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Responsible Parents and Parental Responsibility

Rebecca Probert, Stephen Gilmore, and Jonathan Herring

Edition: First Edition

Publication Date: 2009

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Responsible Parents and Parental Responsibility

Responsible Parents and Parental Responsibility

This book examines the idea of ‘parental responsibility’ in English law and what is expected of a responsible parent. The scope of ‘parental responsibility’, a key concept in family law, is undefined and often ambiguous. Yet, to date, more attention has been paid to how individuals acquire parental responsibility than to the question of the rights, powers, duties and responsibilities they have once they obtain it. This book redresses the balance by providing the first sustained examination of the different elements of parental responsibility, bringing together leading scholars to comment on specific aspects of its operation.

The book begins by exploring the conceptual underpinnings of parental responsibility in the context of parents’ and children’s rights. The analysis highlights the inherent constraints and limitations of ‘parental responsibility’ and how its scope has deliberately been curtailed in certain contexts. The book then considers what parental responsibility allows and requires in specific areas, for example, naming a child, education, religious upbringing, medical treatment, corporal punishment, dealing with any contracts entered into or property owned by the child, representing the child in legal proceedings, consenting to a child’s marriage or civil partnership and the law’s response to the death of a child. In the final section, the idea of the ‘responsible parent’ is considered in the contexts of child support, contact, tort, and criminal law.


“Parental responsibility remains a core concept in family law and as a unique and comprehensive compendium on this issue, the book is essential reading for anyone interested in building their knowledge of the doctrine and concept of parenthood in English law. There can be few people who would not be better informed as a result of having read it and fewer still who would not find something of interest in it.” – Leanne Smith, Child and Family Law Quarterly, Volume 22, No. 2

“This is a valuable book for students and practitioners alike.” – Child Right, Issue 258

“Responsible Parents and Parental Responsibility is an excellent collection of essays. The book represents a major contribution to the literature on this important topic and will be invaluable to all those interested in the law and policy relating to parents and children. Each chapter is of high quality and can be read in isolation for those interested in a particular topic; but at the same time, the collection holds together very well and makes for a coherent and enjoyable read for those whose interests are broader … I recommend Responsible Parents and Parental Responsibility to readers … wholeheartedly.” – Rob George, International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Volume 24, No. 1