Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Albany Law Review

Publication Date

1997

Abstract

This Article examines, in three parts, the transformation of childhood, and the law's complicated, rarely satisfying, often contradictory responses. In Part I, the Article describes a set of fundamental ideological shifts, during the past several decades, in understandings of the family in American society. In Part II, the Article outlines three distinct models through which, since the start of the twentieth century, the law has understood children and the parent-child relationship. The first model (the Traditional Model), though largely replaced by a second (the Transforming Traditional Model), continues to be invoked, primarily to justify the second. Though clearly generated from the first, the second model connects as well to a third, very different model for understanding children and their relationships to their parents. This third model (the Individualist Model), more often applied outside the domestic context than within, reflects modernity's suggestion that children should be assimilated to an egalitarian view of interaction that prizes autonomy, and that denies any fundamental distinction between childhood and adulthood. In Part III, the Article focuses on the many contradictions generated by the second model as it attempts to mediate between the demands of modernity and of tradition. This analysis focuses upon a set of decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court beginning in 1976 that concern the abortion right of pregnant minors. In addition, Part III delimits two general legal responses to the dilemma presented by society's continuing concern to preserve venerable images of childhood, and its increasing inability to actualize those images within the social world of contemporary families.

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