Parental Control Rights

20 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2015 Last revised: 12 Aug 2015

See all articles by Scott Altman

Scott Altman

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: August 11, 2015


Parents typically direct many aspects of their young children’s lives and often believe that they deserve protection from interference by governments and third parties as they exercise this prerogative. Justifications for such parental control rights sometimes rely on the interests of children or of society. But they can also rely directly on the interests of parents. This paper considers whether parental control rights can be justified based on parental interests. It first considers two parental interests sometimes put forward as warranting parental control rights: an interest in intimacy and an interest in acting as a fiduciary. The first fails as a justification for parental rights because intimacy is unlikely to be undermined by most intrusions on parental control. The second fails because it misunderstands the nature of fiduciary roles. The paper then considers an alternative parental interest – the interest in nurturing, counseling, and educating. It argues that this interest requires both authenticity and discretion in order to play a meaningful role in a parent’s life and that facilitating meaningful nurturing, counseling, and educating warrants protecting parental control rights, subject of course to limitations based on sometimes conflicting rights of children and of society.

Keywords: Parent's Rights, Children's Rights

JEL Classification: I20

Suggested Citation

Altman, Scott, Parental Control Rights (August 11, 2015). USC Legal Studies Research Papers Series No. 15-24. Available at SSRN: or

Scott Altman (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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