Eugenics and the lives of disabled children

Sheehy, Kieron (2020). Eugenics and the lives of disabled children. In: Cooper, Victoria and Holford, Naomi eds. Exploring Childhood and Youth. London: Routledge.



This chapter aims to explore historical and contemporary aspects of eugenic thinking, including the role of technology. It highlights the pervasiveness of this way of thinking and how it relates to the stigma that continues to have a profound impact on the lives of disabled children around the world. The chapter utilizes the term disabled children, rather than children with disabilities. It reflects a social model of disability, developed by disabled people, that highlights how people are disabled by factors in society. Eugenics was a perspective, a way of thinking, that determined how society should respond to children who were labelled as defective’ or ‘unfit’, for example, disabled children and those with learning difficulties. Although societies have developed and progressed in many profoundly positive ways over the past century, particular ways of thinking about disabled children appear to remain. Outside of hospitals and institutions, across the world the lives of stigmatised children remain at risk within their own families and communities.

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