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AbstractIn liberal societies, paternalism is widely thought to be wrong in relation to adults, but morally permissible or even required when applied to children. Yet our justification for treating and regarding children paternalistically is more complex than it may at first appear. I construct a principle, the "Child Paternalism Principle," that states conditions under which we are justified in subjecting children to paternalism. To be justified, paternalism must be appropriately indexed to a child's actual developmental stage and level of competence. Furthermore, paternalism is not justified when it fails to respect the dignity of a child. The Child Paternalism Principle takes the burgeoning fields of developmental-, cognitive- and neuro-psychology seriously, providing an ethical framework through which to filter scientific evidence. In Chapter I, I explicate a child-centric conception of paternalism, according to which to treat a person paternalistically is to treat her as if she is a child. An elaboration of the conception reveals important limits on the paternalistic treatment of others, even if they are children. A number of thinkers express skepticism about the appropriateness of appealing to a notion of competence when attempting to justify paternalism towards children. In Chapter II, I defend the use of a notion of competence against these skeptics. Chapter III describes what follows from recognizing that, like adults, children are persons. As persons, children are the bearers of dignity, and are therefore the proper subjects of respect. Acts of paternalism that degrade, humiliate, or express contempt are not compatible with respect for children's dignity. Chapter IV describes and defends the Child Paternalism Principle, and explains conditions under which it is permissible to apply in particular cases our general presumption that children are the proper subjects of paternalism. Chapter V applies the Child Paternalism Principle to the question of whether adolescents should be made to inform their parents of their abortion decisions. I argue that adolescents should not have to inform their parents, but neither should they be left entirely alone with their decision. Assuming an idealized setting not characterized by ideologically-driven agendas, there should be state-provided services that scaffold adolescents' still-developing decision-making processes.