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This house believes children should have legal obligations towards parents after adulthood.
This house believes children should have legal obligations towards parents after adulthood.
If children had a legal obligation towards their parents after adulthood they would be responsible for the care of their parents in much the same way that a parent is legally responsible for the care of their children. This would legalise the assumption that adult children should look after parents. Historically the elderly have always needed the support of their offspring and the community in order to survive and this is still the case morally, but legally, a child in many parts of the world has no obligation to provide for their parents, with the responsibility of care often falling to the state in economically developed countries. India, Israel and Taiwan there are laws in place to force adult children to support their parents and in China parents can make their adult children sign a voluntary but legally binding Family Support Agreement. Similarly a dozen American states, including California and Illinois, have civil law in place that allows parents and grandparents to sue their descendants if they are in need of support that their children fail to provide willingly. In the United Kingdom the Elizabethan Poor Law made parents and children legally responsible for each other from 1601 until 1967: now no such law exists. Proponents would argue that it is important children provide for their elders, particularly in times when the provision of state pensions is becoming less economically viable, however opponents may question a society and a parent-child relationship that needs a law in place to enforce an obligation that should be a moral and not legal issue.
|Points For||Points Against|
|Current pension measures are not enough to provide for the elderly.||This policy would widen the social-economic gap between the poor and rich.|
|Everyone would benefit from choosing policies that think about the long-term future.||Forcing children to provide for their parents is too complicated legally.|
|Creates a community where everyone feels a social commitment to the elderly.||Those who don't have children would be neglected.|
|Parents would have a greater stake in their child's future and children would be directly responsible for their parent's well-being.||It is the state's responsibility to provide for people in their old age.|
|Judicial oversight can make sure the law is implemented fairly.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Current pension measures are not enough to provide for the elderly.
Current policies are obviously not working. Increased life expectancy and badly thought out pension provisions mean that an increasing number of old people fall into poverty. In a recent survey in the UK 57% of people interviewed were concerned that the pensions of their elderly relatives would not be sufficient to sustain them for the rest of their lives1. The elderly need to be provided for, and as the state is struggling, children must step forward and fill this void.
1. 'What is EPRSS?', Elderlyparents.org.ukImprove this
People are already being expected to pay higher contributions towards their pensions, retire later and accept lower payouts, implying that children are legally responsible for their parents past adulthood would further suggest that the failure of the state pension scheme is somehow acceptable (The key points of pension changes can be viewed at 'Spending Review' BBC News).Improve this
Everyone would benefit from choosing policies that think about the long-term future.
Rather than adopting a 'right now' attitude to government policies on taxes and spending, individuals would be more likely to think about the long-term consequences of government policy – knowing that their future is directly tied to the financial future of their children. This short term thinking has become a serious problem meaning there are big holes in pension funds and the government may not have enough to pay for elderly care in the future. For example Sir Derek Wanless has warned that the amount spent by government, individuals and organizations in Britain on caring for the sick and disabled elderly will increase from £10 billion a year to £20 billion a year by 2026.(‘cost of caring for the elderly set to double’, Templeton) Therefore voters would support financially sensible policies that avoid increasing deficits and national debt.Improve this
There is no evidence to suggest that people would vote for more 'financially sensible policies' if they thought the provision of their care was tied up with their children's financial future. The decision to support decisions that may prove disadvantageous in the long run comes about with the sense of urgency in the current situation – something that would not be changed dramatically whether or not this law was introduced. If anything this law could encourage people to become neglectful in their own savings under the assumption that they will be ‘taken care of’ should things to go wrong. Personal debt would increase and the culture of ‘spend now, pay later’ would be reinforced.Improve this
Creates a community where everyone feels a social commitment to the elderly.
Everybody should have a responsibility to each other. The elderly, as a social group, have been largely neglected by society. By starting at grass roots, legalizing the responsibility of the young to look after the old, would benefit society in general and promote the respect of the elderly. Elderly people are equal citizens with equal rights, they deserve to have enough money for a secure and decent life in retirement with access to the health and social care that they need. Yet more and more old people are dying each year of malnutrition or freezing to death in their homes: over the last five years there has been an increase in winter deaths by 25,000 every year - this is unacceptable .1 Although commitments to the rights of older people do exist, for example the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, they are not legally binding, more needs to be done to ensure that the care of the elderly is adopted as a legal priority by governments2and by whole communities; this law would be the first step in that process.
1 'Reducing winter deaths', AgeUK, viewed on 19 June 2011.
See also 'Winter Mortality: Excess winter deaths fall', Office for National Statistics (23 November 2010), viewed on 19 June 2011.
2 'Strengthening Older Peoples' Rights: Towards a UN Convention', Global Action on Aging, viewed on 19 June 2011.
Legalizing the need to care for the elderly may have the opposite effect effect – it pits the young and old against one another, drawing legal distinctions and assuming the two’s interests are opposed. It could too easily breed scorn and resentment from the younger generation. Rather than having a moral obligation towards parents that one loves and who have provided for you, they will simply become a legal burden. This would ultimately damage the relationship between parent and child at a time when role-reversal makes the relationship strained anyway (See ‘Caring for Elderly Parents’, Laterlife and Savundranayagam, ‘A Dimensional Analysis’).Improve this
Parents would have a greater stake in their child's future and children would be directly responsible for their parent's well-being.
This law would give parents a greater stake in their child's education and development. Rather than being concerned with saving for later life they will want to think about the future and long term prospects of their children. Similarly a child would be legally responsible for the well being of their parent past adulthood, encouraging children to think more carefully about the decisions they make in regards to care. The stark figures that between 2005 and 2009, 667 elderly people died from dehydration in care homes and 157 died of malnutrition1 suggest that children neglect their parents in terms of ensuring they are placed in adequate care. Passing a law would ensure that this no longer happens and family ties between generations would be strengthened.
1 'How 600 die of thirst in care homes: Damning report exposes the rising number of elderly killed by neglect', Daily Mail (31 January 2011), viewed on 19 June 2011.Improve this
There are fundamental dangers in monetarising a relationship between child and parent. From young a child would be made to feel responsible for their parents as they are reduced to a mere investment. Furthermore this financial way of thinking may see a parent pushing their child down a path simply because it is financially rewarding. The neglect of the elderly in society is due to an increased distancing between generations and placing responsibility of the sick and aging onto the state – a social and cultural change that a law cannot simply undo 1.
1. Harevan, ‘The History of the Family’.Improve this
Judicial oversight can make sure the law is implemented fairly.
The law would legislated so that it is fair to all. When looking at cases the courts would inevitably make children pay in proportion to their means – so the rich have to pay more than the poor, but the state could also help those who are too poor to support their parents. The policy will therefore aid the poorest members of society. Parents who are not well off and will spend most of their income caring for their children will be ones most at risk of suffering from poverty in their old age. This law would ensure that these people are cared for adequately. Moreover, judicial oversight can be used to make sure the application of the law is fair, that a parent can’t make a claim if they have abandoned, neglected or abused their children, or if the children themselves are too poor to support the elderly parent.Improve this
In practice this will never work, many parents would be unwilling to sue their own children for support, or in many cases even admit that they need the support. This policy will disproportionately hurt poor families and it will widen the social gap. While rich parents will be able to afford raising their children in comfort, giving them the best opportunities, while also saving money for their retirement, poor families will end up saddling their children with the duty to care for elderly parents, thus preventing them from accruing wealth, having more disposable income that they could invest or spending more money on their own children's education. This will trap wealth within rich families and will mean poor families will find it harder to break out of poverty.Improve this
This policy would widen the social-economic gap between the poor and rich.
This policy would widen the social-economic gap and disproportionately hurt poorer families. While richer sections of society are more likely to be able to provide their children with greater opportunities, poorer children would suffer doubly: first by not being offered the best opportunities and then because of the additional burden to their own wage in looking after their parents. This would trap lower income families in a circle of poverty that would be hard to break.Improve this
Legalizing the care of the elderly would benefit parents who are in the lowest income brackets because they would be unable to afford to plan for their pensions early on it life. These are the people most at risk from poverty in their old age. Moreover the state works hard in order to provide equal opportunities for all children no matter what their social-economic background so it would be reductionist to assume that children from poorer income families remain in low income brackets in adulthood. (For a comprehensive study on the relationship between parent earnings and children earnings see Corak, 'Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults?')
Corak, Miles, ‘Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults? Lessons from a Cross Country Comparison of Generational Earnings Mobility’, IVA (March, 2006) viewed on 20 June 2011 at http://www.international.ucla.edu/cms/files/corak.pdfImprove this
Forcing children to provide for their parents is too complicated legally.
If a child does not feel that their parents have done a 'good job' or neglected them, should they be made to financially support them in old age? What would happen if an estranged parent wanted support, or a largely absent father? Similarly how would care responsibility be split between siblings, would they provide equal amounts or contribute according to their means? If a child does not feel emotionally or morally obliged to provide for their parents, then you are left questioning the strength of the relationship and the quality of the parenting. Furthermore a parent providing for their children is different because legally their children are not independent: if children were forced to provide for their parents, presumably their parents, as adults, could spend the contributions as they wanted. This could create further animosity if the parent and child had different ideas about the best form of care.Improve this
There are issues and circumstances that need to be addressed in any legal situation, and this is no different. Judicial oversight can be used to ensure that the application of the law is fair, for example a parent would not be able to make a claim if they had abandoned, neglected or abused their children. Similarly there could be protections in place for children who have become estranged from their parents. However in the majority of cases, where parents have provided financially for their children there should be no problem in reversing this relationship as they grow older.Improve this
Those who don't have children would be neglected.
What about the elderly that need care, who through no fault of their own, have no children? These are the people most likely to suffer if the state insists that care of the elderly is a family and not a state matter. Those people without children, through personal chance or circumstance, are likely to be alienated by this policy and therefore neglected. Furthermore people should have children for the right reasons and not simply because they want a sense of security when they grow older. This law would encourage people who have no real interest in parenthood to embark upon it and have more children in order to provide for them1. This is a trend seen in developing countries: something that developed countries have moved away from because it does not produce positive family and social dynamics. In effect we would be moving backwards.Improve this
Undertaking parenthood would still be a challenge to provide for your children physically, emotionally and financially until adulthood and would not be trivialized by the financial considerations later in life. Any individual can see that the costly expense of raising children does not somehow equate to a 'free ticket' later in life. Individuals not interested in having children could just as easily use this money in a pension fund for themselves. Thus this legislation would help potential parents who truly want to have children but feel like they can't because they can't afford to save for their own futures.Improve this
It is the state's responsibility to provide for people in their old age.
The state and not the children should be responsible for providing for people in their old age. If people have worked hard and paid taxes then they should be entitled to state benefit in return for those taxes, it seems that families are suffering at a lack of government planning which now wishes to push responsibility back onto the family. A study conducted in America suggested that the cost of caring for one's parents could be crippling to the offspring.1 Furthermore allowing parents to sue their children creates a complex system of resentment that weakens rather than strengthens family ties.Improve this
In many countries it does fall to the children to provide for their parents in old age, similarly this law existed in England until 1967 and still exists in many American states. Although this doesn't negate the benefits of a state pension it seems nonsensical that children raised and provided for by their parents should play no part in their well-being. Just as the state provides help for struggling parents but ultimately it is the parent's financial responsibility to raise their children, so too the state can provide help for the poorer sections of society, whilst allowing children who are able to pay for the provisions of their parents.Improve this
'Caring for Elderly Parents', Laterlife.com, viewed on 19 June 2011 at 'How 600 die of thirst in care homes: Damning report exposes the rising number of elderly killed by neglect', Daily Mail (31 January 2011), viewed on 19 June 2011 at 'Malnutrition in hospital: Hungry to be heard', AgeUK, viewed on 19 June 2011 at 'Reducing winter deaths', AgeUK, viewed on 19 June 2011 at 'Spending Review: State pension age rise brought forward', BBC News (20 October 2010), viewed at 19 June 2011 at 'Strengthening Older Peoples' Rights: Towards a UN Convention', Global Action on Aging, viewed on 19 June 2011 at at 'What is EPRSS?', Elderlyparents.org.uk, viewed on 19 June 2011 'What we do', AgeUK, viewed on 19 June 2011 at 'Winter Mortality: Excess winter deaths fall', Office for National Statistics (23 November 2010), viewed on 19 June 2011 at 'A Dimension Analysis of Caregiver Burden Among Spouses and Adult Children', The Gerontologist (December, 2010), viewed on 19 June 2011 at Corak, Miles, 'Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults? Lessons from a Cross Country Comparison of Generational Earnings Mobility', IVA (March, 2006) viewed on 20 June 2011 at Habiger, Richard, 'Are Children Legally Responsible For Their Parents' Care?', viewed on 19 June 2011 at Hareven, Tamara K., 'The History of the Family and the Complexity of Social Change', The American Historical Review 96, 1 (February, 1991), p. 120Savundranayagam, Marie Y., Montgomery, Rhonda J. V., and Kosloski, Karl, Virola, Romulo A., 'The Poor Have Bigger Families: A Matter of Choice or Circumstance?', National Statistical Coordination Board viewed on 20 June 2011 at Templeton, Sarah-Kate, 'Cost of caring for the elderly set to double', The Sunday Times, 26 March 2006, viewed on 2 September 2011 at
Bass, Scott, Norton, Jill and Morris, Robert, International Perspectives on State and Family Support for the Elderly (New York, 1993)Bengston, Vern L. and Eun, Ki-Soo, Aging in East and West: Families, States and the Elderly (New York, 2000)Bernard, Miriam, Ogg, Jim and Phillipson, Chris, Family and Community Life of Older People: Social Networks and Social Support in Three Urban Areas (London, 2001)Featherstone, Brid, Family Life and Family Support: A Feminist Analysis (Hampshire, 2004)Gough, Ian, Wood, Geof and Barrientos, Armando, Insecurity and Welfare Regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America: Social Policy in Development Contexts (Cambridge, 2004)Xu, Yuebin, 'Family Support for Old People in Rural China', Social Policy & Administraton, 35, 3 (July, 2001), pp. 307-320
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