Book review: Parenting Culture Studies [Community Practitioner (UK)]
(Community Practitioner (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Book review: Parenting Culture Studies EUh Lee, Jennie Bristow, Charlotte Fairdoth and Jan Macvarish School of Social Policy, Sociology and Soda/ Research, University of Kent Palgrave Macmillan, 2014 ISBN 978-1-137-30463-6 Community practitioners V-Avill recognise that there have been major and controversial changes in child rearing practices over the last 30-40 years. You might say the terrain has become a minefield. The starting point for this insightful and topical book was research conducted a decade ago by author Ellie Lee, which explored an issue practitioners may still struggle to comprehend - why and how infant feeding has become such a controversial and morally charged area of social life.
The decision parents make in regard to the practicalities of breast or formula is now considered to have far-reaching implications for them and society generally, influenced by the precept of'parental determinism'. Infant feeding in this context is no longer a choice for parents to make or a practical task to undertake. Only breast milk is 'good' - and formula is not just 'bad' but causally connected to problems as diverse as obesity, learning disabilities and antisocial behaviour. Other strong counter-positions have emerged between what is seen as 'right' vs 'wrong" in terms of bringing up children, including play, bed time and discipline.
'Infant determinism' is another precept Here, parents are viewed as god-like in their power to determine the future of their children. Babies are considered uniquely vulnerable and so hugely influenced by their parents that they are deemed almost 'at risk' from their actions, or inactions. At the same time, parents are depicted as foolish, inadequate and deficient in bringing about good enough outcomes. The solution is always education, teaching and training by experts from the 'parenting industry" because 'parenting' has become a skill-set to be acquired. While these experts are many and varied they are, as ever, contradictory in their advice and no particular one dominates.
There is agreement among them that parents learning on the job or from experience is held in low regard-Consequently, bringing up children is now experienced as individually, rather than as an inter-generational responsibility. And tribal-like rivalries and antagonism have developed between parents. Parents aren't all taking this lying down and many are voting with their feet, particularly when it comes to parent training. This is therefore terrain that community practitioners need to tread delicately on.
The book is divided into two sections. Part 1 looks in depth at 'parenting culture' and explores: * The intensification and expansion of parenting * Experts and parenting culture * The politics of parenting * Who cares for children? The problem of intergenerational contact Part 2 includes case studies on parental determinism and covers familiar obsessions: * The pregnant woman who drinks * The problem of'attachment'. The 'detached' parent * Babies, brains and parenting policy; the insensitive mother * Intensive fatherhood. The (un)involved dad.
This book is the best exploration of these controversial and worrying developments that I've read and situates diem in our 'risk consciousness culture'. It is a must read for any practitioner. It is also a resource that can be used to research and teach the problems of parenting culture in its present form.
The authors can be heard discussing sections and chapters on YouTube: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=v8XdzxgW sSw8dist=TL0enLUNwCyF Wf_BskTx4FbCaddpAwfnYJ Brid Hehir Development Manager, Do Good Charity (c) 2014 TG Scott & Son Ltd.
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