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Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD        Video        Trailer


- a fictional drama made with the same group of actors

over a 12-year period from 2002-2013 --

takes a one-of-a-kind trip, at once epic and intimate,

through the exhilaration of childhood,

the seismic shifts of a modern family

and the very passage of time.


Boyhood - International Trailer (Universal Pictures) HD


YouTube > Universal Pictures UK        25 April 2014



















Illustration: Rutu Modan


Raising a Moral Child


APRIL 11, 2014




















£43,056 - the cost of bringing up a child

· Survey of parents finds 16 is the most expensive age

· Only 4% regret having children because of cost


Polly Curtis        The Guardian        p. 8

Thursday February 16, 2006















siblings        UK














siblings        USA












sibling rivalry        UK












sibling rhythm-and-blues group        USA


















brother        USA










older brother        USA

















sister        UK







secret sister        UK













older sister        UK






elder sister        USA






...  , the elder by four years,        UK






eldest sister        UK
















baby        USA










baby.com / internet ID from birth        UK

















toddler / tot        UK










toddler        USA


















child, children        UK














wild child        UK










child, children        USA










New York Times > One in a Million Slideshow > The Only Child        USA


After 12 years in Texas with his mother,

Joshua, now 14,

moved last year to live with his father

and his father’s partner in Queens.










childminder        UK


























kid        USA


























trans child


















grow up





bring up





raise        USA






be raised















childhood        UK











lonely childhood        UK






childhood        USA






Childhood is a country

every adult has visited

but can't go back to.        UK        25 March 2012


Throughout this evocative exhibition,

which explores children's lives

from the 18th century to the present,

its inhabitants stare at us

from paintings and photographs,

challenging us to remember

how we felt when we were their age.


The curators ask some big questions

– what is a child?


What is the meaning of childhood?

– but the subjects themselves

aren't interested in such theorising;

they want to skip away

from their homes and schools,

escape adult supervision, and be free.












troubled childhood        UK










stolen childhood        USA










abusive childhood        UK










anxious childhood        UK




















































































boyhood        USA




























son        USA













eldest son





the eldest of three children        USA






the eldest of six children















daughter        UK





daughter        USA






seven-month-old daughter





foster daughter





granddaughter        USA



































The Guardian        G2        pp. 16-17        12 July 2005


















Illustration: Olimpia Zagnoli


The Closest of Strangers

 NYT        SundayReview        MAY 23, 2014
















twin        UK










twin        USA















Conjoined twins through Annabel Clark's lens - in pictures        2012


For four years, Annabel Clark

has been photographing

sisters Lupita and Carmen Andrade.

Her aim?

To change the way people

look at conjoined twins



















Jeff Stahler


The Columbus Dispatch



14 November 2009


















The orphans are a searing reminder of all that India has lost.



Rebecca Conway for The New York Times


‘Mother, When Will You Come?’: The Covid Orphans of India


Thousands of children lost their parents

during a calamitous wave of infections.

While the government is vowing to help them,

many face the risk of neglect and exploitation when the attention fades.


July 10, 2021    5:00 a.m. ET
















orphan        USA










India > orphans        USA




























In 1935, foundlings — also known as children —

posed for a publicity shot

on the opening day of the Berkhamsted campus of their home.


A Bereaved Daughter Delves Into Her Mother’s Secrets


Jan. 12, 2021

















UK > foundlings        USA / UK














UK > foundlings > children of unwed mothers        USA


















child contact








adoption        USA


















adoptee        USA




















Steve Nease

The Oakville Beaver

Oakville, Ontario





















The Guardian        Review        p. 1        27 August 2005


The promise

As a nine-year-old boy,

John McGahern promised his desperately ill mother

that he would become a priest.

After her death he was sent to live with his brutal father

and found salvation in another dream

The Guardian        Review        pp. 4-5        27 August 2005



















The promise

As a nine-year-old boy,

John McGahern promised his desperately ill mother

that he would become a priest.

After her death he was sent to live with his brutal father

and found salvation in another dream

The Guardian        Review        pp. 4-5        27 August 2005
















Telling of Days on the Run

After Abducting Children


November 29, 2011

The New York Times



The week before they abducted their eight children from a foster care center in Queens, Nephra and Shanel Payne stocked up at Costco on supplies and dry goods, like diapers and infant formula for Nefertiti, their 11-month-old daughter, graham crackers and her favorite drink, pear juice. They stashed family photos and important documents in a storage facility and crammed a basketball and a football — essential for traveling with a Little League team’s worth of boys — into their car.

They had just been told, they said, that New York City’s child welfare agency was planning to put their children, who had been in foster care for nearly three years, up for adoption rather than reuniting them with their parents.

“It’s either do something or let your kids get swallowed by a system that does not have a heart,” Mr. Payne, 35, said. “To do nothing would have been more hurtful, more reckless.”

The Paynes told their story during a nearly two-hour interview on Monday night, five days after their release from jail. They sat side by side in the office of Norman Steiner, the lawyer who represented them in their criminal case, their pinky fingers intertwined.

It was a brazen act — two parents abducting their children from foster care in broad daylight — and it set off an interstate manhunt and a rash of media speculation on their whereabouts and on how they had succeeded at it. But to the Paynes, that week on the run with their children packed first into a car and then into a van was a respite of sorts — a time spent singing along to Michael Jackson hits, tossing a football around and being a family.

Mr. Payne, a construction worker, and his wife, 28, a beautician, were arrested on Sept. 26, seven days after they absconded with their children during a supervised visit at the Forestdale child agency in Forest Hills. The police found them on a roadside in Harrisburg, Pa., where they had just finished dinner in their van.

They were sent to New York to face eight counts each of kidnapping — one per child — among other charges. The kidnapping charges were eventually dismissed, and the Paynes pleaded guilty in late October to second-degree custodial interference, a misdemeanor for which they were each sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years’ probation. On the day before Thanksgiving, they were released.

Child welfare advocates deplored the couple’s rash move, concerned for the safety of the children. The children, seven boys and one girl, ages 11 months to 11 years, had been removed from the Paynes’ custody in March 2009 amid allegations of abuse.

The Paynes said the Administration for Children’s Services had unfairly taken custody of their children after one went to school with a bloodshot eye. It was a result, they said, of a squabble among the brothers.

Child welfare officials declined to discuss the specifics of the case, citing privacy rules. Still, they said, children are not typically removed from a home because of a single issue. Agency workers must assess the children’s welfare, and the decision to take custody must be approved in Family Court, the officials said.

The Paynes said that they were good parents and that they had religiously attended parenting and anger management classes prescribed by officials. They showed up at every child visit with platters of food, home-baked cakes and even a juicer, they said, and they were devastated to hear that several of their boys had been medicated for things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They were terrified, they said, when two of their children complained of not being fed enough and showed up to visits with split lips and bruises. Agency officials said those claims were never reported.

The Paynes said they learned in mid-September that Children’s Services had set a goal of adoption for the children, and it was as if a switch had flipped.

Security at the Forestdale child agency, where the visits took place, was lax at times, the Paynes said. (The center is reviewing security issues in light of the abduction.) During their Sept. 19 visit, Ms. Payne said, she simply led the children to the car waiting out back, and told them to be quick. “In my head I was like, ‘Go, go, go, go,’ ” she said.

“It was like a relief; we just had no more pain,” her husband said. “Everything we came to New York with, we’re leaving with.”

Willfully oblivious to the manhunt, they listened to music — not news — on the radio and disassembled their cellphone. They headed toward South Carolina, where they had lived before moving to the Bronx in 2007 and where their family still had land. “Acres of land, produce growing out of the ground,” Mr. Payne said, a smile reaching each side of his lean face. “It was going to be that freedom to see our kids just running around — to be happy, to be safe — with their mother and father.”

His wife, whom he began dating after she wrote him a love letter when she was 16, continued his thought: “It would have been a dream come true, and for those seven days that’s what it was like,” she said. At one point, she recalled, her son Shalee, 6, awoke with a start. “He said: ‘I thought this was a dream. Thank you so much for taking us,’ ” his mother said. “I know that what I did was right because I heard it from my son.”

They got to South Carolina swiftly, stopping only to play catch and to eat at a Chinese restaurant in Virginia, but when a reporter called a relative a few days after they had arrived, they quickly left. They punched Harrisburg, where Mr. Payne had once found work, into their GPS unit and headed there. Though Nephra, the oldest son, had seen newspaper reports about the family, the parents somehow still believed they would not be caught, they said. They had even started planning to home-school their children.

They described the atmosphere in their van as “a party,” their last evening a bizarre public idyll in light of the nationwide police pursuit. The boys clambered onto a stage at a park in Harrisburg and showed off break-dancing moves; Ms. Payne and the baby admired a cheerleading performance. They ate a chicken dinner in the van, Nefertiti refusing to budge from her father’s chest.

Then, they said, around 10:30 p.m. came the sirens, the order to freeze, and the barrel of a gun pointing at Mr. Payne. Nefertiti howled. Mr. Payne collapsed and was hospitalized; he said he could barely move for several days.

“I just was empty, I just felt like I messed up, I felt like my world was over,” he said. “All I could hear was my baby screaming.”

Police reports of the Paynes’ capture described the children as disheveled, and there was speculation that they had slept in the cramped van. But the couple said the family stayed in motels, paying in cash. And they adamantly denied any abuse.

Jail was a shock for the couple. Mr. Payne said he remembered feeling he had done “something noble.”

Michael Fagan, the communications director for Children’s Services, said in a statement: “We are glad that the children are safe and back in New York City. After a thorough investigation and careful assessment of the children, they are in the care of foster families, as they were before they were abducted by their parents.”

Both parents are forbidden to see their children or to speak to them on the phone. On Dec. 15, they will return to Family Court to seek the right to see their children.

    Telling of Days on the Run After Abducting Children, NYT, 29.11.2011,






Op-Ed Contributor

Father Meets Son


June 21, 2009
The New YorkTimes


THERE was a water-stained photograph, faded from years of tropical heat, of my 10-year-old son and me as we walked away down the pier toward my sailboat. I had my arm around his shoulders and his arm was around my waist; there was a lot of love in that picture. Permanently framed in the boat, the photo captured that sad moment — the last time I was to see my son for 27 years.

I met him again in a crowded hotel lobby in New York City. We had agreed to meet, to test the waters. A son was now ready to find out who his father was, a father wanted to know how his son turned out. I heard a man’s voice behind me and I knew it was him.

There are no guidebooks on how to prepare for that first awkward meeting. There is no Web site that will tell a reappearing father what to expect or how to act when he and his son meet for the first time since his childhood. And what about those crucial first words? “Hey, son, how are you?” “Long time, no see.” Or: “I’m sorry, son. It was not your fault.” It is a moment that a father, possibly defensive, and a son, probably resentful, have played out in their minds for years. We had to tread carefully.

There are millions of absent fathers; there are at least that many children out there who are wondering who their fathers are. Barack Obama recalled in “Dreams From My Father” that when he was small, his father just vanished. “It was into my father’s image ... that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself,” he wrote. When Mr. Obama was told that his father had died, he said, “I felt no pain, only the vague sense of an opportunity lost.”

My son was not going to miss his opportunity. I had tried to make contact a few years earlier but it was not the right time. His best friend had just lost his brother to a roadside bomb in Iraq. But the hours he spent helping his friend try to make sense of what had happened got him to thinking. “I realized it can all end so suddenly,” he told me later. “There were some things I realized I wanted to get done and one of them was to know who my father was.” That death and my previous unanswered attempt to make contact were the forces that caused him to make his own move. He greeted me with a firm handshake and a strong voice. But it was not until later that I recognized him as my onetime 10-year-old buddy.

So that first evening, we met as strangers. Our wives were present, necessary buttresses for this delicate moment. He spoke first: “I recognize you from the white hair.”

“Yeah, like a beacon in a fog-bound channel,” I said.

He had once seen me on CNN in a hotel in India and thought, “Jeez, that’s my father.” But he had already known I existed, for his mother often said, in a fit of pique I would imagine, “You’re just like your father!” The first he knew I was still among the living was when he noticed a book with my name on it on a table in Barnes & Noble, and he wondered if the author was his old man. He saw the photo on the jacket and he knew. When he read a reference to himself in the book it was then that he realized that he had never been forgotten.

The evening was strained but friendly enough that we agreed to meet again the next day in Central Park. Our wives walked behind us as he and I spoke about his work, about mine. His wife said, “Look, they even walk the same way,” and indeed I am told our mannerisms, the way we move our hands when we speak, even our voices are similar.

“Why did you leave?” he asked me suddenly, a question I had expected, but still had some trouble answering. I had come from a dysfunctional family, exiled to boarding schools at a punishingly early age, and instead of going to college, I bolted down to the Brooklyn docks and signed on a merchant ship. I had not been groomed to know much about the obligations of a dad. As Mr. Obama has said, fathers often “abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men.”

“I thought of myself as a seaman,” I said. “It was not your mother and it was not you, I just had no sense of responsibility. I just dropped out, sailed away. I’m sorry... You must still be very angry, have a lot of resentment.”

“I got over that years ago,” he said. “Maybe some resentment. You know I don’t need a father now, something I didn’t have; I only wanted to know who you were.”

Late at night in the apartment of my sister, whom he had also not seen since he was a child, he asked other questions. About other marriages, about other children, and I bared all. There was no reason to lie, no reason to hold back. I wanted him to judge me. His condemnation would free me of my new responsibilities. His forgiveness might allow me to try to become the father I never was. It was his call. After my wife had gone to bed, I answered all his questions, in detail. Indeed, he and his wife now know more about me than my own wife, more than any living person. And my son was, on that night, still a stranger.

There must be so many absent fathers, burdened with guilt, regret, defiance and defensiveness, who like me wonder who their sons are now that they are grown men. And if they consider making that first move, they surely speculate about that first meeting: could it be anything but confrontation, his anger, his sorrow, his pain? These things do not always turn out well.

It is too late to pick up where we left off so many years ago and I certainly won’t make the mistake of now acting like a dad. But there is a chance we might at least become friends, even one day feel the love we had for each other when he was a little boy. The relationship is still fragile but we are in contact; I think that we will slowly, cautiously build something lasting. There is some hope. On our last evening together, just before I had to return to Europe, we faced each other awkwardly and then hugged. Not a hail-fellow-well-met hug, but a serious bloodline hug, and I felt for the first time in 27 years something I had forgotten existed.

It looks as if my boy turned out O.K. The credit goes to his mom. He is a sort of a geek working on fiber-optic technology. He’s a good-looking kid and I admire him not only for what he has overcome and become without the benefit of a father, but also for his courage to contact his grateful dad.


John S. Burnett,

the author of “Where Soldiers Fear to Tread:

A Relief Worker’s Tale of Survival,”

runs the Web site ModernPiracy.com.

    Father Meets Son, NYT, 21.6.2009,






Op-Ed Contributor

Son Meets Father


June 21, 2009
The New York Times


Alexandria, Va.

LATE last year, while resting in my hotel room on a business trip to India, I saw my father being interviewed on CNN International; this was the first time I had seen him or heard his voice in 27 years.

The coincidence intrigued me enough to attempt to contact him and after I returned to the States, I spent the next few days trying various combinations of e-mail addresses until I finally hit upon the right one, and received a response. Before I knew it, we had set a date in February to meet. I was about to find myself face to face with a man who was more influential in his absence than he could have been in his presence.

My mother struggled to raise my younger brother and me on her own; in one way or another we always got by without our father. We had what we needed. We went to great schools. We spent the summers with our grandparents. We were good children, relatively speaking. My mother always let me think I was the man of the house, but everyone else knew differently. When I was asked by a guest if I was the “man of the house” my brother piped up and said, “The man of this house is a woman.” She was and she was all we had, and my brother and I knew it. And though she did what she could to make up for the absence of a father, for me, the absence was inescapable.

As a child, I waited for my father to contact me; as a teenager, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. So as an adult I wanted closure. I wasn’t interested in retribution or making him feel sorry for leaving because somehow I knew he wasn’t sorry at all.

I knew as well that I was not in search of a “Father” or seeking advice or absolution. I surely didn’t expect him to fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness at the sight of his long-slighted son. Nor did I expect him to act any differently than he did.

As the date for our meeting neared, I tried to remember the endless list of questions that, as a boy, I promised myself I would ask him if I ever had the chance. But the truth was that the answers to these questions weren’t important to me anymore. I had either answered them for myself or asked them of others.

I realized, though, that I wanted to find the man — not the mythical figure my father had become over the years. I had heard so many fantastic stories and I didn’t know what to believe: tales of sailing solo across oceans, thwarting a band of pirates aboard his small boat in the Strait of Malacca, doing relief work in Somalia, writing a screenplay for David Bowie. I needed to know who this guy really was.

We met in a hotel lobby. After we dispatched with the initial pleasantries, we headed straight for the bar. Over drinks and dinner, we nervously chatted about the past 27 years. The conversation focused on the superficial similarities that a father and son might share. Still, the mundane chitchat, which most fathers and sons must take for granted, was, in hindsight, what I really wanted.

And so it went for the weekend. I asked questions, he answered. I listened to him talk about previous marriages and relationships, other children he’d fathered, his feelings for my mother — things he wasn’t very comfortable talking about. I began to see the mythical character as a man. I learned that he is as fragile as he was powerful in a young son’s eyes. Toward the end he asked if I would call him Dad; I cannot. But now that I know more about him, we can move forward.

I am still digesting our reunion and will be for quite some time. While he is no longer this mythical figure in my life, he is who he is and I am who I am, partly because of his absence. Already, though, I feel relieved and free to move forward.

I have always wanted to be a father and a husband. I want to be there for those who count on me and I want to be counted on. I have made a good life for myself in the suburbs of Washington. I am married and still very close to my brother and our mother. While I am hopeful that my new relationship with my father is a lasting one, I learned the closure that I needed comes from relationships that I had all along.


Jason Burnett is a telecommunications engineer.

    Son Meets Father, NYT, 21.6.2009,






Iowa Man Wonders

if Mystery Visitor Is Missing Son


June 17, 2009
Filed at 4:31 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEWTON, Iowa (AP) -- When a mysterious visitor showed up last fall at Jerry Damman's Iowa farm, there wasn't any reason for him to suspect it was the toddler son who long ago vanished from a stroller in front of a New York bakery.

After all, five decades of silence have passed, each of them bringing no new leads about the fate of his blond 2-year-old boy, Stephen.

Damman's wife directed the man to a neighboring farm where her husband was working, but the man never showed up to speak with him. The couple dismissed the visit at the time. Damman now wonders if that visitor could have been his son, a grown man from Michigan who recently told the FBI that he was the missing child taken so many years ago.

''It's just one of those things, you know. Nothing's happened all those years,'' the 78-year-old Damman said Tuesday. ''You don't figure it's going to now, but maybe it did.''

The man's identity hasn't been released, but an official familiar with the investigation said he believes he never fit in with the family in which he grew up and began researching missing persons cases around the nation. That's how the man learned of the Damman case, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the claim was still under investigation.

Nassau County Police Lt. Kevin Smith said the case was referred to the FBI in Detroit and authorities are awaiting DNA results to determine if the man's claim is true.

''To a certain extent, this would probably close it,'' said Damman. ''Just like a death gives you closure, you know sometimes, it will give you closure to know what happened.''

Jerry Damman and his wife, Charlotte -- who is not Stephen Damman's mother -- said they've often thought back to the stranger's visit to their farm and his decision not to identify himself. The missing child's sister also got a visit from the same man, they said. ''She looked at this guy, and he looked like Jerry,'' Charlotte Damman said.

Investigators learned that the Michigan man reached out to the woman he believed to be his sister, Smith said, and that the two conducted a private DNA test that found they could be related. The FBI is conducting its own tests, Smith said.

''He came all the way down from Michigan,'' Jerry Damman said. ''I don't know if he was kind of timid about it. He probably was.''

Damman said he has tried to call the man twice since a report of his claim was published Tuesday in the New York Daily News. Jerry and the missing child's mother divorced a few years after their son's kidnapping. His ex-wife could not be located to talk about the case.

Jerry Damman was working at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island when his son disappeared. His wife, Marilyn, left Stephen and 7-month-old daughter, Pamela, waiting outside a bakery while she went inside to shop on Oct. 31, 1955, according to Smith and news accounts from 1955.

''Back in that time, it was probably not that uncommon to do something like that,'' Smith said.

After 10 minutes, Marilyn came out of the bakery but could not find the stroller or her children, authorities said. The stroller, with only her daughter inside, was found around the corner from the market a short time later, authorities said.

More than 2,000 people searched for 28 hours without finding Stephen. The county's assistant chief inspector, Leslie W. Pearsall, called off the search, saying that the boy's disappearance had become ''a case for detectives only,'' according to 1955 story in The New York Times.

The family received a ransom note in mid-November, according to an Associated Press account. Stephen's parents also made a public plea to the kidnappers at the time, saying Stephen suffered from anemia and asking that he receive medicine that included vitamins, aspirin and a tonic, the Times reported.

Today, the spot where Stephen was taken is a Waldbaum's supermarket at a busy strip-mall intersection. The report has stunned residents old enough to remember the futile search for the toddler.

Joan Bookbinder, 81, was a few years older than Damman's mother in 1955. She said it was common at that time to leave babies outside in their carriages while shopping.

''They would all be lined up outside the supermarket,'' Bookbinder said while standing outside the market. ''We never worried. We never thought about it.''

Everything changed after the toddler was kidnapped.

''We never left the carriages outside again,'' she said. ''All I remember is the fear amongst the mothers.''


Associated Press writers Frank Eltman and Amy Westfeldt

in New York and Nigel Duara in Iowa

and AP researcher Susan James contributed to this report.

    Iowa Man Wonders if Mystery Visitor Is Missing Son, NYT, 19.6.2009,







British Boy Becomes Father at 13


February 13, 2009
Filed at 12:32 p.m. ET
The New York Times


LONDON (AP) -- A 13-year-old boy pictured in a British tabloid cradling an infant is reportedly one of the country's youngest-known fathers.

Baby-faced and only 4 feet (1.22 meters) tall, the boy, Alfie, was just 12 when he impregnated Chantelle, now 15, The Sun said. Shown in a video posted Friday to the tabloid's Web site, Alfie looks more like he's 8 -- not 13 -- as he takes the newborn girl in his arms.

Asked what he would do to support the child financially, Alfie asks in a high-pitched voice, ''What does financially mean?''

The girl was reportedly taking birth control pills but missed one, the newspaper reported. Friends and relatives left the family home near Eastbourne, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of London, without speaking to reporters waiting outside Friday. The teenagers could not immediately be contacted.

The Sun did not say whether any tests were conducted to prove the boy's paternity.

Police and child services in Eastbourne, in southeast England, said in a statement that they were ''aware of a 14-year-old girl that had become pregnant as the result of a relationship with a 12-year-old boy,'' adding that they were offering support to both young people.

Alfie's front page picture has sparked renewed debate about teen pregnancy in Britain. The country has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe, and government figures show that about 39,000 girls under age 18 became pregnant in 2006. More than 7,000 of those girls were younger than 16.

''I don't know the individual details of the case, but of course I think all of us would want to avoid teenage pregnancies,'' Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Friday.

Britain had 27 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 between 2000 and 2005, according to a report published by Population Action International. Comparable figures are 10 per 1,000 for Spain, 8 in 1,000 for France, and 5 in 1,000 for The Netherlands.

Britain's teen pregnancy rate, however, is still far below that of the United States, which registers 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 and are more line with English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand, which have 17 and 27 births per 1,000 women between 15 and 19, according to the report.

In a controversial move last year to tackle the high teen pregnancy rates, British education officials announced they would start introducing sex education earlier in English schools. Beginning next year, children as young as kindergarten age will be given basic sex education.

Local lawmaker Nigel Waterson called the situation ''a very sad story which will have a huge impact on both the parents and the child,'' adding that it raised ''huge questions'' about the sexualization of children in British society and the effectiveness of the country's sex education.

The Sun said Chantelle gave birth Monday and that the newborn and her mother were released from the hospital Thursday.

In its profile, The Sun described Alfie as a boy whose voice has not broken yet and likes things boys usually like -- computer games and soccer.

''I thought it would be good to have a baby. I didn't really think about how we would afford it,'' The Sun quoted Alfie as saying. ''I don't really get pocket money. My dad sometimes gives me 10 pounds (about $15).''

Alfie's father, Dennis -- who reportedly has nine children -- said his son told him it was the first time he had sex. He was reportedly allowed to sleep over at the girl's house.

''It hasn't really dawned on him,'' Patten, 45, was quoted as saying in The Sun.

''I will talk to him again and it will be the birds and bees talk,'' he said. ''Some may say it's too late but he needs to understand so there is not another baby.''

Britain's youngest-known father was said to be a 12-year-old boy in a suburb north of London who impregnated a young neighbor in 1998.

Boys can usually impregnate a girl when they reach puberty, which is normally between the ages of 9 and 13.


On the Net:


    Report: British Boy Becomes Father at 13, NYT, 13.2.2009,






Dad Makes Son Wear Sign for Using Drugs


April 20, 2007
Filed at 2:51 a.m. ET
The New York Times


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A father says he wasn't trying to shame his 14-year-old son when he made the boy wear a large sandwich-board sign saying, ''I abused and sold drugs.''

''I'm not out here doing this to humiliate my son,'' the father told WATE-TV as the teenager walked up and down the sidewalk Wednesday in front of Cedar Bluff Middle School.

''I'm doing this because I love him,'' he said. ''We do have an extreme drug problem in America, and maybe it's time for extreme measures that parents need to take to monitor this problem that we have.''

The man wasn't identified by the station to protect the confidentiality of the son, but he appeared on camera. The son's face was not shown.

The father said he recently learned after reading the boy's MySpace page that his son was involved with marijuana and OxyContin. That's when he decided to act, and the boy agreed to the punishment.

After a short time, the school's principal soon came out and asked the father to call it off, which he did.

By then the boy said he'd learned his lesson. ''This is embarrassing. I ain't going to be doing it again,'' the boy said. ''Drugs are for losers. That's all I can say.''

Information from: WATE-TV, http://www.wate.com/

    Dad Makes Son Wear Sign for Using Drugs, NYT, 20.4.2007,






For 35 Years,

Waiting for News of a Missing Son


March 12, 2007
The New York Times


Every time she answers her phone, Gloria Chait hopes no one replies.

“Hello?” she says in a tremulous voice, her heart sinking when a caller responds.

For more than 25 years, Ms. Chait drew hope from the mysterious phone calls to her Queens home two or three times a year. They began on Mother’s Day 1972, two months after her oldest son, Steven N. Chait, vanished from his dormitory at Columbia University.

Each call was the same. Ms. Chait’s greeting was met with silence. But she stayed on the phone, listening to the crackle of static, sensing that her son was on the other end. She told him she loved him. She begged him to come home. Seconds passed, then minutes, before the caller finally hung up. Ms. Chait kept a log of the calls on a pad of yellow lined paper until about 10 years ago, when they stopped.

“I always said his name and heard silence,” Ms. Chait said recently in her high-rise apartment in Fresh Meadows, her blue eyes heavy with sorrow. “But someone was there.”

Mr. Chait’s case is one of the New York Police Department’s oldest open missing persons cases, a distinction that has won him little recognition. Like the bulk of New York City’s 338 others, his is not a famous case, nor was his disappearance widely grieved.

Mr. Chait never fueled the national intrigue that followed the disappearance of Judge Joseph Force Crater, who stepped into a cab in Midtown Manhattan in 1930, never to be seen again. Nor did he spark the massive emotional outpouring that came after Etan Patz vanished, at the age of 6, on his way to the school bus stop near his SoHo home in 1979. Etan, too, was never found.

Instead, history seemed to forget Mr. Chait almost as soon as he bade his roommate goodbye 35 years ago. “Take it slow” was all he said before slipping away, seemingly into thin air.

No intensive manhunt followed, no big poster campaign. His friends waited two days before calling the Chaits and telling them that their son, who was 20, had missed his classes as well as his shifts at Mama Joy’s, a now-shuttered delicatessen on Broadway near 113th Street. Mr. Chait left behind no clues, just a suddenly shattered family, and a gaping hole in his mother’s life.

“We knew, we knew, we knew this was very serious,” said Ms. Chait, of the moment she learned that Steven was gone.

Looking back, Ms. Chait sees darkly portentous signs in her son that she thinks she overlooked then. His moodiness. His perfectionism. His tendency to despair if he felt the world had failed him, or that he had failed it.

Ms. Chait would never accept the possibility, though, that Steven might have committed suicide. She believes he walked away from his life, but that he is still alive.

“I feel it in here,” she said, pressing a fist to her heart. “It’s very deep, the deepest kind of feeling.”

Steven was born tiny, the first of Ms. Chait and her husband Harry’s three children, but grew up sturdy and tall. He was exceptionally bright. By the age of 9, he was reading The New York Times and U.S. News & World Report, and earning top marks in school. He excelled in track, and his trophies, tarnished by time, still line a shelf of his old bedroom. After he was accepted at Columbia, he wore his student identification proudly, like a medal.

But after he got a C in a crucial engineering course, a devastating first, he switched to art history. He had always been solemn but now seemed haunted by defeat.

“How are you doing, Steven?” Ms. Chait would ask him. “Living,” he would reply.

The last time Ms. Chait saw Steven, he was home for the weekend, asleep in the bedroom he used to share with his little brother, Gary. His 5-feet-10-inch frame was stretched long, facing away from the door. A tumble of dark curls spilled across his pillow. Ms. Chait closed the door gently and left with her husband for a party on Long Island.

Their son went back to Furnald Hall on campus that night and spent much of the next morning lying in bed, listening to music, his roommate later said. Then he pulled on a jacket, a knit hat and scarf, said goodbye to his roommate, and left.

At first, the police tried to assure the Chaits that Mr. Chait’s absence was voluntary and temporary, so the couple searched for him on their own.

Ms. Chait said they went to an abandoned stadium on Randalls Island where Steven had once raced. They traveled to Washington because Steven adored architecture, and a new I. M. Pei building was going up.

Silence enveloped their home. Ms. Chait wept often, and her husband spent long hours in an armchair, drinking endless glasses of wine. Gary left for college, and would later fall into a deep depression of his own. Their youngest child, Risa, then in the 10th grade, escaped the gloom by often staying with friends.

“They did the best they could for us,” said the daughter, now Risa Jampel, who went on to Yale and is now a dermatologist in Baltimore. “But they couldn’t function.”

The Chaits’ friends dropped away, unsure of what to say. Invitations to parties and dinners dried up. Neighbors avoided them.

“People used to cringe when they saw me, like I was a witch,” Ms. Chait said. “In this building, one man out of 92 families had the decency to spend an hour with Harry and me.”

Harry Chait eventually surfaced from his depression and stopped drinking. He told his wife he had come to peace with Steven’s disappearance.

But Ms. Chait could not. She wrote hundreds of letters to newspapers, magazines and possible employers. She joined a support group for the parents of missing children. She strained to catch sight of Steven in crowds. Gary and Risa would scour the faces of homeless people, too, trying to see Steven in them. They still do.

Harry Chait died of a brain hemorrhage in 2002.

The mysterious phone calls provided some comfort, though Ms. Chait never found out who they were from.

In 2005, she finally cleared out Steven’s clothes. She donated the ones that did not disintegrate in her hands.

The police investigated the case and kept it open because no body was ever found.

Determined that Steven Chait’s name not be forgotten, Dr. Jampel financed a track scholarship at Columbia in his name, which will be awarded for the first time this spring.

Ms. Chait, who is 78, has made new friends but rarely tells them about Steven. The tragedy of what happened, and the pained joy his memory brings, is so deeply ingrained in her that it has become almost too enormous to mention.

Tomorrow, on the 35th anniversary of his disappearance, Ms. Chait plans to start her day as she always does. She will push her delicate frame through a series of lunges and push-ups, which are called sun salutations in yoga.

And she will finish with the same posture she always ends with. One knee bent, the other leg strong and straight. Arms wide, stretching in opposite directions. Eyes gazing forward, soft and resolute. The warrior.

“I’m never going to give up,” she said. “He’s too precious to me.”

    For 35 Years, Waiting for News of a Missing Son, NYT, 12.3.2007,






Canadian province

allows child to have 3 parents


Wed Jan 3, 2007 3:41 PM ET
By Leah Schnurr


TORONTO (Reuters) - A five-year-old Canadian boy can have two mothers and a father, an Ontario court ruled this week in a landmark case that redefines the meaning of family and examines the rights of parents in same-sex relationships.

In a ruling released on Tuesday, the Ontario Court of Appeal said the female partner of the child's biological mother could be legally recognized as the boy's third parent.

The biological father, named on the boy's birth certificate, is a friend of both women and is taking an active role in the child's life.

"It is contrary to (the child's) best interests that he is deprived of the legal recognition of the parentage of one of his mothers," Justice Marc Rosenberg wrote in the ruling, which did not name the three parents or their child.

"Perhaps one of the greatest fears faced by lesbian mothers is the death of the birth mother... Without a declaration of parentage or some other order, the surviving partner would be unable to make decisions for their minor child."

The two women, who have been together since 1990, told the court they did not want to adopt the child because it meant the father would lose his status as a parent.

The Institute for Canadian Values, which opposes a 2005 law allowing same-sex marriage in Canada, dismissed the ruling as an act of "naked judicial activism".

"The court saw this case as an opportunity to entrench so-called alternative family structures in law without submitting the idea to the rigors of the legislative process," Executive Director Joseph Ben-Ami said in a statement.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Ontario since 2003, and across Canada since 2005.

The latest judgment overturned a 2003 ruling by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in which the judge found that he did not have jurisdiction to declare the woman a mother.

    Canadian province allows child to have 3 parents, R, 3.1.2007,






Parents 'powerless

to bring up their children'

Families feel they have lost confidence
in their child-rearing skills


Sunday November 12, 2006
The Observer
Ned Temko and Denis Campbell


Many parents have lost confidence in how to bring up their children properly and feel inadequate, isolated and unsupported in coping with the pressures of modern family life, the government has warned.

Mothers and fathers often feel 'disempowered' as parents, and find it particularly difficult to enforce rules so their child does not misbehave, according to Beverley Hughes, the Minister for Children and Families.

In an interview with The Observer, Hughes voiced alarm that parents have much less faith than previous generations in their abilities to raise and guide their children, and wanted help to deal with their conduct.

'I've talked to a lot of parents and one thing that has really struck me, and this is across all social classes, is a sense of lack of confidence around the parenting role - and particularly around setting boundaries for children,' she said.

Hughes will announce plans tomorrow for a new National Academy for Parenting Practitioners to provide useful, reliable advice to parents and children's experts on what has been proven to work, which will start work in autumn 2007.

Many parents clearly wanted help in 'understanding their children's behaviour' when difficult situations arose, she said, adding: 'Increasingly what many parents say they want is help with feeling comfortable with their own authority with their own kids, and being able to set down boundaries and stick to them.'

Many parents watch television shows about child-rearing such as The House of Tiny Tearaways to pick up tips on how to handle aspects of their children's behaviour because they feel unequal to the task, she said.

'I find them as fascinating as everybody else. That speaks to this lack of confidence. What should I be doing? How can I control this three-year-old? In some ways it's astonishing. But it's there and we should be responding to it,' said Hughes, a former probation officer and lecturer in social policy.

The minister identified a weakening of inter-generational family ties, an increased number of women working and greater pressures on children as key factors behind the widespread loss of confidence among parents.

'Many parents in the past had a lot more support from families. Families were closer. They had their own

mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, around them. And the speed of change, and the pressures - both on today's parents and on the children they're trying to bring up - are probably different. So you've got less support for parents from their families and at the same time a rapidly-changing world with lots more challenges in it than there were, and I think those two things come together quite potently for many parents now,' said Hughes.

Mary Macleod, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, a leading charity and think-tank on children's issues, said Hughes had highlighted a growing trend.

'Many parents tell us that they feel less confident at raising their children than they think their own parents were, and they feel that they are scrutinised and judged as parents in a way that has not happened before. It's a common feeling,' said Macleod. 'From surveys we have done and discussion groups we've held with parents it's clear that quite a lot of parents don't feel confident about their own abilities.'

Many were anxious about the safety of their children and how to get them through the teenage years without them getting into trouble, she said. They also worried about pressure on the family through children growing up too soon, peer influences and judgmental stuff about parents in the media.

Parents also resented the fact that they only got help from official agencies to deal with their children when, for example, a son or daughter truanted from school repeatedly or got into trouble with the police, Macleod said.

Hughes, who will make a keynote speech on family policy tomorrow when she addresses the FPI's annual conference in London, stressed that the state cannot get too involved in the rearing of children.

'Only parents can parent,' she said. 'It is not the Government's job to tell parents how to nurture their children. When you're a parent you don't want to be told what to do - whether by your mother-in-law, a health visitor, and certainly not by the state.'

    Parents 'powerless to bring up their children', O, 12.11.2006,






Married and Single Parents

Spending More Time With Children,

Study Finds


October 17, 2006
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 — Despite the surge of women into the work force, mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased, researchers say in a new study, based on analysis of thousands of personal diaries.

“We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so,” said one of the researchers, Suzanne M. Bianchi, chairwoman of the department of sociology at the University of Maryland. “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.”

The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families. But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.

Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.

The findings are set forth in a new book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” published by the Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association. The research builds on work that Ms. Bianchi did in 16 years as a demographer at the Census Bureau.

At first, the authors say, “it seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother. Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families. With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.

But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time. The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.

For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965. For married fathers, the time spent on child care more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours. Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.

“As the hours of paid work went up for mothers, their hours of housework declined,” said Ms. Bianchi, a former president of the Population Association of America. “It was almost a one-for-one trade.”

Meaghan O. Perlowski, a 32-year-old mother of three in Des Moines, said in an interview, “Spending time with my kids is my highest priority, but it’s a juggling act.”

Ms. Perlowski, who is a full-time pharmaceutical sales representative, said she did grocery shopping and errands on her lunch hour and cut back on housework so she would have more time with her children.

“We don’t worry much about keeping the house spotless,” she said. “It’s sometimes a mess, cluttered with school papers, backpacks and toys, but that’s O.K.”

Fathers have picked up some of the slack. Married fathers are spending more time on housework: an average of 9.7 hours a week in 2000, up from 4.4 hours in 1965. That increase was more than offset by the decline in time devoted to housework by married mothers: 19.4 hours a week in 2000, down from 34.5 hours in 1965.

When Ms. Perlowski took a business trip on Thursday, her husband, Jim, took time from work to be home with their children, ages 1, 4 and 7.

In Miami, Ian D. Abrams, a 33-year-old marketing executive, said that since his daughter was born two years ago, he had done “a substantial amount of cooking and cleaning, to take that burden off my wife,” but he admitted that home repairs were often delayed. His wife, Yolanda, took a full-time job as a state court employee when their daughter, Marley, was 14 months old.

The researchers found that many parents juggled their work and family duties by including children in their own leisure and free-time activities. Married mothers, in particular, often combine child care with other activities.

Tammy L. Curtis, 34, a schoolteacher in Glendale, Ariz., outside Phoenix, said she typically worked from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but always made time for her 5-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.

“I cook less,” Ms. Curtis said. “I exercise less. And I do a lot of multitasking. When my son is at soccer practice, I sit on the sidelines grading papers. I have no time for personal relaxation.”

The book’s two other co-authors, Prof. John P. Robinson and Melissa A. Milkie, are also sociologists at the University of Maryland. Rather than relying on anecdotes and images in the mass media, the researchers used “time diaries” to measure how families spent their time. Using a standard set of questions, professional interviewers asked parents to chronicle all their activities on the day before the interview.

Katharine G. Abraham, a former commissioner of labor statistics, said the new book provided “the definitive word” on how parents allocated time between paid work and family responsibilities. The most recent numbers, for 2000, are remarkably similar to time-use data in a new survey conducted annually since 2003 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.

Gary L. Bauer, a Christian conservative who defends traditional marriage as president of the advocacy group American Values, said the research was encouraging in one respect.

“It indicates that parents, especially mothers, instinctively know that the line promoted by social scientists in the 1960’s and 70’s — that professional child care can provide all the things that maternal care can — is not correct,” Mr. Bauer said. “Mothers made adjustments in their own lives to ensure that, even with jobs outside the home, they provide what only mothers can provide.”

The authors cited several factors to help explain how parents managed to spend more time with their children, despite working longer hours:

¶ Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.” People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.

¶ Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.

¶ Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.” As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.”

¶ Many parents feel they need to keep a closer eye on their children because of concerns about crime, school violence, child abduction and abuse.

While married mothers and married fathers were approaching “gender equality,” measured by total hours of work, the researchers found stark differences among women. These disparities suggest why working mothers often feel hurried and harried.

Over all, the researchers said, employed mothers have less free time and “far greater total workloads than stay-at-home mothers.” The workweek for an employed mother averages 71 hours, almost equally divided between paid and unpaid work, compared with a workweek averaging 52 hours for mothers who are not employed outside the home.

On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed, and they also spend less time with their husbands.

    Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds, NYT, 17.10.2006,






Beyond Rivalry,

a Hidden World of Sibling Violence


February 28, 2006
The New York Times


From infancy until he reached the threshold of manhood, the beatings Daniel W. Smith received at his older brother's hands were qualitatively different from routine sibling rivalry. Rarely did he and his brother just shove each other in the back of the family car over who was crowding whom, or wrestle over a toy firetruck.

Instead, Mr. Smith said in an interview, his brother, Sean, would grip him in a headlock or stranglehold and punch him repeatedly.

"Fighting back just made it worse, so I'd just take it and wait for it to be over," said Mr. Smith, who was 18 months younger than his brother. "What was I going to do? Where was I going to go? I was 10 years old."

To speak only of helplessness and intimidation, however, is to oversimplify a complex bond. "We played kickball with neighborhood kids, and we'd go off exploring in the woods together as if he were any other friend," said Mr. Smith, who is now 34 and a writing instructor at San Francisco State University. (Sean died of a heart attack three years ago.)

"But there was always tension," he said, "because at any moment things could go sour."

Siblings have been trading blows since God first played favorites with Cain and Abel. Nearly murderous sibling fights — over possessions, privacy, pecking orders and parental love — are woven through biblical stories, folktales, fiction and family legends.

In Genesis, Joseph's jealous older brothers strip him of his coat of many colors and throw him into a pit in the wilderness. Brutal brother-on-brother violence dominates an opening section of John Steinbeck's "East of Eden," and in Annie Proulx's short story "Brokeback Mountain," the cowboy Ennis del Mar describes an older brother who "slugged me silly ever' day."

This casual, intimate violence can be as mild as a shoving match and as savage as an attack with a baseball bat. It is so common that it is almost invisible. Parents often ignore it as long as nobody gets killed; researchers rarely study it; and many psychotherapists consider its softer forms a normal part of growing up.

But there is growing evidence that in a minority of cases, sibling warfare becomes a form of repeated, inescapable and emotionally damaging abuse, as was the case for Mr. Smith.

In a study published last year in the journal Child Maltreatment, a group of sociologists found that 35 percent of children had been "hit or attacked" by a sibling in the previous year. The study was based on phone interviews with a representative national sample of 2,030 children or those who take care of them.

Although some of the attacks may have been fleeting and harmless, more than a third were troubling on their face.

According to a preliminary analysis of unpublished data from the study, 14 percent of the children were repeatedly attacked by a sibling; 4.55 percent were hit hard enough to sustain injuries like bruises, cuts, chipped teeth and an occasional broken bone; and 2 percent were hit by brothers or sisters wielding rocks, toys, broom handles, shovels and even knives.

Children ages 2 to 9 who were repeatedly attacked were twice as likely as others their age to show severe symptoms of trauma, anxiety and depression, like sleeplessness, crying spells, thoughts of suicide and fears of the dark, further unpublished data from the same study suggest.

"There are very serious forms of, and reactions to, sibling victimization," said David Finkelhor, a sociologist at the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, the study's lead author, who suggests it is often minimized.

"If I were to hit my wife, no one would have trouble seeing that as an assault or a criminal act," Dr. Finkelhor said. "When a child does the same thing to a sibling, the exact same act will be construed as a squabble, a fight or an altercation."

The sibling attacks in Dr. Finkelhor's study were equally frequent among children of all races and socioeconomic groups; they were most frequent on children 6 to 12, slightly more frequent on boys than on girls, and tapered off gradually as children entered adolescence.

As violent as sibling conflicts are among humans, they are seldom fatal, as they can be among birds and a smattering of other animals.

Siblicide is common among birds of prey, including tawny eagles, brown pelicans and kittiwakes. A Pacific Ocean seabird known as the blue-footed booby pecks at its siblings and pushes them out of the nest to die of starvation while the parents stand idly by. A baby black-crowned night heron in Minnesota was twice observed swallowing the entire head of a younger nestmate until it went limp and looked close to death. Embryonic sand tiger sharks eat one another while they're still in the womb.

Piglets are born with a special set of temporary "needle teeth" to attack their littermates in the struggle for the mother's prodigal frontal teats; the runts kicked back to the hind teat sometimes starve on its thin milk.

On the Serengeti Plain of Tanzania, spotted hyena pups, who are usually born in pairs, bite and shake each other almost from the moment they leave the womb. When the mother's milk is thin, the struggles often end with the death of one pup from wounds or malnutrition — especially, curiously enough, if the pups are the same sex.

Baby animals, researchers theorize, fight mainly to establish dominance and to compete for scarce food. Human children, on the other hand, fight not only over who got the bigger bowl of ice cream but also over who decides what game to play, who controls the remote, who is supposed to do the dishes, who started it and who is loved most.

Few experts agree on how extensive sibling abuse is, or where sibling conflict ends and abuse begins. It is rarely studied: only two major national studies, a handful of academic papers and a few specialized books have looked at it in the last quarter-century. And it is as easy to over-dramatize as it is to underestimate.

In 1980, when the sociologist Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire published "Behind Closed Doors," a groundbreaking national study of family violence, he concluded that the sibling relationship was the most violent of human bonds. Judged strictly by counting blows, he was right: Dr. Straus and his colleagues found that 74 percent of a representative sample of children had pushed or shoved a sibling within the year and 42 percent had kicked, bitten or punched a brother or sister. (Only 3 percent of parents had attacked a child that violently, and only 3 percent of husbands had physically attacked their wives.)

John V. Caffaro, a clinical psychologist and family therapist in private practice in the San Diego suburb Del Mar, defines sibling abuse as a pattern of repeated violence and intimidation.

In an interview, Dr. Caffaro, a co-author of "Sibling Abuse Trauma," said abuse was most often determined by a combination of disengaged upbringing by parents, testosterone and family demographics. It occurs most often in large families composed entirely of closely spaced boys, and least frequently among pairs of sisters, he said.

"A kid can hit a sibling once and it can look pretty bad, but that's not what we consider abuse," he said. "We're looking for a repeated pattern and when that happens, somebody — a parent — has got to be out to lunch."

Abuse occurs most frequently, he said, when a parent is emotionally absent as a result of divorce, long working hours, extensive business travel, alcoholism, preoccupation with his or her own problems or other factors. "One or both parents aren't really around much to do their jobs. It's almost a given," Dr. Caffaro said, adding that "peripheral" fathers are particularly problematic.

"Things are chaotic, boundaries are blurred, and supervision is minimal," he said, noting that those families do not always look chaotic from the outside.

"Sometimes the father is just basically extensively out of town for business and Mom is not a good limit-setter," he said.

In other cases, he added, parents escalate conflicts by playing favorites, ignoring obvious victimization, intervening only to shut the kids up or blaming older children without understanding how younger children helped provoke them.

Dr. Caffaro said that in his experience sibling violence could rarely be attributed simply to an extraordinarily aggressive or psychotic child.

In nearly 15 years of working with more than a hundred families and adult survivors of sibling abuse, he said he could remember only a handful of such cases, one involving a girl repeatedly beaten up by a brother with schizophrenia. Although some children have poor impulse control, he said, violence only becomes repeated abuse when parents fail to nip it in the bud.

Several adults, contacted through a classified advertisement posted online on Craigslist and through a Web site for survivors of sibling abuse, said that their parents had ignored their siblings' intimidation.

"My parents tended to lessen the significance of the abuse, telling me that my brother loved me, really, and that he really was a nice person," wrote Kasun J., 21, an Australian university student, in a posting on the Web site he started under the pen name Mandragora.

Kasun J., who did not want to be further identified for fear of family repercussions, said in an interview that he still kept his distance from an older brother who once threw a clock and a set of nail clippers at his head.

Daniel Smith said that his parents rarely intervened when he and his brother fought, figuring that "boys will be boys."

When he was in sixth grade, he said, a school counselor, concerned about a violent short story he had written, asked him about possible abuse at home, and he felt relieved and hopeful. But as soon as he told her that it was his brother, not his parents, who was hitting him, the counselor dropped the subject.

"I remember thinking that she was sort of a fraud," Mr. Smith said.

Other people interviewed said they were still haunted by memories of older brothers — and an occasional sister — who dumped them out of bassinets, hit them with mop handles, sat on their chests until they feared suffocation, punched them in the mouth or stabbed them in the hands with a nutpick or compass point.

Several said they were second-born children, and they theorized that their abusive siblings had resented being displaced. None wanted to be further identified out of concerns about family privacy.

Many people said the effects of the early abuse had lingered into adulthood. Mr. Smith, for instance, said that he still fights a tendency to avoid confrontations, especially with aggressive people who remind him of his brother. Another man, an academic in his 50's who did not want to be further identified out of privacy concerns, ascribed what he called his "constant wariness" to his physical intimidation in childhood by an older sister.

"I have a high need for solitude when I work," said the professor, who added that the unwelcome shoving and wrestling started when he was a toddler and was one of the defining influences of his early emotional life.

"I'm attentive to noise," he said. "If somebody's around, a lot of my brain immediately turns to: Who is it? What's up? Are they going to bother me or sabotage me in some way?"

Several people said that the abuse continued until they reached early adolescence and became strong enough to defend themselves. In Mr. Smith's family, however, the fights became even more violent when he reached his late teens, because he took up tae kwon do, began lifting weights and eventually struck back.

One afternoon in the family kitchen when he was 19, in the course of a routine argument, his brother half-heartedly slapped him. This time, for the first time, it was Daniel who got his brother in a crushing headlock, and Daniel who pressed a forearm against his brother's nose until it bled.

Knowing he could hold the position forever, Mr. Smith let his brother up. When Sean tried to restart the fighting, Mr. Smith, much to his surprise, burst into long, jagged sobs.

"I remember feeling like I should have been triumphant and I did feel some of that, but I also felt scared and confused," he said. "It was a rite of passage for me. I'd accomplished something and become my own person."

The brothers never fought again, never spoke about the violence and were not close for most of their lives. Sean Smith went on to a difficult adult life, and had only recently freed himself from addiction to alcohol and methamphetamines when he died three years ago, Daniel Smith said.

Only then, he said, did he realize the unspoken depth and complexity of their connection. When asked whether he had forgiven his brother, Mr. Smith hesitated.

"Once he died, I realized that we had a pretty strong bond that I didn't understand or even knew existed," he said. "I can tell you I outcried everybody else at the funeral."

Beyond Rivalry, a Hidden World of Sibling Violence,
NYT, 28.2.2006,










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