Orphan
Overview
 
An orphan
is a child permanently bereaved of or abandoned by his or her parents. In common usage, only a child (or the young of an animal) who has lost both parents is called an orphan. However, adults can also be referred to as orphans, or "adult orphans".

In certain animal species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 where the father typically abandons the mother and young at or prior to birth, the young will be called orphans when the mother dies regardless of the condition of the father.
Various groups use different definitions to identify orphans.
Encyclopedia
An orphan
is a child permanently bereaved of or abandoned by his or her parents. In common usage, only a child (or the young of an animal) who has lost both parents is called an orphan. However, adults can also be referred to as orphans, or "adult orphans".

In certain animal species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 where the father typically abandons the mother and young at or prior to birth, the young will be called orphans when the mother dies regardless of the condition of the father.

Definitions

Various groups use different definitions to identify orphans. One legal definition used in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 is a minor
Minor (law)
In law, a minor is a person under a certain age — the age of majority — which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 18...

 bereft through "death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents".

In the common use, an orphan does not have any surviving parent to care for him or her. However, the United Nations Children's Fund
United Nations Children's Fund
United Nations Children's Fund was created by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II...

 (UNICEF), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), and other groups label any child that has lost one parent as an orphan. In this approach, a maternal orphan is a child whose mother has died, a paternal orphan is a child whose father has died, and a double orphan has lost both parents. This contrasts with the older use of half-orphan to describe children that had lost only one parent.

Populations

Orphans are relatively rare in developed countries, as most children can expect both of their parents to survive their childhood. Much higher numbers of orphans exist in war-torn nations such as Afghanistan. After years of war, there are an estimated 1.5 million orphans in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

.
Continent Number of
orphans (1000s)
Orphans as percentage
of all children
Africa 34,294 11.9%
Asia 65,504 6.5%
Latin America & Caribbean 8,166 7.4%
Total 107,964 7.6%
  • 2001 figures from 2002 UNICEF/UNAIDS report
  • China
    People's Republic of China
    China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

    : A survey conducted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2005 showed that China has about 573,000 orphans below 18 years old.
  • Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    : An estimated 650,000 children are in Russian orphanages. Orphans are turned out of the orphanages at the age of 16, and the results are poor for most of them: 40% are homeless, 20% turn to crime, and 10% commit suicide
    Suicide
    Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

    .

Notable orphans

Famous orphans include world leaders such as Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 and Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

; the Muslim prophet Mohammed; writers such as Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

, and Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

. The American orphan Henry Darger
Henry Darger
Henry Joseph Darger, Jr. was a reclusive American writer and artist who worked as a custodian in Chicago, Illinois...

 portrayed the horrible conditions of his orphanage in his art work. Other notable orphans include entertainment greats such as Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

, Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

, Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s....

, Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth
George Herman Ruth, Jr. , best known as "Babe" Ruth and nicknamed "the Bambino" and "the Sultan of Swat", was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935...

 and Aaron North
Aaron North
Aaron Wright North, born March 22, 1979 is the co-founder and former guitarist of punk band The Icarus Line, the former lead guitarist of the industrial rock group Nine Inch Nails and currently the vocalist and guitarist of the band Jubilee...

, and innumerable fictional characters in literature and comics.

History

Wars and great epidemics,such as AIDS, have created many orphans. World War Two, with its massive numbers of deaths and population movements created large numbers of orphans—with estimates for Europe ranging from 1,000,000 to 13,000,000. Judt (2006) estimates there were 9,000 orphaned children in Czechoslovakia, 60,000 in the Netherlands 300,000 in Poland and 200,000 in Yugoslavia, plus many more in the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy and elsewhere.

In literature

Orphaned characters are extremely common as literary protagonists, especially in children's
Children's literature
Children's literature is for readers and listeners up to about age twelve; it is often defined in four different ways: books written by children, books written for children, books chosen by children, or books chosen for children. It is often illustrated. The term is used in senses which sometimes...

 and fantasy literature
Fantasy literature
Fantasy literature is fantasy in written form. Historically speaking, literature has composed the majority of fantasy works. Since the 1950s however, a growing segment of the fantasy genre has taken the form of films, television programs, graphic novels, video games, music, painting, and other...

. The lack of parents leaves the characters to pursue more interesting and adventurous lives, by freeing them from familial obligations and controls, and depriving them of more prosaic lives. It creates characters that are self-contained and introspective and who strive for affection. Orphans can metaphorically search for self-understanding through attempting to know their roots. Parents can also be allies and sources of aid for children, and removing the parents makes the character's difficulties more severe. Parents, furthermore, can be irrelevant to the theme a writer is trying to develop, and orphaning the character frees the writer from the necessity to depict such an irrelevant relationship; if one parent-child relationship is important, removing the other parent prevents complicating the necessary relationship. All these characteristics make orphans attractive characters for authors.

Orphans are common in fairy tales, such as most variants of Cinderella
Cinderella
"Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper" is a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune...

.

A number of well-known authors have written books featuring orphans. Examples from classic literature include Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood, whose novels are English literature standards...

, Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

, Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

's Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer
Thomas "Tom" Sawyer is the title character of the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . He appears in three other novels by Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Tom Sawyer Abroad , and Tom Sawyer, Detective .Sawyer also appears in at least three unfinished Twain works, Huck and Tom...

, L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables is a bestselling novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery published in 1908. Set in 1878, it was written as fiction for readers of all ages, but in recent decades has been considered a children's book...

books, and J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

. Among more recent authors, A. J. Cronin
A. J. Cronin
Archibald Joseph Cronin was a Scottish physician and novelist. His best-known works are Hatter's Castle, The Stars Look Down, The Citadel, The Keys of the Kingdom and The Green Years, all of which were adapted to film. He also created the Dr...

, Lemony Snicket
Lemony Snicket
Lemony Snicket is the pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler . Snicket is the author of several children's books, serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events and appearing as a character within the series. Because of this, the name Lemony Snicket may refer to both a fictional...

, Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, fighter pilot and screenwriter.Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, he served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence agent, rising to the rank of Wing Commander...

, J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling
Joanne "Jo" Rowling, OBE , better known as J. K. Rowling, is the British author of the Harry Potter fantasy series...

's Harry Potter
Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

 series, as well as some less well-known authors of famous orphans like Little Orphan Annie
Little Orphan Annie
Little Orphan Annie was a daily American comic strip created by Harold Gray and syndicated by Tribune Media Services. The strip took its name from the 1885 poem "Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley, and made its debut on August 5, 1924 in the New York Daily News...

 have used orphans as major characters. One recurring storyline has been the relationship that the orphan can have with an adult from outside his or her immediate family as seen in Lyle Kessler's play Orphans
Orphans (Lyle Kessler play)
Orphans is a play by Lyle Kessler. It premiered in 1983 at the in Los Angeles starring Joe Pantoliano, Lane Smith and Paul Leiber, where it received critical and commercial success and won the Drama-Logue Award....

.

In religious texts

Many religious texts, including the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and the Quran, contain the idea that helping and defending orphans is a very important and God-pleasing matter. Several citations:
  • "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan." (Hebrew Bible
    Hebrew Bible
    The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

    , Exodus 22:22)
  • "Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives. Your widows too can trust in me." (Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah
    Jeremiah
    Jeremiah Hebrew:יִרְמְיָה , Modern Hebrew:Yirməyāhū, IPA: jirməˈjaːhu, Tiberian:Yirmĭyahu, Greek:Ἰερεμίας), meaning "Yahweh exalts", or called the "Weeping prophet" was one of the main prophets of the Hebrew Bible...

     49:11)
  • "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (The New Testament, James 1:27)
  • "And they feed, for the love of Allah
    Allah
    Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

    , the indigent, the orphan, and the captive," - (The Quran, The Human: 8)
  • "Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness," (The Quran, The Morning Hours: 9)

See also

  • Adoption
    Adoption
    Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents...

  • AIDS orphan
    AIDS orphan
    An AIDS orphan is a child who became an orphan because one or both parents died from AIDS.In statistics from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS , the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund , the term is used for a child whose mother has died due to AIDS before...

  • Orphan Train
    Orphan Train
    The Orphan Train was a social experiment that transported children from crowded coastal cities of the United States to the country's Midwest for adoption. The orphan trains ran between 1854 and 1929, relocating an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children...

  • Orphanage
    Orphanage
    An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them...

  • Street children
    Street children
    A street child is a child who lives on the streets of a city, deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of about 5 and 17 years old.Street children live in junk boxes, parks or on the street itself...

  • Empower Orphans
    Empower Orphans
    Empower Orphans is a registered 501 non-profit organization which intends to address the problems associated with orphans and abandoned children, and children born into homes living in poverty. The organization’s goal is to help create self sufficiency by supplying children with the tools to gain a...


United States

  • Berebitsky, Julie. Like Our Very Own: Adoption and the Changing Culture of Motherhood, 1851-1950 (2000)
  • Carp, E. Wayne, ed. Adoption in America: Historical Perspectives (2003)
  • Hacsi, Timothy A. A Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America (1997)
  • Herman, Ellen. "Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States (2008) ISBN 9780226327600
  • Kleinberg, S. J. Widows And Orphans First: The Family Economy And Social Welfare Policy, 1880-1939 (2006)
  • Miller, Julie. Abandoned: Foundlings in Nineteenth-Century New York City (2007)
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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