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Is Overparenting Child Abuse?

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A case in Italy is creating controversy, and striking fear in the hearts of helicopter parents everywhere.

child and mother holding hands

Time magazine spotlights an unusual child abuse case in Italy. It centers on the overprotective mother and grandparents of a 12-year-old boy known only as Luca in the northern city of Ferrara.

Prosecutors say that:

• Luca was not allowed to play with other children, go to church, participate in sports, or leave the house before or after school.
• He was sent to school with his snacks already cut into bite-size portions for him.
• He was both physically and psychologically stunted from such around-the-clock doting.
• He didn't know how to run.
• He had the motor skills of a 3-year-old child.

The boy's mother and grandfather have already been convicted of child abuse and are appealing the verdict. The grandmother is still facing charges.

In this case, do you think overparenting equals child abuse?

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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny October 21, 2009, 12:19 PM

I think it is sad but no, I don’t think this is criminal child abuse. There was no malicious intent, no negligence…it seems that they were acting out of love and ignorance and fear. I’d say they need a whole heck of a lot of counseling, not jail.

MarMar October 21, 2009, 2:02 PM

No neglect? Reducing your 12-year-old to the physical status of a 3-year-old when he doesn’t have anything else wrong with him IS NEGLECT. As a parent, you have to make sure you are taking care of a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs. By him being so psychologically and physically stunted, those needs were not met. Period.

Rachel October 21, 2009, 3:17 PM

Does the child have other medical issues that could be contributing to this? Would be curious…

chris October 21, 2009, 4:26 PM

I would need to hear the whole story before I could judge this. It just seems to me that there’s a lot more going on than just this little blurb about it.

Reenie October 21, 2009, 4:29 PM

That poor child will not develop the social or emotional skills he’ll need to survive on his own in this world!
If that doesn’t qualify as abuse it should at least be grounds for his removal from the household until his family learns to let go of the apron strings long enough for him to breathe! As even his physical growth was affected, it sure looks like neglect to me.

Granted his parents may have had his best interest at heart, but they certainly aren’t doing him any favors with such treatment.

Jenny October 21, 2009, 5:25 PM

Let me rephrase that because I understand how other people took it.

When I said no neglect I meant malicious neglect…the parents crime was caring for the child too much not neglecting him by not caring for him enough.

It doesn’t seem like their intentions were to harm the child although it did harm him.

But let me say this…nearly half of the children in the US are overweight which too has many many health implications and these children cannot do what children their age should be able to do either but not many of these parents are charged with crimes.

Lets not be so quick to jump all over these people when we aren’t even handling a similar situation in our own country.

Anonymous October 22, 2009, 9:50 AM

Helicopter parenting to the max!!!!

diane October 23, 2009, 10:44 AM

these parents were not acting out of love. they are control freaks, the type of people that want to control everything about their child’s life. in this case they did and the result is not only physical impairment, but also deep psychological damage. probably permanent. how could anyone call this love?

'nette October 23, 2009, 6:23 PM

This isn’t child neglect but its definitely abuse. Sadly its only obvious to people because of the extreme nature of the effects, but parents are crippling their children on a daily basis in the US by doing the same things.
I came across an interesting article called “Raising a Nation of Wimps” and in it there was a quote from a child who said he ‘just wish my parents had another hobby besides me.’ As a private school teacher I read the quote to my class and asked the students (5th and 6th graders) if anyone agreed with his sentiment….every single one of my students raised their hands. Do your kids a favor and let them fall every once in a while so that they know how to get up. Otherwise be ready for the world you’re creating when our kids are adults who still can’t do anything independently.

Johnnie Markiewicz March 16, 2011, 7:57 PM

I’d be inclined to agree with you on this. Which is not something I typically do! I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

Sally A. Barnett March 29, 2011, 6:00 PM


Jack E. Reynolds March 31, 2011, 4:39 AM


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