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Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS)

Welcome to the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS) newsletter. This goes to those who have attended events organised by CPCS, and others who have expressed an interest in the work of the Centre.

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Ellie Lee, Director CPCS

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Welcome to our newsletter

CPCS and CRRC joint event

Parenting before Children? Parenting culture, pregnancy and the ‘pre-conception period’

Tuesday 24 May 2022
12.15 -19.00 (including welcome refreshments and post event drinks)
The Widoger Building, University of Kent, Canterbury Campus
Free event, but you must book your place.

This event will bring together researchers from CPCS and bpas’ CRRC to discuss their research with anyone who would like to attend. Session titles: Assessing the rise of the ‘preconception period’; Fetal Disorders and Maternal Responsibilisation; and Policing the Maternal Mind.

Take a look at Twitter for a session-by-session run though of the event.

Research about parenting culture has pointed to the many ways in which ‘parenting’ tends to extend backwards, to the time before the birth of a child. Scholarship has discussed how the idea that the health and abilities of a child are determined before birth is centuries old. It is found for example, in claims about how a person’s future is given ‘by the stars’, and in the notion of ‘maternal imprinting’.

In the context of modern parenting culture, what prospective parents do – and especially what pregnant women do – remains a powerful focus for accounts of what will most determine key aspects of those yet to be born. Perhaps most distinctive, according to some accounts, is the extent of scientisation. Very strong claims purporting to find support in neuroscience, epigenetics, and research about the origins of disease give power and moral urgency to the case for ‘doing more’. For example, the claim that what happens in the first ‘1001 days’ of life, defined conception as age 2, drives family policy. The power of ‘parenting’ across this time in life is said to be so great it, more than anything else, determines individual and social welfare, meaning more should and must be done.

Health policy programmes now include pregnancy as part of ‘the early years’ of a child’s life and advise accordingly. More recently, parenting has been extended backwards further still, to the so-called ‘preconception period’, with women advised about health behaviours in order to be ‘pregnancy ready’. While advocates of attention to the earliest stages of life perceive an opportunity to improve the health and life chances of future generations, others see overreach in claims about the impact of parenting before children and emphasise overbearing control of women’s reproductive lives. Not only pregnancy, but also pre-pregnancy has become more and more characterised by fear and health policing, it is argued. This event is an opportunity to discuss research about these trends and the issues raised.

Background reading

Read and listen on…!

A reminder of our YouTube channel, with recordings of events and other resources from the past decade.