“Supportive Parenting”, Responsibility and Regulation

‘ “Supportive Parenting”, Responsibility and Regulation: the Welfare Assessment under the reformed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)’ by Sally Sheldon, Ellie Lee and Jan Macvarish will appear in May in the Modern Law Review. This will be the second journal article published from the ESRC funded study, ‘Assessing Child Welfare under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: the new law’ (see http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/parentingculturestudies/research-themes/pregnancy/wo/). Sheldon commented, ‘our research, looking at welfare of the child assessments carried out in clinics, shows there is a higher level of ongoing attention to perceived future parenting ability – particularly that of single women – than might be expected from a reading of the statute and guidance alone’.

Ellie Lee and Jan Macvarish have also been working together, with Pam Lowe from Aston University, on a study into claims made by policy makers about the development of the fetal and infant brain. The study was funded by The Faraday Institute’s ‘Uses and Abuses of Biology’ programme (more here:http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/parentingculturestudies/research-themes/early-intervention/current-projects/). Three papers from the study have been published in the last few weeks, ‘Growing better brains? Pregnancy and neuroscience discourses in English social and welfare policies’ in Health, Risk & Society, ‘Neuroscience and family policy: What becomes of the parent?’ in Critical Social Policy, and ‘Biologising parenting: Neuroscience discourse, English social and public health policy and understandings of the child’ in Sociology of Health and Illness (Special Monograph). Jan Macvarish commented, ‘We argue that advocacy of ‘early intervention’, especially that which deploys the authority of ‘the neuroscience’, places pregnant women and parents at the centre of the policy stage but simultaneously demotes and marginalises them. In particular, the policy focus on parental emotions and their impact on infant brain development represents an extension of what has been called ‘therapeutic’ governance over the hitherto private world of family life and parent-child relations’.