Who’s looking out for your children? Changes and continuities in British mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of parenting over half a century Ros Edwards and Val Gillies
Since 1969 I have witnessed a growing indifference from some parents to meeting the most basic needs of children, and particularly younger children, those who are least able to fend for themselves. I have also observed how the home lives of a minority but, worryingly, a growing minority of children, fails to express an unconditional commitment to the successful nurturing of children. Frank Field (2010, p. 18) The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults
Classic Sociological Collections and Studies Used Collection: Study Key topics and location: DENNIS MARSDEN Parents and Education 1961 parental decisions about education, resources and philosophies, United Kingdom Salford Slum Re-housing 1962 rehousing of slum population on central redevelopment estate and over-spill area, employment, working class family life, working class community life, Salford Mothers Alone 1965-66 divorced, separated, widowed and unmarried mothers and their children, national assistance, living standards, poverty, support networks: fathers, wider family and friends, Colchester, Huddersfield PETER TOWNSEND Katharine Buildings 1957-1962 social change, housing, urban communities, urban renewal, working class life, family life, community life, rented accommodation, tenants, tenancy, East London Poverty in the UK 1967-68 poverty, deprivation, employment, unemployment, disabled, family, one parent families, children, elderly, housing, household budgets, living standards, nutrition, health, United Kingdom
Sam had an accident that nearly killed him. A builder’s ladder had been left and some boys of around 10 and 11 were manhandling it when it fell over (or was pushed) and fractured Sam’s skull. It happened at 10.05 at night and he had to be rushed into hospital for a brain operation … From the newspaper accounts it appears that no blame can be pinned on anyone (although the original story was that the ladder had been pushed over deliberately perhaps).
With the little girl June she seems rather over protective…she takes June all the way to school which is quite a long way, possibly half an hour’s trip, just so that she can see her across the road ...
I’ll tell you the sort of thing when I was living with me husband. He didn’t want me to work. He didn’t mind me going out and helping an old lady that had heart trouble at night time, but he didn’t like me to work anywhere were there was any men. So, when he was out in the morning, and I had our Cynthia I used to put her to bed at 9 o’clock for her morning sleep. I used to kid myself that she was ready for a sleep at that time and I used to go off down the pub and clean for them for two hours, and then I’d rush off home. She’d always be asleep. And that’s how I used to do. The only trouble was, I used to have to go Sundays as well. So Sunday mornings, what I did, I used to get all the kids ready, put them in the pram, and go down past the pub and I’d nip in and do the cleaning for a bit, and Jack would take the pram down to Greenhead Park, and push it around and I’d join him there. That’s how me husband never found out.
Although poor parenting practices can cause damage to children of all ages, the worst and deepest damage is done to children when their brains are being formed during their earliest months and years. The most serious damage takes place before birth and during the first 18 months of life when formation of the part of the brain governing emotional development has been identified to be taking place…. If a child does not experience attunement, their development is retarded, and they may lack empathy altogether. ( Graham Allen 2011, Early Intervention: The Next Steps,17 )
They’re left to their own devices most of the day. Their mother sets them off in clean clothes in the morning, pushing the baby in the pram or walking him, and when it’s fine they’re out nearly all the time. William has a sleep ‘on the couch’ in the afternoon. William who’s two and very, very fat goes off by himself. I’ve seen him being wheeled and led off by other children (a neighbour’s child seems to take him for a walk) riding with a group of boys on a lorry cart. But usually there’s John or Mary to look after him. John sometimes has to stop in to mind William while his mother goes to the shops and both can be seen at the window standing on the couch.
‘ I went down there and I cried, I begged and prayed for them to take them but they say ‘they’re your children, and you’ve got to bide by that’.
Oh, to think of children in one of them homes. Although they are very nice, I'm always meeting someone and she said, 'Don't be sorry for them, they've got seven pairs of different sorts of shoes, and they have two holidays a year, and at Christmas-time they are going for this trip, and that trip. They have a lot more than what ours have’.
The transmission of parenting skills from generation to generation has changed considerably, and while the middle classes can read the guide books, those with lower educational and social skills are finding parenting skills squeezed out as extended families reduce and more one parent households have smaller knowledge bases on which to draw….As a society, we seem to have reduced the standards of responsibility which we expect parents and households to meet when children are born. This has produced tacit acceptance (particularly from those who do not have to face the consequences) of many of the dysfunctional conditions least favourable to successful childrearing….. ( Graham Allen and Ian Duncan Smith 2008, ‘Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens ’)
Historical Comparative Analysis of Family and Parenting: A Feasibility Study Across Sources and Timeframes Families & Social Capital Research Group Working Paper No. 29 Val Gillies and Rosalind Edwards www.lsbu.ac.uk/families/publications