Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Why are children considered deserving of protections that other weak or powerless individuals do not get?

Asked by wundayatta (58525points) August 13th, 2011

We give children a fair number of protections that other weak or naive people don’t get. Why?

Children have an age of consent below which they are not considered to have the power to make informed consent. You can’t have sex with anyone under the age of 16 or 18 in the US without running the danger of being accused of statutory rape. Children who commit crimes are treated differently and more leniently.

They don’t know what they are doing. Yet there are others in society who don’t know what they are doing and we don’t protect them. There are people starting businesses and they get eaten alive by larger, more established predatory businesses. We don’t protect them.

People don’t know how to handle their finances and they get so far into debt they have to declare bankruptcy to get out. These people didn’t know the impact of payday loans. They don’t even know how to calculate interest. Why don’t we protect them in a more serious way?

We don’t protect people with mental disabilities if they are over the age of 18. There are so many different issues where we protect children. We have Children’s Protective Services. But we don’t protect other naive or incompetent people in this country. What is so magic about the age of 18 that you get tossed in the ocean to sink or swim at that age?

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13 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

We do have protections in place. Every state has an Adult Protective Services division and that people are allowed to file bankruptcy rather than be held totally responsible for their debts is a form of protecting people from their mistakes. There are protections in place for people with mental and cognitive disabilities. We attempt to legislate against predatory lending like payday loans. There are any number of laws on the books designed to protect people from themselves. Adults with a certain degree of cognitive functioning are allowed to make mistakes but they are supposed to learn from them. If they don’t we can only protect them so far and so much and then they are on their own.

creative1's avatar

@wundayatta As a parent of a child with mental disablities I am seeing what you are say and agree that they should have more protections. My daughters biological mother is often taken advantage of because she is also mentally delayed and I wish it were illegal and there were more that could be done t protect this poor 21 year old girl that when speaking to her its like talking to a young child. Knowing that she lives with a sex offender who probably is only with her because she is child like really steams me and I wish it were illegal for sex offenders to take advantage like that.

lillycoyote's avatar

@creative1 Can you talk to your daughter’s bio mom about hooking up with an adult protective services case worker? Would she be responsive to that?

jca's avatar

People who get into bad contracts, bad investments, etc., are self directing, so they are able to and allowed to make their own decisions. If someone is self directing and willingly gets into a bad deal, that’s their choice and their fault for not researching the options more carefully. Adults who are mentally challenged, elderly with dementia, or others are not self directing, and thus, not legally able to make decisions for themselves.

creative1's avatar

@lillycoyote I have tried so hard to get her help because I think she needs it but I think the outside influences are against me getting the help she needs. Its really sad because there is only so much I can do on my own to get her help.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

A fair amount of what the question’s details speak to is a lack of education on laws, as well as basic survival skills, including long-term planning. There has to be a point drawn where a line is crossed from protecting those that are not capable of protecting themselves and holding one accountable for their actions. If the government and other rule-makers were to look at each individual scenario, that line would always be a constantly moving target.

It might be better to take a look at the educational curriculum of children and see if there is any opportunity for improvement. In my public school system, math was taught every year, yet I don’t recall any discussion about personal finances, even during a high school economics class. Our government class in our last year taught us how to do our own tax forms, and that was valuable.

As for mentally disabled adults, I don’t know much about this. My SIL, who is not from the US, but has her citizenship here, has an adult daughter who lives on her own, but is in a program where she receives work and support. With that in mind, they must exist, and it is a matter of utilizing them.

lillycoyote's avatar

@creative1 I do understand, and @wundayatta I tossed off my answer pretty quickly and maybe it was a little too glib but when my brother was first diagnosed with schizophrenia it was quite an education and it was so painful and frustrating to try to slog your way through the mental health system and the social services system only to find that the laws are very strict and very clear and that it is very difficult, incredibly difficult to get help for an adult, someone of who is of age, unless they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and that standard, “a danger to themselves or others,” well, the bar is set very high on that one. It’s just kind of a slippery slope when you start regulating the daily activities of adults, where to you draw the line. As far as as my brother is concerned I would have liked the law to find a more reasonable balance between his right to control his own life, to make his own choices, shape his own destiny and his right to be healthy, his right not to be insane if there’s a way around it.

blueiiznh's avatar

They do get protection.
Americans with Disabilities Act


@wundayatta What is it you are looking for?

Cruiser's avatar

The human brain is not fully developed until 19 years of age. So give or take a year and I guess they settled on 18 as a reasonable point in time that a person should have all the smarts they need to be a functional member of society and no longer need the protections a youngin should be afforded.

Hibernate's avatar

“People don’t know how to handle their finances and they get so far into debt they have to declare bankruptcy to get out. These people didn’t know the impact of payday loans. They don’t even know how to calculate interest. Why don’t we protect them in a more serious way?”

A children will never be allowed to make that sort of mistake. If someone is that much of an idiot start a business and doesn’t know how to take care of it it’s his business. [not to mention when he goes to ask for the loan he guarantees the lone with something else like a car, his house etc. He should think twice before doing anything]. After that if he doesn’t know how to manage those money it;s his fault again because he lacks the skills or he doesn’t want to hire competent people.
Well there are those cases where people who know how to take care of things are crashing out in bankrupcy but these cases are rare and they usually start somewhere.

On the other hand kids need the protection to be able to develop in time and not rushed. There are cases where kids get their maturity test long before others [dying parents, neglected by parents etc]. Anyway they need a safe environment or else they won’t be able to handle life after.

linguaphile's avatar

@blueiiznh The ADA does not cover many areas. It only provides for reasonable access and services, and the definition of ‘reasonable’ varies based on how much it might cost the corporate. It also says that corporates don’t have to assume responsibility if it is an undue hardship to their business—how many corporates do you think use that loophole?

Adult Services usually only works with people who are in severe, severe need—if someone is able to function minimally in society, Adult Services rarely gets involved. Again, the definition of ‘minimally’ varies.

Our society puts so much meaning, weight, and value into children and fight for their protection. Parents have unbelievable amount of power in the education system, even though they usually know nil about education. They’re entrusting their children to the system. Look at “No Child Left Behind,” it tugs at the heartstrings. How much more ‘awwww’ can you get? Our society sees children as our future and our potential—all the connotations are extremely loaded—so anything with children will be hyped up.

Adults, pshaw, what for?

wundayatta's avatar

@linguaphile (and all) Why do you think our society puts so much meaning, weight and value into children?

And why is it that this feeling of protectiveness stops at a somewhat random point? @Cruiser mentions the issue of brain development. So this suggests that as long as a person is at a disadvantage in terms of mental development, society should offer them additional protections. But as soon as they hit some random age, all that protection drops away and we assume they are fully able to manage their own lives without help.

This is a relatively recent notion, historically, I believe. I’m not sure when child labor laws were implemented, nor when universal public education was implemented, but I’m guessing it was some time in the early 20th century that these things started happening.

In other countries, there are no protections like these. In third world countries, ten year-olds fight in the army. Six year-olds are caring for themselves. The notion of what childhood means is very different from what it means in developed countries. Is this just because they can’t afford to give their children childhoods, or is there some fundamentally different notion of what it means to be a child?

@blueiiznh I think I’m trying to figure out what the criteria are for deciding who is incompetent to care for themselves, so they need extra protection. There is an assumption by most people, I believe, that of course children are to be protected. It doesn’t even bear thinking about. This assumption has enormous significance, I think. For one thing, the notion of children’s rights is spreading, a bit, to other unprotected creatures such as pets. I think there are some people who believe pets should have even more rights.

Another issue is this idea that children of an age where they are sexually mature deserve protection against older people who, it is presumed, want to take advantage of them sexually. Where did this idea come from and why do people believe it? In some countries, nobody thinks a thing of marrying a thirteen year-old girl to some older guy. Here, it’s a crime.

It seems to me that in the West, we have a notion of fairness that suggests some people need to be protected because it is too easy to take advantage of them. However, it can’t be this principle, because that principle certainly isn’t applied in other areas of life mostly because the people are older than 18. @Hibernate suggests that if they are older than 18, they should know better. If they get cheated or ripped off, it’s their own fault. Yet a year before, they were protected. Why?

What are the principles that these laws are based on? Or are there no principles? Perhaps it is a kind of knee-jerk sentimentality brought about by those big eyes that we instinctively want to protect and nurture. At some point, the young lose the traits that make us want to protect them and we are stupid enough to try to codify that into a one-size-fits-all law.

That point, I think, is different in different cultures. Why? How do we account for that? Why do some nations and peoples extend these protections to dogs, while other peoples eat dogs?

I ask this because on some questions people clearly have very strong, righteous notions of right and wrong with regard to children and pets. I don’t understand if there is any logical reason for this, or if it is purely emotional. If it is emotional, how do we explain that emotion? What survival value can there be in giving dogs rights to life and whatever? Why is that something society should care about instead of individuals?

Similarly, with rights for children—why is that something society should care about instead of individuals? Why do we think children should have a certain minimum level of care, so if their parents don’t provide that care, society can step in and take the children and make sure they get that care elsewhere?

I can think of reasons, but my problem is that the principles seem to be applied very unevenly. I think that if we protect children because they are incompetent, then we should protect others who are incompetent. What is the reasoning that lets us arrive in a place where children are protected, but many of those who are as incompetent as children are not protected?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Cruiser Actually, the human brain isn’t done developing till 25, give or take a year. The 18 year old mark wasn’t exactly created based on the latest medical science has to offer us ;)

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