Self-respect and family egalitarianism

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Self-respect, Family, Egalitarianism, Trust, Moral psychology, Parent licensing

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Family, Life Course, and Society | Philosophy | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


I argue that raising children properly should be a primary focus of contemporary political philosophy. A stable and well-ordered society requires just laws and just citizens. However, most philosophers discuss only adults and focus primarily on the distribution of goods, resources, or opportunities. Goods and resources are of little use to maltreated children due to their fragility. If equality of opportunity is sought, society should ensure that children do not have abusive parents. Most incarcerated criminals were maltreated, and the intergenerational transmission rate of abuse is high. Maltreatment is a threat to both children and society. I examine a system whereby parents are licensed to have children--ensuring that high-risk individuals do not parent. If a test could accurately predict which potential parents would abuse their children, I argue that its use would be justified. I also argue that parenting is a defeasible right. My dissertation seeks to discern what kind of egalitarianism best provides equality of opportunity, find how to move from a society with just laws to a society with just laws and just people, and identify a means to reduce child maltreatment.


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