Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, October 31, 2005

Biology and Relationships

Fcty_jcarbone Cahn In The Biological Basis of Commitment: Does One Size Fit All? June Carbone and Naomi Cahn explore biology and family ties. "In this paper, we propose to take the growing insights that arise from the study of the biology of attachment to frame the emerging policy choices underlying the governance of adult relationships. We have chosen to focus, in particular, on the idea of commitment because we see two developments operating in tandem: the biological understanding of attachment has been expanding exponentially at a time of reexamination of the importance of long-term family stability. We believe that putting the two together - integrating biological understandings with sociology - will lead to the conclusions that the tendency to form pair-bonds is a deeply ingrained part of the species, lifelong fidelity cannot be expected on a widespread basis absent substantial coercion, and long term partnership, in Sarah Hrdy's words, is a "compromise that children win." These conclusions, however, will always leave some questions unanswered so that they can do no more than frame the unfolding policy debates. The question of what policy choices work - and at what price - can never be answered by biology alone. A better understanding of the new scientific insights can, however, underscore that the determination of what is "natural" produces complex and varied answers, and the most natural of human tendencies is the desire to reorder rather than accept the workings of human society. Accordingly, in light of the developing understandings of human pair-bonds from both the biological and sociological perspectives, we suggest various strategies that support long-term commitment between adults." June Carbone & Naomi Cahn, The Biological Basis of Commitment: Does One Size Fit All?, 25 Women's Rights Law Reporter 223 (2004). Link to Article (last visited 10-30-05 NVS)

In Which Ties Bind? Redefining the Parent-Child Relationship in an Age of Genetic Certainty, the same authors explore the importance of genetic ties. "To prosper, children need, at a minimum, the ability to draw on adult material resources - food, clothing, shelter, love, care, education, and guidance. Children must develop, in addition, a social identity, a sense of self that connects them to the society around them. With the changing conceptions of the family, we must face the issue of how society ensures children's well-being, and whether we should continue to police family structure or become more willing to focus attention on children's individual needs. In addressing these topics in this paper, we therefore start with two overriding questions: (1) Are children's rights best protected by the assertion of individual claims or by the design of a regime that can be expected to advance their interests?; and (2) to what degree should children's claims on adults responsible for their care depend on genetic ties?" June Carbone & Naomi Cahn, Which Ties Bind? Redefining the Parent-Child Relationship in an Age of Genetic Certainty, 11 Wm. & Mary Bill of Rights J. 1011 (2003). Link to Article (last visited 10-30-05 NVS)

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