A policy driven by Prejudice Masquerading as Research:
brain science and English social policy

Dr Ellie Lee
Director, Cen...
Prejudice masquerading as research
aka ‘A good lie’……
The Foundation Years:
‘the brain’ as a master frame
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•
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•
•
•
•
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Preparation for Birth and Beyond, A resource pa...
Policy history
• Child health promotion programme
The Child Health Promotion Programme, Pregnancy and the first five years...
Dominant policy tropes (prejudices)
• New scientific certainties (infant determinism)
• New social certainties (parent
det...
An example….
Politicians need to: ‘commit to the central objective of Early
Intervention to provide a social and emotional...
Neuromania: we are our brains
• The new determinism
• The ‘somatic’ human
• Naturalisation of emotion and
sensibility (e.g...
But……Nurturing nature

‘Neuroscience can now explain why early conditions are
so crucial: effectively, our brains are larg...
The therapeutic State
• ‘Parenting support’: the State directly influencing
individual (not ‘neo-liberalism’)
• Individuat...
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A policy driven by prejudice masquerading as research: brain science and English social policy

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Paper given at the ESRC Symposium: Kinship & Genetic Journeys, Newcastle University, 23-24 February 2012

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A policy driven by prejudice masquerading as research: brain science and English social policy

  1. 1. A policy driven by Prejudice Masquerading as Research: brain science and English social policy Dr Ellie Lee Director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, SSPSSP, University of Kent
  2. 2. Prejudice masquerading as research aka ‘A good lie’……
  3. 3. The Foundation Years: ‘the brain’ as a master frame • • • • • • • • • • • Preparation for Birth and Beyond, A resource pack for leaders of community groups and activities (DH 2012) Families in the Foundation Years, Evidence Pack (DfE/DH 2011) Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers; A Strategy for Social Mobility (Cabinet Office, 2011) Supporting Families in the Foundation Years (DfE/DH 2011) Early Intervention: Smart Investment, Massive Savings (Allen, 2011, Cabinet Office) Early Intervention: The Next Steps (Allen, 2011, Cabinet Office) Early Intervention: Securing good outcomes for all children and young people (DCSF, 2010) Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our Strategy for Public Health in England (DH, 2010) The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults (Field, 2010, Cabinet Office) Early Intervention: Securing good outcomes for all children and young people (DSCF 2010) Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens. London: Centre for Social Justice (Allen/Duncan-Smith, 2008, Centre for Social Justice; formed the backdrop to Allen 2011)
  4. 4. Policy history • Child health promotion programme The Child Health Promotion Programme, Pregnancy and the first five years of life (DSCF/DH 2008) Healthy Child Programme, Pregnancy and the first five years of life (DCSF/DH 2009) • Larger pre-history in ‘the evidence says’ Supporting Families (Home Office, 1998) Every Parent Matters (DfES, 2003) National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (DH/DfES, 2004) Choosing Health, Making Healthier Choice Easier (DH, 2004) Every Child Matters (DfES, 2004)
  5. 5. Dominant policy tropes (prejudices) • New scientific certainties (infant determinism) • New social certainties (parent determinism/parental deficits) • New policy certainty (‘Early intervention’/ parent training) Brains (children), influences (parents), outcomes (society)
  6. 6. An example…. Politicians need to: ‘commit to the central objective of Early Intervention to provide a social and emotional bedrock for the current and future generations of babies, children and young people by helping them and their parents ….before problems arise’ (Allen 2011, pv). ‘*B]abies are born with 25 per cent of their brains developed, and there is then a rapid period of development so that by the age of 3 their brains are 80 per cent developed. In that period neglect or the wrong type of parenting ……can have a profound effect on how children are emotionally ‘wired’’(2011, px). • Some parents are ‘poorer’ than others • All parents need training (the new ‘universalism’)
  7. 7. Neuromania: we are our brains • The new determinism • The ‘somatic’ human • Naturalisation of emotion and sensibility (e.g. the ‘hardwiring’ of ‘empathy’ and ‘love’)
  8. 8. But……Nurturing nature ‘Neuroscience can now explain why early conditions are so crucial: effectively, our brains are largely formed by what we experience in early life….scientific discoveries suggest it is nurture rather than nature that plays the lead role in creating the human personality….It has been said that ‘the greatest gift for a baby is maternal responsiveness’. The more positive stimuli a baby is given, the more brain cells and synapses it will be able to develop’. (Allen and Duncan Smith, 2008, p57)
  9. 9. The therapeutic State • ‘Parenting support’: the State directly influencing individual (not ‘neo-liberalism’) • Individuation both problematised and reenforced: ‘The parent’ and ‘the child’ (no reliable family or community) • Contrast with ‘natality’  generational, pre- or non-political  rests on recognition of the specific quality of intimacy and love

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