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This article addresses an alarming new development in the recent trend toward blaming parents for their children's unlawful acts: an Illinois criminal statute that holds parents accountable for the consensual sexual activities of their children. Although laws creating criminal parental responsibility are not new, teenage sexuality is not part of the usual repertoire of juvenile acts that parental responsibility laws have previously sought to deter. The State of Illinois is the sole pioneer in this yet uncharted territory, breaking new ground for the parental responsibility movement and transporting parental liability to new heights.

Other states may view the Illinois statute as an innovative means to alleviate the apparent epidemic of teenage sex. My article highlights how the Illinois law attempted to radically alter the typical structure of the parental responsibility paradigm by holding parents accountable for the consensual sexual activities of their children. The article demonstrates that requiring parents to prevent teen sex would impermissibly infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make child-rearing decisions. For this reason, the article seeks to dissuade other states from enacting similar legislation by showing that parental liability laws will not solve the problem of adolescent sexual activity. Accordingly, this article hopes to halt any potential for widespread adoption of the Illinois prototype and thus to prevent further erosion of the bar to state intrusion into the family home.


Originally published in Kentucky Law Journal Volume 89, Issue 1 in 2000 and shared here with their permission.

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