Law and the Regulation of Family Secrets

Smart, Carol (2010) Law and the Regulation of Family Secrets. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 24 (3). pp. 397-413.

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This article addresses the changing relationship between traditional legal definitions of motherhood and fatherhood and newer scientific definitions of parenthood. It is acknowledged that procedures like DNA testing have transformed legal interpretations, but in so doing it is argued that the social and cultural significance of kinship has been squeezed out of consideration. There is now an almost unassailable presumption that it is best for a child to know his or her genetic origins, yet there is also evidence that families still keep certain matters (eg donor conception) a secret. These families are increasingly defined as out of step with modern, ethical thinking yet it may be important to understand how such families define a child's welfare. The problem with knowledge about genetic links is that it is not mere ‘information’ but is powerful knowledge that changes relationships regardless of the wishes of those involved. The fear of such changes may mean families prefer to reject openness, especially if the risks of loss appear too high. These issues are explored through data on family secrets and also through an unusual legal case involving a child who took the decision not to know his own genetic origins. The article concludes that it is important, in the rush to impose transparency and openness on families, that we are aware of the negative as well as positive consequences.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: 4. Qualitative Data Handling and Data Analysis > 4.23 Qualitative Approaches (other)
Depositing User: Realities user
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2010 15:58
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 13:53

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