"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
(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
"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
(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
"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
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.