Adolescents in Families
Understanding the rights of adolescents requires starting with understanding the rights of their parents. Doing so is necessary because adolescents often are viewed as not having rights at all, and the rights that they do have are perceived as actually belonging to their parents. The reality is much more nuanced, but understanding the role of parents in conceptions of adolescents’ rights is the appropriate starting point for understanding the rights of adolescents. How the legal system addresses parent–child relationships shapes how it can recognize the rights of adolescents when they are both in and outside of family systems. This chapter’s constitutional cases reveal the rationales for adopting this approach. Adolescents’ rights rely on tradition, images of democracy, and conceptions of rights as well as on several practical considerations, such as parents’ being in the best position to determine their children’s best interests or understand their adolescents’ competencies. What becomes notable is the manner that the Court uses the Constitution to protect rights in families: it uses the First Amendment right to religion to protect parental rights as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause to protect parents’ liberties. The Court does recognize that adolescents have an interest in matters affecting them, but it pervasively stops short of recognizing those interests as rights that adolescents could control independently.