Government ‘early intervention’ plans are prejudice about parents masquerading as evidence, says University of Kent sociologist.

Government ‘early intervention’ plans are prejudice about parents masquerading as evidence, says University of Kent sociologist.


Dr Ellie Lee, Director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent, has responded to new government-backed plans for ‘early intervention’, due to be announced today, by arguing they will weaken the family.  She says: ‘The politicians driving this ‘early intervention’ plan argue what they are going to do is based on sound evidence. Yet some of the claims made in documents authored by Labour MP Graham Allen and supported by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith about the effects of what parents do on the brains of small children make 19th century phrenology look sophisticated. In general, their policy proposals are built on highly determinist thinking that links parenting directly to a bewildering array of social problems. The current drive to intervene early is based less on research than on a powerful prejudice that parenting is too difficult and too important to be left to mere parents. Quite overtly, these politicians have decided it their right and duty to make the way that parents relate to their children into political question. Indeed, they make no bones about the fact that they want to politicise parenting even further. No good can come of this; rather it will further undermine parental authority and confidence and weaken the family’.

A conference at the University of Kent due for September, Monitoring parents: science, evidence, experts and the new parenting culture, will examine many of the issues raised by the government’s plans, added Dr Lee.

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Notes for editors

The conference Monitoring parents: science, evidence, experts and the new parenting cultures is due to take place at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus from 13-14 September. Two keynote sessions will question the claim that neuroscience provides reliable evidence about how parents should raise their children, and raise problems about its influence over social policy and parental experience. The speakers include: John T. Bruer, President of the James S McDonnell Foundation in St Louis and author of The Myth of the First Three Years, who will discuss parental experience in the USA; Stuart Derbyshire, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Birmingham who will speak about ‘the problem of infant neurodeterminism’; and Glenda Wall, Associate Professor of Sociology at Wilfred Laurier University, Canada, who will discuss her ideas in a paper ‘The social positioning of mothers through brain development discourse’. Raymond Tallis, philosopher, poet, novelist, cultural critic, retired medical doctor and author of Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Mankind will also address wrong-headed understandings and applications of neuroscience in a third keynote session. Further information is available at:

The event will be opened by Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. Together with Janet Golden, Professor of History at Rutgers University and Stefan Ramaekers from the Centre for Philosophy of Education at the University of Leuven,Professor Furedi will consider the reasons why child-rearing has come to be something parents can now apparently only perform with expert guidance and professional support.

The Centre for Parenting Studies is an interdisciplinary centre with associates working in other schools at the University of Kent, including Law and Psychology, and at other universities in the UK and internationally. For further information see:

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