Disownment is the formal act or condition of forcibly renouncing or no longer accepting one's consanguineous child as a member of one's family or kin. It differs from giving a child up for adoption both in that it is a social and interpersonal issue (and therefore usually takes place later in the child's life, though children can be disowned by their parents at very young ages as well) and that it does not imply any arrangement for future care. In this sense it is comparable to divorce or repudiation (of a spouse). Disownment may entail disinheritance, familial exile, or shunning, and often a combination of the three.
Disownment is often a taboo course of action; in many modern legal systems, it is considered a form of child abandonment and is against the law. In very rare cases, a society and its institutions will accept an act of disownment. In one such example, the British politician Leo Amery had two adult sons, both young adults at the time of World War II; one fought in the British forces, while the other, John Amery, cast his lot with Nazi Germany and beamed propaganda radio broadcasts to his homeland. After the end of the war in 1945, young Amery was tried and executed for treason, whereupon the bereaved father asked, and received, permission from the editors of Who's Who to change the terms of his authorized biography from two sons to "one son".
- AMERY, Rt Hon. Leopold Stennett at Who Was Who 1997-2006 online (accessed 11 January 2008)
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