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Welcome to the latest 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.

Ellie Lee, Director CPCS 

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CPCS in Print: Read our book Parenting Culture Studies: If you are based in North America you can order the book here Order from Palgrave in the UK here



To mark reaching our first decade as a University of Kent Research Centre, we are developing an online project about the past and future of Parenting Culture Studies.

More to come on our website and social media:

2. CPCS@Kent Autumn Term events

We won’t be holding any events on campus in Autumn 2020, but all are welcome to join us for the following, on Zoom.

Book Launch: The Problem with Parenting: How Raising Children is Changing Across America by Nancy McDermott, joint event with the Academy of Ideas

Thursday 22 October, 7pm

Nancy has been an Associate of CPCS since the beginning of the Centre 10 years ago, when she was the Convenor of the New York forum for parents, Park Slope Parents. She is now author of a new book published August 2020, The Problem with Parenting: How Raising Children is Changing Across America. In this event she will be in discussion with CPCS’s Dr Jan Macvarish. They will talk through some key ideas from the book (see outline below) with plenty of time for comments and discussion. In late October, we are normally delighted to be convening discussions at the annual Battle of Ideas Festival (you can watch them from past years here. While it’s a big loss not to be doing so again this year, we are very pleased to be able to partner with the organisers of the Battle of Ideas at the Academy of Ideas for this online event.

More information and to register for the event see here.

Book Summary
The Problem with Parenting: How Raising Children is Changing Across America serves as an essential guide to the recent origins and current excesses of American parenting for students, parents, and policy makers interested in the changing role of the family in childrearing. Family scholarship focuses predominately on the evolution of family structure and function, with only passing references to parenting. Researchers who study parenting, however, invariably regard it as a sociological phenomenon with complex motivations rooted in factors such as class, economic instability, and new technologies. This book examines the relationship between changes to the family and the emergence of parenting, defined here as a specific mode of childrearing. It shows how, beginning in the 1970s, the family was transformed from a social unit that functioned as the primary institution for raising children into a vehicle for the nurturing and fulfilment of the self. The book pays special attention to socialization and describes how the change in our understanding of parenthood, from a state of being into the distinct activity of “parenting,” is indicative of a disruption of our ability to transfer key cultural values and norms from one generation to the next. This book:

·       Suggests that families are no longer able to reliably socialize children;
·       Proposes that the reason the family has ceased to function as a socializing institution has less to do with changes in structure than the replacement of a child-centered ideal with a therapeutic imperative;
·       Suggests that parenting is new mode of childrearing that arose in the absence of a reliable institution for childrearing;
·       Argues that parenting culture itself is a response to the experience of the breakdown in socialization that occurred that began in the 1970s;
·       Makes the case for a renewal of a societal commitment to children and the rising generation.

New Research Seminar: ‘Parenting the Pandemic’ drawing on early findings from the Families and Community Transition Under Covid project at UCL. 

Dr Charlotte Faircloth will present a work-in-progress paper, followed by discussion

Wednesday 9th December, 2-4pm, Zoom link to follow.

FACT-Covid is a study led by University College London, UK which explores the challenges experienced by families with children in the UK during the time of Covid 19 as well as how they attempt to overcome them. By focusing on families, we explore both how individuals respond to public health measures put in place (such as social distancing measures), and how these are negotiated with others in the household and family. Given the social isolation and distancing measures in place, we use new digital technologies to learn about families including the data app Indeemo.

Our three main study aims are:
1.      To understand the impact of the current Covid 19 pandemic on family life and intimate relations in the UK and learn how families are living together in this critical moment.
2.      To uncover the variety of social challenges faced by households across material, occupational and economic differences.
3.      To illuminate how families are following public health guidance over an extended time period, and explore how families understand these measures and discuss them within the household.

Ultimately, we aim to inform policy and local responses to covid-19 as it progresses, as well as planning for a potential future pandemic.

3. Generations and Society

CPCS Associate and Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christchurch University Jennie Bristow, and University of Surrey Research Fellow Helen Kingstone, are convening an interdisciplinary network of academics and Third Sector organisations actively working with ‘generation’, to map how this concept can best be used, and to improve understanding of the relationship between generations, wellbeing, and public policy. The network is developed via a series of sequential workshops.

The fourth workshop, held on 10 September, discussed generational identities and historical events. The fifth and final workshop, to be held in January 2021, will focus on ‘generationalism’ and the problem of social policy, and present some recommendations for policymakers based on the network’s discussions.

For more information, and to read summaries of the previous two workshops, see here.

Contact if you would like to be involved in the network.

Find out more about the generations network here.

4. Research and publication news

Charlotte Faircloth, with Katherine Twamley and Humera Iqbal at UCL launched the study FACT-COVID: Families and Community Transition Under Covidsummer 2020.
You can hear CPCS Associate Katherine Twamley discussing the project here.

Keep up with the study by reading our recent blogs here.

The Corona Generation: Coming of age in a crisis by Dr Jennie Bristow and her daughter, Emma Gilland, will be published by Zero Books in 2021.

Sunna Símonardóttir published a further paper from her PhD research, The “good” epidural: Women’s use of epidurals in relation to dominant discourses on “natural” birthin Feminism and Psychology

Childbirth is widely recognized to be among the most painful of experiences, and the most common and effective pain relief for birthing women is known to be the use of epidural analgesia. The increase in the use of epidural analgesia for birthing women has been described by some critics as a by-product of the medicalized model of birth, although there remains a notable dearth of research regarding women’s experiences of epidurals. The present paper seeks to address this research gap by examining how first-time mothers in Iceland discuss their intentions concerning pain relief during birth, along with how they construct childbirth-related pain and the use of epidural analgesia in the context of a midwife-led model of care and an institutionalized preference for “natural” birth. The findings demonstrate that, despite initial intentions, most of the women end up having an epidural, and most describe their epidurals as both wonderful and immensely helpful. The dominant narrative about “natural” childbirth being preferable is not fully refuted by this. Instead, the women either align themselves with the ideology of the capable and knowing body or resist and contest this narrative by constructing their birthing bodies as open to, and in need of, assistance.

Raquel Herrero-Arias also published a further paper from her PhD research, ‘Self‐legitimation and sense‐making of Southern European parents’ migration to Norway: The role of family aspirations’ in Population, Space and Place.

This article explores the migration narratives of Southern European parents living in Norway, where family projects emerged as a central theme. Migrant parents told stories not only of disillusionment and sacrifice but also of satisfaction, which they articulated around their aspiration to have a family life after migration. We analysed the informants’ storytelling and explored the ways that family aspirations manifested. By articulating their migration experiences through their aspirations to grow their family, the migrant parents claimed a position as subjects in Norwegian discourses on parenting and citizenship and distanced themselves from discourses on labour immigration and immigrant parenting. The article aims to contribute to the scholarship on motivations for post‐2008 intra‐European migration and on narrative legitimation by drawing attention to the way migrants use their family projects as a vehicle for self‐legitimation, for claiming rightful membership to the host society and for justifying this position to themselves and others.

5. Read and listen on

Changing Parenting, Changing Childhood?’, by Charlotte Faircloth

We have failed the Class of 2020’, by Jennie Bristow

Covid-19 exposes stark generational housing divide, UK report says’ with comment by Jennie Bristow

How to parent after lockdown’, by Frank Furedi