Is parental control over children best understood in terms of trusteeship or similar fiduciary obligations? This essay contemplates the elements of legal trusts and fiduciarity as they might relate to the moral relationship between children and parents. Though many accounts of upbringing advocate parent-child relationship models with structural resemblance to trust-like relationships, it is unclear who grants moral trusts, how trustees are actually selected, or how to identify proper beneficiaries. By considering these and other classical elements of relationships of trust, this essay seeks to clarify and explore the trust model’s role, if any, in understanding children’s rights. Such exploration raises the possibility that another element of common law, the duty to rescue, may serve to enhance the trust model of children’s rights.
For feedback and encouragement on early versions of this work I am particularly grateful to Peter de Marneffe, Elizabeth Brake, Cheshire Calhoun, The Center for Ethics & Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and several extremely helpful anonymous reviewers.
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