Paternalism is action that limits a person's or group's liberty or autonomy and is intended to promote their own good.[1] Paternalism can also imply that the behavior is against or regardless of the will of a person, or also that the behavior expresses an attitude of superiority.[2] Paternalism, paternalistic and paternalist have all been used as a pejorative.[3]

Child on a leash

Some such as John Stuart Mill think paternalism to be appropriate towards children, saying:

"It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood."[4]

Paternalism towards adults is sometimes thought of as treating them as if they were children.[5]