Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:27 am

This BBC news item on Japanese parents apologising for the actions of their children raises some interesting questions about kamma and social responsibility.

In the ultimate sense, of course, parents are not accountable for the actions of their children, but they do bear responsibility to some degree as how a child is raised does affect how they behave later in life.

I did some brief research into the serial rapist and murderer Peter Sutcliffe and found that his father was, to a great extent, responsible for Peter's attitudes towards women.
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Mkoll
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Re: Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

Postby Mkoll » Sun Jan 01, 2017 11:34 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:In the ultimate sense, of course, parents are not accountable for the actions of their children, but they do bear responsibility to some degree as how a child is raised does affect how they behave later in life.

I think this is a good answer to the question you posed in your post title, Bhante. In the fourfold logic we often hear of in the suttas (yes, no, both, neither), I'd say the closest answer is "both" here: both responsible and not responsible.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Cittasanto
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Re: Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 01, 2017 12:10 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:This BBC news item on Japanese parents apologising for the actions of their children raises some interesting questions about kamma and social responsibility.

In the ultimate sense, of course, parents are not accountable for the actions of their children, but they do bear responsibility to some degree as how a child is raised does affect how they behave later in life.

I did some brief research into the serial rapist and murderer Peter Sutcliffe and found that his father was, to a great extent, responsible for Peter's attitudes towards women.

I think in some cases the parents can have some responsibility. however there are cases (I suppose cases of something not "wired" correctly such as psychopathy, or some severe learning disorders could also be included) where no matter what the upbringing... there is a greater chance of something being done that is not the fault of the early life caregivers, and is squarely outside the sphere of nurture. I also know of some who have exhibited changed sexual or violent behaviours due to brain injury, or tumours.

I think responsibility like kamma is not so cut and dry as many factors can be at play some of which may negate other potential factors.

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Caodemarte
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Re: Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

Postby Caodemarte » Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:07 pm

Most parents will always feel responsible for their children's actions, whether or not they are. Most parents will want to spare their children pain and take the negative consequences of their children's actions upon themselves whether or not they can.

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Re: Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

Postby CecilN » Sun Jan 01, 2017 6:52 pm

Mkoll wrote:I'd say the closest answer is "both" here: both responsible and not responsible.

SN 12.17 (Acela Sutta) might refute this.

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Re: Are Parents Responsible for the Actions of their Children?

Postby Mkoll » Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:15 pm

CecilN wrote:
Mkoll wrote:I'd say the closest answer is "both" here: both responsible and not responsible.

SN 12.17 (Acela Sutta) might refute this.

Thanks for the sutta reference. I don't think the sutta refutes that perspective, but rather complements it.

In a conventional sense, that of beings being the owners/heirs/etc. of their kamma, "both" is still the best answer. Parents are responsible for their actions in how they raise their children which strongly affects how their children behave, especially in their younger years. But it is the children who have the final say in their own kamma, once they reach a certain age.

In an ultimate sense, as pointed to in that sutta, there are processes of dependent origination occurring with no self to be found anywhere. So from that perspective, the best answer would be "neither": neither responsible nor not responsible.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa


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