1st Edition

The Limits of Parental Authority Childhood Wellbeing as a Social Good

By Johan C. Bester Copyright 2022
    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book offers a novel theory of childhood well-being as a social good. It re-examines our fundamental assumptions about parenting, parental authority, and a liberal society’s role in the raising of children.

    The author defends the idea that the good of a child is inexorably linked to the good of society. He identifies and critiques the problematic assumption that parenting is an extension of individual liberty and shows how we run into problems in medical decision-making for children because of this assumption. He develops an objective conception of what is good for a child in a liberal society, drawing on the assumptions of liberty, and from here constructs a set of things that society and its members owe children. There are ways in which society should support and intervene in parental decisions to guarantee a child’s well-being. Ultimately, raising children is a social activity that requires input from society. The author then applies this theory of childhood well-being to develop a framework for medical decision-making for children. He also uses practical examples, such as vaccinations, parental leave, and healthcare access, to demonstrate the implications of his theory for public policy.

    The Limits of Parental Authority: Childhood Wellbeing as a Social Good will be of interest to practitioners, scholars, and advanced students working in bioethics, political philosophy, and public health policy.

    1. The work of this book

    2. Issues in medical decision-making for children: An illustration of the problem

    3. Parental authority as individual liberty – a problematic assumption

    4. Why parenting should be supported and regulated by society

    5. The good of the child and the good of society

    6. What society should guarantee for children – an account of childhood interests

    7. Parenting as a social role – the nature and limits of parental authority

    8. Practical implications – society’s obligations and society’s policies


    Johan C. Bester is the Director of Bioethics at UNLV School of Medicine. He also is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Education, and serves presently as Interim Assistant Dean for Biomedical Science Education. He completed medical training in South Africa, and practiced in family medicine and emergency medicine settings for 12 years all over the world, including in South Africa, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He then transitioned to a professional focus on bioethics and medical education, which included completing a Master’s degree and a PhD in Applied Ethics, and Clinical Ethics Fellowship training at Cleveland Clinic.

    Presently Johan teaches ethics, epidemiology, and evidence-based medicine to medical students and provides leadership to the Phase 1 MD curriculum at UNLV School of Medicine. He engages in active scholarship in the areas of pediatric ethics, vaccination ethics, systems issues in healthcare, and social justice. His work has been published in notable journals such as JAMA Pediatrics, The American Journal of Bioethics, The Journal of Medical Ethics, Bioethics, and Bioethical Inquiry. He spends his time thinking about a just society, how society can be made kinder, better, and more inclusive, and the implications of these questions for medical practice and medical systems.

    "In The Limits of Parental Authority, a valuable and timely contribution to pediatric ethics, Bester sets out to reset our approach. In so doing we will, he contends, understand more clearly the moral basis for parental decision-making, but also potentially reach different decisions about vaccination, as well as about a range of medical and wider social questions . . . The Limits of Parental Authority is an accessible, interesting, provocative and useful contribution to vital public and academic debate about parents, parenting and childhood wellbeing."

    Dominic J. C. Wilkinson in Bioethics