Initiatives designed to improve the lives of children are ten-a-penny since the government’s flagship Sure Start initiative, with New Labour and the Conservatives vying to give the most detailed policy prescription for what makes a good childhood. What current initiatives all have in common is their focus on the behaviour of parents, and when politicians talk about ‘problem parents’, we all know who they mean. From the war on junk food and youth binge drinking to the pressure exerted on parents by schools to improve their own literacy levels, recycling habits, and compliance with healthy lifestyles, the orthodoxy of ‘good parenting’ often seems to be a thinly-veiled attack on the way adults live their lives – often with a heavy dose of snobbery. Where the welfare state attempted to counter the problems facing low-income families through financial assistance, the therapeutic state pursues these families with a relentless programme of emotional support and childrearing advice. Are a child’s life chances really determined more by parental behaviour than by family income? Is it right to use children as a conduit for attempting to change the behaviour of ‘hard-to-reach’ adults? What makes a ‘poor parent’ anyway?
|Dr Val Gillies
co-director, ESRC Families and Social Capital Research Group, London South Bank University; author, Marginalised Mothers: exploring working class experiences of parenting
columnist, Body and Soul, The Times; writer on sex, relationships and the family; author The Body Bible: Every woman’s essential companion
|Dr Jan Macvarish
research fellow, Centre for Health Services Studies; founding associate, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury
|Dr Dalia Ben-Galim
senior research fellow, Social Policy, Institute for Public Policy Research
member, Institute of Ideas Parents Forum; working mother (senior product manager, publishing; mother of three children under five).
Under the Labour Government social mobility in this country has got worse. One writer argues that we need to act now to reverse this shameful trendMary Ann Sieghart, The Times, 12 June 2008
Children are increasingly left to their own devices and they grow up devoid of guidance or ambition for their future.Chris Grayling, The Sunday Times, 18 May 2008
Commentators heaped praise on Sue Palmer's Toxic Childhood. Didn't they spot its poisonous arguments about a 'dead-eyed', over-breeding underclass?Julian Grenier, spiked, 14 May 2007