Anca Gheaus – The Best Available Parent

Source: Vinoth Chandar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This week the PTRG welcomed Anca Gheaus from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. In her paper, ‘The Best Available Parent’, Anca argues against the widely-held assumption that children’s biological parents have an automatic moral right to

exercise exclusive parental control over their children. Her argument rests on the liberal assumption that it is only justifiable to exert control over another individual when that individual has given their consent or, if consent cannot be given, when it is in the controlled individual’s best interests. Given that children fall into the latter category it is necessary that any controlling action is conducted in their best interests, which entails giving parental control to the best available parents.

While focusing on the interests of children, Anca acknowledges the importance of parenting in many conceptions of a fulfilling life. Her argument is able to accommodate this as she states that merely adequate parents retain a right to associate with children. This allows parents to develop secure and long-term bonds with children which promote the wellbeing and fulfilment of both parties. However this does not extend to a right to control the life of the child. Rather this right is held exclusively by the best available parent.

Much of our discussion focused on the balance between the interests of parents and the interests of children, and the extent to which both can be taken into account without one or the other being significantly undermined. Another major topic of debate related to questions about the connection between Anca’s work and radical critiques of the family and parenthood, including notably those offered by feminist theory.

Written by Andrew Drever


Anca Gheaus is a Ramon y Cajal researcher at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.