‘I was never your father’ - DNA testing and what it can do to children

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We are used to the sad stories of children who have never known their fathers, and of those whose fathers become estranged through divorce; but there are a growing number of children who risk losing the only father they have ever known because he discovers he is not their father after all.

The New York Times Magazine ran a long article recently on the issue of men taking DNA tests to establish paternity status when they are in dispute with their wife, or when they have been named as the father of a child under welfare rules. Their aim is to avoid paying child support.

The biggest issue here -- especially when it involves the break-up of a family after a number of years -- is the devastating effect on a child of what can amount to losing a father twice over. In one instance, a divorced man walked… click here to read whole article and make comments



Nought for your comfort: mixed rooming at US colleges

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More American colleges are introducing mixed rooming, with Emerson College in Boston the latest to announce its embrace of what is known as “gender-neutral” housing. The Boston Globe says more than two dozen colleges across the country now provide or intend to provide this option. It is meant to make the students more “comfortable”.

The new policy, which follows a push by the student government, would allow students to choose to live with whom they are most comfortable and provide housing options for students who identify as transgender or who are questioning their gender identity, said Ron Ludman, dean of students.

So this blogger’s comment is probably correct:

What may surprise parents who are taken aback by the notion of students of the opposite sex sharing a dorm room is that the movement to amend housing practices is being driven almost… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Children’s Rights Convention at 20

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The twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has passed, accompanied by much comment on the fact that the United States and Somalia are the only two countries that have not signed it. UNICEF marked the occasion with a 100-page special edition of its annual report, The State of the World’s Children.

If the US has not signed up to something so universally accepted it is worth asking why. What it boils down to is a distrust of the language of “child rights” that can be used to drive a wedge between children and parents.

The UN monitoring group C-FAM notes:

Conservative groups in the United States, however, point to concerns regarding the 'rights-based approach' and highlight problems with the CRC monitoring mechanism. They assert that children should not be totally autonomous rights bearers completely separate from their parents. Opponents… click here to read whole article and make comments



Sorry, but we are still abusing children

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Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, New South Wales. Photo: APAustralian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to former orphans and child migrants who suffered a lack of love and care -- if not outright abuse -- highlights another chapter in the heartrending story of children treated as chattels by enlightened and progressive nations last century. Sadly, it is a story that is still being written.

Last year Mr Rudd apologised to Australia’s “Stolen Generation” of Aborigines, taken from their families to be raised in institutions and white homes under assimilation policies. Earlier this year we had the official report on child abuse in Irish institutions. Now it’s the Forgotten Australians -- 7000 to 10,000 children living in British institutions because their parents were dead or too poor to support them. They were shipped out from Britain between 1930 and 1970… click here to read whole article and make comments



Wedding cash a turn-off for young Koreans

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No wonder South Koreans are marrying late and the country is winning the race to the bottom in the fertility stakes. Their wedding culture alone, labelled “vain and extravagant” by their own president, sounds like a big turn-off.

Western brides and grooms have their gift registers (cash also accepted), but South Korean families expect their guests -- who can run to thousands -- to turn up with a cash-filled envelope to be received by a cashier, who will give them a meal ticket in return. A bank account number is sometimes included in the invitation so people who can’t attend can still send money.

Of course, money is a very practical thing to give newlyweds and many cultures have the custom of giving money for weddings and funerals. But the element of “face” and one-upmanship involved has an inflationary effect that, in Korea at least, can be boosted… click here to read whole article and make comments



When will Europe look after its families?

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Here is something for the inaugural European Union president, Herman van Rompuy, to put his stamp on: the revival of the European family. The EU is very active in telling member states what to do about certain social issues -- for example, condemning a recent Lithuanian law which prohibits promotion of “homosexual, bisexual, polygamous relations” among children under the age of 18 -- but it is dragging its feet on the most important social issue of all: the protection and support of the family.

In its 2009 report on The Evolution of the Family in Europe, the Madrid-based Institute for Family Policies warns that the demographic crisis in Europe is worsening thanks to the collapse of family life, even while various organs of the EU issue statements calling for better family policies.

In April, for example, the European Commission called for “the development of a climate in society open to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Spare the chores and prolong childhood

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It would be hard not to notice: kids don’t do very much around the house these days. Parents seem afraid to give them any task more onerous than feeding the pet, clearing the table after dinner or tidying up after themselves.

It is a pattern that became dominant in the 1980s, according to United States sociologist Markella Rutherford, who studied articles, advice and letters published in more than 300 parenting magazines between 1920 and 2006 to see how children’s autonomy and responsibility had evolved.

This is interesting research, showing how children’s autonomy has increased in some ways: freedom from chores, dressing how they like, defying their parents. But it has diminished in others: they have less freedom to move and act outside the home without adult supervision and it takes much longer for them to accept responsibility

Dr Rutherford says:

"In earlier generations, children and… click here to read whole article and make comments



Obamafiction for children

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If American children do not know that President Barack Obama is a hero, bridge-builder and uniter of people it is not the fault of the publishing industry.

Phil Nel, a professor of English at Kansas State University and head of the children’s literature programme there, has counted around 60 children books about Barack Obama, including two dozen before he was elected to the presidency and more than 35 since.

This number, he says, is astounding, especially since it does not include books about the Obama family or Bo, their dog. By the end of his eight years in office George Bush had scored only 43 children’s titles (and an unknown number about his dog). Nel calls the trend “Obamafiction for children”.

His research on the phenomenon focuses on two books, Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes and Brian Collier, and Barack by… click here to read whole article and make comments



Babies tune into langauge before birth

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Listen carefully to the crying of your newborn baby and you may recognise the cadences of your own voice, especially if you are the mother. European researchers have discovered that even within the first week after birth, babies imitate the melodic patterns of voices they have heard while still in the womb. And that includes the “tunes” typical of the mother tongue.

Thus, German babies cry in German -- with a falling melody contour, and French babies cry in French, with a rising contour. And they all prefer “motherese”, the particular contours of maternal speech and its emotional content. They have been tuned in, suggests biologist Kathleen Wermke, during the last three months of pregnancy.

Isn’t that smart? And yet there are philosophers who see newborns as only potentially human and suitable for “weeding out” if they have defects. It is also very interesting, as Dr Wermke says,… click here to read whole article and make comments



A pledge to fight ‘mega-genocide’

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While defenders of unborn life waged a successful battle in the United States House last weekend, winning a provision to exclude abortion coverage from health reform legislation, an international gathering in Spain was defining abortion as “mega-genocide” and pledging to fight harder to protect human life.

The Declaration of Saragossa, signed by 31 countries represented at the Fourth Prolife World Congress, noted that the six million “legal” deaths of the Nazi genocide are outnumbered by the total of more than 800 million “legal” abortion deaths up until now in countries where abortion has been legalised. The document says that this also constitutes “a crime against humanity” that, because of the numbers involved and their global spread, should now be known as mega-genocide.

It called on authorities at all levels of society from the family to government to promote a number of positive measures to take care of human life… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@

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