Fear of Children

The British charity Barnardo's, released a poll indicating that a substantial number of British adults fear children and characterize their behavior as animal-like.

Martin Narey, the charity's chief executive, said: "It is appalling that words like 'animal', 'feral' and 'vermin' are used daily in reference to children. These are not references to a small minority of children, but represent the public view of all children.

As historical examples of the use of animalistic language an imagery to describe the poor, non-white races, enslaved peoples, women, and other marginalized groups shows, describing any group of human beings in non-human terms is a powerful rhetorical weapon that encourages bigotry and denial of basic human rights. This is an incredibly blatant example of prejudice against some of the most vulnerable members of our world community. And I don't believe these sentiments are particular to the British alone. Hatred, neglect, and fear of children is equally common in the United States, despite all of the political talk about "family values."

Thanks to Hanna for the link.


  1. Very interesting, and very sad.

    Watch it, though - I think you've just made yourself a pro-life argument. Foetus? Blob of cells? Parasite?

  2. Hi Bridget,

    Glad you found the link interesting.

    I'm not worried that I've made an anti-choice argument; you and I have had long conversations about why I believe pro-choice political values are not antithetical to caring for children. In fact, I believe the two are inseparable. No human being should be treated as less than human -- including pregnant women.

  3. Someone obviously needs to re-read Lord of the Flies.

    On a more prosaic level, I'd argue that people's feral, shrieking little carpet apes — oh, excuse me, Precious Darling Children — are a great argument for doing as many errands online as possible.

  4. Ditto b.g. and "Lord of the Flies."

    Remember, 45% said people "refer to children as feral because they behave that way", not because they felt like assigning a random adjective.

    The big difference between "marginalising" children and actual minority groups such as women, POC, LGBT people, etc is that (1) children cross every racial and gender boundary and we all start as one. They are not a minority. (2) Children grow up and stop being children. In addition, with a little attention and training from this invention called a "parent" their behavior can also be modified to resemble a sentient, thinking creature instead of a feral animal.

    Don't make the mistake of thinking that children are marginalised just because 45% of adults don't like them. There is a huge difference between voting an adult citizen's rights away because you don't like how they have consensual sex (to use recent history as an example) and expecting someone to adhere to common social courtesies such as not throwing a tantrum in a restaurant or not running in a screaming horde through a shopping mall.

  5. I have responded specifically to b.g.'s post here.

    Keori, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, although I disagree with you that children are not marginalized. Women are not technically a minority either and yet they are still marginalized. The fact that children grow out of childhood into adulthood does not mean we are excused from treating them as human beings when they are still small.

  6. Great post! Maybe you'd like to check out my Mommy Wars Bingo

    One of the squares is the commonly expressed expectation by childless adults that parents should be able to completely control their children (i.e. make them unheard and invisible) in any childless adult's presence.

    I have had problems with adult and child behavior in public. I worked in retail and restaurants for years, and I would say the complaints fall pretty equally in both camps.

    I think any blanket name calling and stereotypical insults of entire group behavior can usually be deconstructed to show a lot of bias and not a lot of thought. And, very little humor.

  7. Oh, and I think pro-choice / pro-child is very easy to pull off.

    I think children are sacred, wonderful beings. They should be wanted and desired by their parent(s) and/or caregivers. They are not punishments for sexual activity, perceived irresponsibility, and should never, ever be forced on anyone.

  8. I came over from feministe and while I do think the terms used to describe children are horrid, I am not going agree that children deserve the same rights as adults-that's the point of laws like age of consent, and why we don't allow anyone under 18 to sign legal contracts(I'm writing from the U.S.) Children are not full members of our society. They do grow out of it-which is one thing pointed out here. and Hilary-I've never heard anyone say adults should prevent tantrums so much as remove the child when they occur. I do agree, this same rule should go for adults as well. I've never had nearly as much backlash when telling people to control a loud problematic adult-e.g. asking people to take their drunk friend home-as I have when asking parents to do the same with children. It's behavior, not the age that's the issue.

  9. I think children are sacred, wonderful beings. They should be wanted and desired by their parent(s) and/or caregivers. They are not punishments for sexual activity, perceived irresponsibility, and should never, ever be forced on anyone.

    There's a lot of straw men there. Leftover Halloween decorations? Pro-lifers actually don't happen to think any of those things.

    I am always amazed to find that the pro-choice argument is often a series of ad hominem attacks - misogynist, religiously motivated, a punishment for sex (as if we walk around with turkey basters impregnating those who have sex), etc - all the while failing to address the question of the humanity of the unborn.

    Anna's statement about the fear of children and their dehumanisation is one that is applied equally well to the unborn. Terms like "foetus" or "sea monkey" or the like are routinely used by the pro-choice camp to remove human dignity from the child in the womb. Oddly enough, we all started off that way, much as we were all once children, which makes the dehumanisation even more puzzling.

    No human being should be treated as less than human -- including pregnant women.

    There is nothing inherent about the pro-life movement that would ever require a pregnant woman to be treated like anything less than a human being, much as there is nothing about murder laws which require treating Siamese twins any differently than the non-conjoined.

  10. Sorry to post on a stale thread, but someone clicked through this to my blog, and I checked out where the link was going, and found it again.

    Bridget, my post was not full of straw men. The alternative to pro-choice is forced pregnancy. (Or, forcing women to have illegal, dangerous abortions).

    In fact, simply reducing access to birth control and abortion in a country where both are legal makes women more likely to have later term procedures, which are riskier, more expensive, and make it harder even for pro choice people like myself to rationalize that the fetus is a blob of cells. It's not, it is an organized pregnancy with a fetus in second trimester abortions, which are incredibly rare but increase as anti choice efforts are more successful.

    So, to decrease procedures on fetuses who resemble living children more because of their gestational age, and to prevent forced full term pregnancy on unwilling women, we should improve access to birth control, emergency contraception, and early first trimester abortion.

    Is that specific, non ad hominem, and non straw man enough?