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Pam lowe empty vessels


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