how to prevent it. I take her wisdom as a model. But I am writing for all who are concerned with children’s well-being—in diverse professions, in policy-making positions, but also as parents.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300173113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300173116
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jesse Kornbluth on April 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Childism" --- what is that? "A belief system that constructs its target group, 'the child,' as an immature being, produced and owned by adults who use it to serve their own needs and fantasies."

In essence, it's that children are property. Puppets of adults. We do with them what we want.

And what we want for children --- not you and I, maybe, but certainly America as a nation and a culture --- could not be uglier.

-- In 1977, the Supreme Court upheld corporal punishment in school. With that, Young-Buehl writes, "Schools that had been developed in the 19th century on the model of a factory were encouraged to follow a new model: the military academy or the military prison."

-- Only two countries have not ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which child imprisonment is forbidden --- Somalia and the United States.

-- America incarcerates more of its children than any country in the world; half a million American children are currently in juvenile detention centers.

-- Each year 800,000 American children spend some time in foster care.

-- More children are reported for child abuse and neglect in the United States than for all the other industrialized countries combined.

-- And abuse isn't just physical violence or neglect, says Young-Bruehl. It's also over-parenting, so that the child has no authentic self. (If you've read The Drama of the Gifted Child, you know all about that.). Like the Tiger Mom: "a full-scale obsessional-narcissistic program."

How did it happen that a nation that was once a leader in protecting children now is more interested in keeping dysfunctional families together --- even when that generally produces more abuse?
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Format: Hardcover
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl writes a commanding book which accounts for bias against children in social, political and psychological terms. It profoundly refoundations understanding of the motivations of which most of us are entirely unaware underlying the treatment of children everywhere from home to school, from daycare to welfare, from psychologist's work to policy making. The book is very readable, deeply informed by the author's long experience as a philosopher AND psychotherapist. This is a book to read with your peers (and form discussion groups!) to help everyone understand that children are in development, and that our obligation to them is to provide support for that development, not to satisfy our own demands and wants. Childism is a book that will make a more generous human being out of every reader.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Young-Bruehl's book speaks an enormous truth that is difficult to swallow. If you are a person who likes to face reality, please give this book some of your time. The first chapter is hard to bear, but if you persevere you will see that the author intentionally does not sugar-coat her stories. In order to build a world that is better for children, we have to take a cold, hard look at what we do to so many of them (and what we ignore/turn away from seeing). We have to face the ways that we devalue children, which results in a society full of broken citizens (we pay far more to incarcerate a child than educate or heal one, for example).

I, too, am a clinical psychologist, and like Dr. Young-Breuhl (who was a political scientist and a psychoanalyst), I spend my days trying to fix the people who were broken as children.

Please read this book, and encourage others to do so. And then follow it with "The Children's Bill of Emotional Rights" by Eileen Johnson to see how we can avoid the trap of Childism altogether!
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Anyone who works in the professional world of child care should read this book. In my opinion, it should be on a text book listen in universities in course work for early childhood, education, human relations, counseling and psychology.Many questions are answered as Ms. Young-Bruehl examines our view of children and the voice that women must have to protect them.
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