Empty vessels? Conceptualisation of ‘the child’ in parenting discourse <br />Dr Pam Lowe<br />Aston University<br />Dr Geraldine Brady <br />Coventry University <br /> <br />
Outline<br />The rise of parenting culture<br />The ‘child’ in parenting culture <br />The child as an empty vessel<br />Children as social actors<br />
Rise of parenting culture<br />Relationship parents and children has always been seen as important <br />Concerns about ‘failing’ parents reoccur <br />‘feckless poor’ overbreeding in the 19th century<br />condition of evacuees during 2nd World War <br />Today parenting is again see as both the cause of and solution to social problems<br />
Rise of parenting culture<br />Within current parenting discourse we can see three interrelated themes of importance<br />Parenting as the determining factor<br /> Parents totally responsible for children’s health, education, behaviour etc <br />Emphasis on intensive motherhood<br />Parenting as a project aimed to achieve the <br /> ‘best outcomes ‘<br />Rise of parenting ‘science’<br />Parenting ‘rules’ using (and abusing) science<br />
Rise of parenting culture<br />As part of this culture ‘parenting programmes’ are seen as the policy solution to ‘problem’ parenting<br />Parenting programmes ‘translate’ the science of parenting into practice<br />Need to be considered as part of the individualisation of social issues within a neo-liberal public health discourse <br />
The ‘child’ in parenting culture<br />Parenting programmes seek to modify the parents behaviour<br />Thus a child’s deviance is mostly<br /> (or even all) due to poor parenting practices<br />Thus the child is a just a malleable compliant body whose life trajectory is to be decided by the actions and/or inactions of others.<br />
The child as an empty vessel<br />Within child development theories, the child is progresses:<br />irrational to rational<br />incompetence to competence<br />asocial to social <br />Socialisation is linked to development theory in producing ‘competent citizens’ <br />
The child as an empty vessel<br />Alongside developmental and socialisation theories run more biologically determined ideas<br />‘Bad blood’ has been updated within <br /> the geneticisationof society to simplistic understandings of genetic causes<br />Yet both genetic and developmental<br /> ideas also ignore the child ‘s role <br /> as social actor <br />
The child as an empty vessel<br />Child seen as the future of the nation<br />Child’s bodies subjected to scrutiny<br />measuring for deviation from standard norms<br />Medicalisation of children’s behaviour<br />Social class as mediator truant or school phobic child?<br />Conditions individualised <br /> but (poor) parenting seen as <br /> potential cause and/or exacerbation<br />
Children as social actors<br />Previous research has revealed that children are social actors<br />Play an active role in negotiating <br /> their own lives<br />Parental/child relationship is reciprocal not unidirectional <br />
Children as social actors<br />Our previous research has shown:<br />How sleep is negotiated between parents and children. <br />Children understand their need for sleep but try to balance this with their desire for leisure time<br />Children make strategic decisions around medication<br />Understanding the impact of their bodies, and how it might impact on their chosen activities<br />Children understand but may reject advice about sexual health<br />Fully accepting that any consequences are from theri own actions. <br />
Children as social actors<br />Current discourse of parenting has a pervasive element of determinism<br />Good parenting in / useful citizen out<br />Ignores the child as a person within specific social and cultural circumstances <br />
Summary<br />Parenting polices have increasing levels of coercion and consequences<br />Increasingly seen as the dominant cause of social problems <br />But built on an understanding of children as a empty vessel <br />
Summary<br />Parenting discourse that regards children as empty vessels is a significant miscalculation<br />Children are unique social beings and that a uniform approach is problematic <br />The omission of full understanding of children will undermine the outcomes of this policy agenda <br />Potentially serious implications for children and parents caught up in the policy<br />
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