Children are complicated, challenging, and demanding. Even the best parents have difficulty raising them from helpless babies to fully-fledged capable adults. If the parent is hardly able to take care of themselves, how are they expected to take care of a child? While the government in unable to stop people from procreating, they are able to help children by putting them into better households than those of a negligent, accidental or not, parent. Based on the theories of Kohlberg, Freud, and Harlow, a mentally challenged parent would be faced with too many difficulties when raising a child.
In Kohlberg’s Moral Development theory, he gives ways on how to guide a child onto the right path as a fully functionable and capable human being, as well on how to help develop their moral senses. Kohlberg’s Moral Development theory, is split up into three stages. These three stages being pre-conventional, conventional, and postconventional. During the pre-conventional stage, parents or guardian figures are important because of the ways they are able to guide the children. For example, giving the children punishments for misbehavior or giving rules so that they understand structure. In the conventional stage, parents or guardians can make a positive impact by watching who their children associate themselves with and giving them even more structure and responsibilities through chores and household rules. And in a post-conventional stage, parents or their guardians must learn to give exceptions to breaking a rule depending on a situation. Many of these require a lot of analysis and deeper thinking into an understanding of what consequences can arise from parenting choices. Those that are mentally challenged aren’t necessarily able to do the deeper thinking that involves contemplating these hypothetical situations. With handing out punishments or even laying down a basic structure of rules they can not predict or perceive as well as a fully cognizant adult the aftereffects of their decisions. And nonetheless, if those tasks can not be done, how would one expect a mentally challenged parent to enforce or even teach why these punishments or rules need to exist to their child. Without an understanding of why the consequences take place, the child can not be expected to learn self discipline or responsibility. Without this children can not truly become self sustaining adults and worthwhile citizens.
In relation, Freud’s Pyscho-Sexual Development theory centers itself on how children learn to control themselves as well as their primal urges. The theory separates itself into five different stages, these stages being oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. These stages focus on the beastial insticts that can override the human brain. They deal with learning self discipline, pleasure management, as well as how to safely navigate the world and the intimate relationships developed with others. If parents that are mentally deficient haven’t learned to discipline themselves, then how could a society expect them to teach discipline to their offsprings. While those with mental retardation can learn what to and not to do, they are often overcome by their urges and lack the control to stop themselves. Whether it’s sex or ice cream, their baser urges are often in control. Without this self discipline, serious consequences can affect the relationship between the parent and child, as well as the child’s well being. It can also set a precedent teaching that child that bad behavior is acceptable. And if the parents of a child can’t act within socially acceptable standards present in society, then how would the children be expected to do the same. Children learn by observing behavior from their surroundings, and if the main source of information is coming from a parent who does not act properly they too learn early on the same way of behavior. This education is damaging to a child as well as the adult they will grow into.
While many believe children belong with their biological parents, this idea has no supporting evidence that it is the best choice. In Harlow’s Attachment theory, he states that the emphasis of skin to skin contact is what is important and is the main reason a child will thrive. He also highlights that the biological parent is not needed to help the child grow, but rather it is that any parent will do as long they deliver this skin to skin contact. While a mentally challenged person may be able to provide basic necessities such as water and food, they may not be able to provide physical affection. With constant lack of this attention, children do not develop the necessary skills of how to interact with other beings in their society, whether it be their classmates in school, romantic partners, or even continuing this cycle onto their own children later on in life. Children given the chance can often be found by physically affectionate and emotionally close adoptive parents, in contrast to a parent who, although biological, does not understand the imperative need of physical connection. Often, children when left with these parents are incapable of expressing the same things their blood parents are incapable of, or conversely, express the same things their parents do that are not acceptable. Both extremes lead to unwanted behavioral issues that can deeply affect a child all through their life.
On the contrary side, many believe that mentally challenged parents are able to competently fulfil their parental duties with the help of outside assistance. The keyword being outside, this assistance does not always extend into the homelife where children get their main source of knowledge. In Erikson’s Stages of Development, he writes about how parents, depending on the actions taken, can impact their child in a negative or positive way. Erikson breaks up the development in five different stages: trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, industry versus inferiority, and identity versus role confusion. The first, trust vs. mistrust, is a good example of how having outside help does not work. If these parents need help from the very beginning, the children learn to trust not the parent, but whoever is helping them. This lack of trust between parent and child does not help their relationship and is even harder to learn later on. If a child can not trust their parent to raise them, they will have a hard time trusting anyone else.
Adding up all of these factors, mentally challenged parents should not be able to take care of children at all. Even if they do have outside assistance twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, are they the ones really raising their child? Either situation has too many negative consequences to fully support a child living with their cognitively deficient parents. Conversely, finding a home for these children with capable, self disciplined, and socially aware parents would be to the betterment of the child’s health and future.
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