Do children belong to their parents?

70% of Australians say that children ‘belong’ to their parents.

A survey commissioned by The Valuing Children Initiative (VCI) has found that 70% of Australians believe that children ‘belong’ to their parents, suggesting a strong consensus on the traditionally subordinate place of the child in the family until they reach the age of 18.

Whilst those surveyed had an overwhelmingly positive view of their own children, only just over half (53%) of Australians said they have a positive view of all children, with 8% saying they had negative feelings to children other than their own and 25% saying they were indifferent.

The survey found that the majority agreed that the wellbeing of children is the shared responsibility of the entire community, and everyone is responsible for the best interests of children, including those who are not their own.

These responses reflected a widespread sense of shared responsibility for children’s safety and wellbeing, Linda Savage, the Convenor of the Valuing Children Initiative (VCI) said.

Despite this when asked more specific questions about who was responsible for children, the majority identified parents as the most responsible for protecting and promoting the wellbeing of children. Only 12% of respondents saw “everyone” as being responsible for children, with just 1% of respondents allocating responsibility to the wider community.

In a recent submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the VCI called for further research to be undertaken to better understand contemporary attitudes to children and the role that prevailing attitudes play in a child’s safety and wellbeing

Children are still subject to shocking rates of sexual abuse and harm in Australia and their ultimate safety requires a change in attitudes towards them, beginning with how we value them, Ms. Savage said.

The VCI has called on state and federal governments to:

  1. Fund campaigns to promote understanding that a society’s attitudes to its children and how we value them impact fundamentally on their safety and wellbeing.
  2. Undertake research to better understand attitudes to children in Australia today,
  3. Create a dedicated Ministerial portfolio for Children and Future Generations, and a National Plan for Children.
  4. Instigate a rigorous and transparent process to ensure all policy, legislative, and decision-making processes actively consider the impact on children and future generations.