Favourite books

On this page, you can find details of books PCS associates have found inspiring and think have taken forward the study of parenting culture. We developed this catalogue as part of setting up our Centre and it therefore includes work published up to 2012. Our engagement with this literature, and that published more recently is set out in our book ‘Parenting Culture Studies’. We have grouped the books by theme as follows (not in alphabetical order):

You may also like to take a look at our favourite journal articles

Intensive parenthood

Hays, S. 1996. The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood.
New Haven and London: Yale University Press
Synopsis: Working mothers in the 1990s face the challenge of being both nurturing and unselfish at home while engaged in child rearing, and competitive and ambitious at work. This text argues that an ideology of ‘intensive mothering’ has developed that exacerbates the tension working mothers face, placing them in a ‘cultural contradiction’.Buy from Amazon UK

Warner, J. 2006. Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the age of anxiety.
London: Vermilion
Synopsis: Warner examines why mothers who appear to have everything are feeling exhausted, dissatisfied and powerless. Exploring how the current generation of mothers became a generation of desperate control freaks, she comes to the stark conclusion that what is happening in the culture of motherhood is nothing less than perfect madness.Buy from Amazon UK

Douglas, S. and Michaels, M. 2004. The Mommy Myth: The idealisation of motherhood and how it has undermined all women
. New York: Free Press
Synopsis: This provocative book has ignited fiery debate and created a dialogue among women about the state of motherhood today. Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels turn their ‘sharp, funny, and fed-up prose’ (San Diego Union Tribune) toward the cult of the new momism, a trend in Western culture that suggests that women can only achieve contentment through the perfection of mothering. Even so, the standards of this ideal remain out of reach, no matter how hard women try to ‘have it all’. The Mommy Myth skilfully maps the distance travelled from the days when The Feminine Mystique demanded more for women than keeping house and raising children, to today’s not-so-subtle pressure to reverse this trend.Buy from Amazon UK

Umansky, L. 1996. Motherhood Reconceived: Feminism and the legacies of the sixties
. New York: New York University Press
Synopsis: From the early days of second-wave feminism, motherhood and the quest for women’s liberation have been inextricably linked. And yet motherhood has at times been viewed, by anti-feminists and select feminists alike, as somehow at odds with feminism. In reality, feminists have long treated motherhood as an organizing metaphor for women’s needs and advancement. The mother has been regarded with suspicion at times, deified at others, but never ignored.

The first book devoted to this complex relationship, Motherhood Reconceived examines in depth how the realities of motherhood have influenced feminist thought. Bringing to life the work of a variety of feminist writers and theorists, among them Jane Alpert, Mary Daly, Susan Griffin, Adrienne Rich, and Dorothy Dinnerstein, Umansky situates feminist discourses of motherhood within the social and political contexts of the 1960s. Charting an increasingly favorable view of motherhood among feminists from the late 1960s through the 1980s, Umansky reveals how African American feminists sought to redefine black nationalist discourses of motherhood, a reworking subsequently adopted by white radical and socialist feminists seeking to broaden the racial base of their movement.

Noting the cultural left’s conflicted relationship to feminism, that is, the concurrent demand for individual sexual liberation and the desire for community, Umansky traces that legacy through various stages of feminist concern about motherhood: early critiques ofthe nuclear family, tempered by strong support for day care; an endorsement of natural childbirth by the women’s health movement of the early 1970s; white feminists’ attempt to forge a multiracial movement by declaring motherhood a universal bond; and the emergence of psychoanalytic feminism, ecofeminism, spiritual feminism, and the feminist anti- pornography movement.Buy from Amazon UK

Wolf, J. 2011
Is breast best? Taking on the Breastfeeding Experts and the New High Stakes of Motherhood London and New York: NYU Press
Synopsis: Since the invention of dextri-maltose and the subsequent rise of Similac in the early twentieth century, parents with access to clean drinking water have had a safe alternative to breast-milk. Use of formula spiked between the 1950s and 1970s, with some reports showing that nearly 75 percent of the population relied on commercial formula to at least supplement a breastfeeding routine. So how is it that most of those bottle-fed babies grew up to believe that breast, and only breast, is best? In Is Breast Best? Joan B. Wolf challenges the widespread belief that breastfeeding is medically superior to bottle-feeding. Despite the fact that breastfeeding has become the ultimate expression of maternal dedication, Wolf writes, the conviction that breastfeeding provides babies unique health benefits and that formula feeding is a risky substitute is unsubstantiated by the evidence.

In accessible prose, Wolf argues that a public obsession with health and what she calls “total motherhood” has made breastfeeding a cause celebre, and that public discussions of breastfeeding say more about infatuation with personal responsibility and perfect mothering in America than it does about the concrete benefits of the breast. Why has breastfeeding re-asserted itself over the last twenty years, and why are the government, the scientific and medical communities, and so many mothers so invested in the idea? Parsing the rhetoric of expert advice, including the recent National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign, and rigorously questioning the scientific evidence, Wolf uncovers a path by which a mother can feel informed and confident about how best to feed her thriving infant – whether flourishing by breast or by bottle.
Buy from Amazon UK

Regulation of parenting

Freely, M. 2000. The Parent Trap: Children, Families and the New Morality. London: Virago Press
Synopsis: In the 1990s, the “Parent Question” has become a constant on the political agenda. New Labour is committed to do whatever it takes to turn lazy, bad and inadequate parents into good ones. The author states that she is writing the book to “define this new morality, and to explain why we collude with it at our peril. I want to explain where these ideas came from, why they have so much public support and why, seeing the world in terms of good and evil has created a moral panic that has resulted in the new morality”. She explores how the scandals, the scare statistics and public events – such as Mandy Allwood, the Home Alone children, the divorce epidemic, Louise Woodward, the Julia Somerville bath photos, the murder of the headteacher Phillip Lawrence, unmarried teenage mothers, Jack Straw and son – have turned a vague national anxiety into a panic.Buy from Amazon UK

Collier, R. and Sheldon, S. 2008. Fragmenting fatherhood: A socio-legal study. Oxford: Hart
Synopsis: Discussion of the legal status, responsibilities and rights of men who are fathers – whether they are married or unmarried, cohabiting or separated, biological or ‘social’ in nature – has a long history. In recent years, however, western societies have witnessed a heightening of concern about whether families need fathers and, if so, what kinds of fathers these should be. A debate about the future of fatherhood has become central to a range of conversations about the changing family, parenting and society. Law has served an important role in these discussions, serving as a focal point for broader political frustrations, playing a central role in mediating disputes, and operating as a significant symbolic ‘authorised discourse’ which provides an official, state-sanctioned account of the scope of paternal rights and responsibilities.

Fragmenting Fatherhood provides the first sustained engagement with the way that fatherhood has been understood, constructed and regulated within English law. Drawing on a range of disparate legal provisions, and material from diverse disciplines, it sketches the major contours of the figure of the father as drawn in law and social policy, tracing shifts in legal and broader understandings of what it means to be a ‘father’ and what rights and obligations should accrue to that status. In thematically linked chapters cutting across substantive areas of law, the book locates fatherhood as a key site of contestation within broader political debates regarding the family and gender equality. Fragmenting Fatherhood provides an important and unique resource and speaks to debates about fatherhood across a range of fields including law and legal theory, sociology, gender studies, social policy, marriage and family, women’s studies and gender studies.Buy from Amazon UK

Duncan, S., Edwards R. and Alexander, C. 2010. Teenage Parenthood – What’s the problem?
London: Tufnell Press
Synopsis: Policy makers and media claim that teenage parenthood ruins young people’s lives and those of their children, as well as threatening wider social and moral breakdown. Yet research increasingly shows that parenthood is not necessarily a disaster for young women and young men, and indeed can sometimes improve their lives. Why is it that becoming a mother or father can make sense for and be valued by some young people? And why is it that policy makers ignore the research evidence that teenage parenthood is not an inevitable catastrophe?Buy from Amazon UK

Arai, L. 2009. Teenage Pregnancy: The making and unmaking of a problem
. Portland Oregon: The Policy Press
Synopsis: In the last decades of the 20th century, successive British Governments have regarded adolescent pregnancy and childbearing as a significant public health and social problem. Youthful pregnancy was once tackled by attacking young, single mothers but New Labour, through its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, linked early pregnancy to social exclusion rather than personal morality and aimed, instead, to reduce teenage pregnancy and increase young mothers’ participation in education and employment. However, the problematisation of early pregnancy has been contested, and it has been suggested that teenage mothers have been made scapegoats for wider, often unsettling, social and demographic changes. The re-evaluation of early pregnancy as problematic means that, in some respects, teenage pregnancy has been ‘made’ and ‘unmade’ as a problem.

Focusing on the period from the late-1990’s to the present, “Teenage Pregnancy” examines who is likely to have a baby as a teenager, the consequences of early motherhood and how teenage pregnancy is dealt with in the media. The author argues that society’s negative attitude to young mothers is likely to marginalise an already excluded group and that efforts should be focused primarily on supporting young mothers and their children. This comprehensive examination of teenage pregnancy focuses on the situation in the UK, but will be useful for readers in other developed world countries. It will be of interest to students in sociology, social policy, health studies and public health, and also to policymakers and young people’s interest groups.Buy from Amazon UK

Luker, K. 1997. Dubious Conceptions: Politics of Teenage Pregnancy
. Harvard University Press
Synopsis: This volume takes the reader behind the stereotypes, the inflamed rhetoric, and the flip media sound bites, to show the complex reality and troubling truths of teenage mothers in America today. Luker makes the case that the familiar portrait of teenage mothers we have been shown so often, is the reflection of a public mood rather than a demographic reality and the real problem is not teenage pregnancy or single-parent families, but poverty itself. Luker argues that both liberals and conservatives constructed an epidemic of teenage pregnancy, she challenges the myth of an epidemic and concludes that it is poverty that causes teenage pregnancy and not the reverse.Buy from Amazon UK

Hardyment, C. 2007. Dream Babies: Babycare advice from John Locke to Gina Ford. Frances Lincoln
Synopsis: Parents have long been bombarded with conflicting advice on how to bring up their babies: from Locke, Rousseau, and Truby King to Spock, Penelope Leach and Gina Ford. Behaviourist warnings in the 1920s about physical contact (‘Never hug and kiss them. Never let them sit in your lap’) swung to Jean Liedloff’s ‘continuum concept’ that babies should be wrapped round mum and fed on demand. Today enthusiasts for the ‘family bed’ are at war with Gina Ford’s call for a return to the strict routines of pre-Spock days. Who is right and who is wrong?

In this updated edition of her classic account of how and why the experts’ advice has changed with changing times, Christina Hardyment analyses the anxieties of our own age and gives parents much-needed confidence in their own ability to choose the advice that best suits them and their babies.Buy from Amazon UK

Nathanson, J. and Tuley, L. (Eds.). 2009.
Mother Knows Best: Talking back to the ‘experts’. Toronto: Demeter Press
Synopsis: “
Mother Knows Best presents a sustained critique of the leading mothering advice literature of the past decade or so. With a cutting-edge approach and a frank, “talking back” tone, the authors make a significant contribution to the current literature on mothering.” Lauri Umansky, Professor of History, Suffolk University.Buy from Amazon UK

Ramaekers, S. and Suissa, J. 2011. The Claims of Parenting: Reasons, Responsibility and Society
 (Contemporary Philosophies and Theories in Education)
Synopsis: Many sociological, historical and cultural stories can be and have already been told about why it is that parents in post-industrial, western societies face an often overwhelming array of advice on how to bring up their children. At the same time, there have been several philosophical treatments of the legal, moral and political issues surrounding issues of procreation, the rights of children and the duties of parents, as well as some philosophical accounts of the shifts in our underlying conceptualization of childhood and adult-child relationships. While this book partly builds on the insights of this literature, it is significantly different in that it offers a philosophically-informed discussion of the actual practical experience of being a parent, with its deliberations, judgements and dilemmas. In probing the ethical and conceptual questions suggested by the parent-child relationship, this unique volume demonstrates the irreducible philosophical richness of this relationship and thus provides an important counter-balance to the overly empirical and largely psychological focus of a great deal of “parenting” literature.

Unlike other analytic work on the parent-child relationship and the educational role of parents, this work draws on first-person accounts of the day-to-day experience of being a parent in order to explore the ethical and epistemological aspects of this experience. In so doing it exposes the limitations of some of the languages within which contemporary “parenting” is conceptualized and discussed, and opens up a space for thinking about childrearing and the parent-child relationship beyond and other than in terms of the languages which dominate the ways in which we generally think about it today.Buy from Amazon UK

Contemporary family life

Beck, U. and Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995) The Normal Chaos of Love. Cambridge: Polity Press
Synopsis: The nature of love is changing fundamentally in conjunction with transformations in sexual life and family forms. Love, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim assert, has become an empty category, which lovers themselves must fill in relation to their own biographies and emotional lives. The consequences of this situation are manifold. On the one hand, there stands the possibility of creating forms of democracy in personal life which parallel those achieved in the public sphere; on the other, there is potentiality for chaos.

Love, the authors suggest, becomes more important than ever before at the same time as it becomes more elusive. The struggle to harmonize family and career, love and marriage, ‘new’ motherhood and fatherhood has today replaced class struggle. For better or for worse, individuals today who want to live together are becoming the legislators of their own ways of life, the judges of their own transgressions, the priests who absolve their own sins and the therapists who loosen the bonds of their own past.Buy from Amazon UK

Jamieson, L.  1998.
Intimacy: Personal relationships in modern societies. Cambridge: Polity Press
Synopsis: Are personal relationships deeper and more intimate than ever before or are they increasingly empty and structured by selfish individualism? This exciting new book examines the question in a wide–ranging discussion of the nature of intimacy, focusing on key relationships between parents and children, families, sexual partners, couples and friends.Buy from Amazon UK

Swidler, A. 2001. Talk of Love: How culture matters.
Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press
Synopsis: Talk of love surrounds us, and romance is a constant concern of popular culture. Ann Swidler’s “Talk of Love” is an attempt to discover how people find and sustain real love in the midst of that talk, and how that culture of love shapes their expectations and behaviour in the process. To this end, Swidler conducted extensive interviews with middle Americans and wound up offering us something more than an insightful exploration of love: “Talk of Love” is also a compelling study of how much our culture affects even the most personal of our everyday experiences.Buy from Amazon UK

Lasch, C. 1977.
Haven in a Heartless World: The family besieged. New York and London: Basic Books
Synopsis: This work asserts that, as social science “experts” intrude more and more into our lives, the family’s vital role as the moral and social cornerstone of society disintegrates – and, left unchecked, so will our political and personal freedom.Buy from Amazon UK

Ribbens, J. 1994.
Mothers and Their Children: A feminist sociology of childrearing. London, Sage
Synopsis: This volume presents a fresh approach to the analysis of childrearing. By focusing on mothers’ own understandings of their childrearing, the author reveals how differences in childrearing are rooted in fundamental ideas about the nature of social life and the place of the individual and the family within it. Broad cultural concepts of family, individuality and the nature of childhood are discussed. The author analyses the implications of mothers’ ideas about these for key childrearing preoccupations of time, discipline and the independence of children. An important theme that emerges is the diversity behind the image of the ‘ordinary family’. Drawing on empirical evidence of mothers’ concerns and understandings of childrearing, the author illustrates how issues of power and the public/private divide are negotiated in the daily lives of mothers and their children.Buy from Amazon UK

Laureau, A. 2003.
Unequal childhoods: class, race, and family life. Berkeley: University of California Press
Synopsis: Drawing on the in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class and poor families, this study explores the fact that class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children and offers a picture of childhood in the 21st century.Buy from Amazon UK

Gillies, V. 2006.
Marginalised Mothers: Exploring working class parenting. Abingdon Oxon: Routledge
Synopsis: Successive moral panics have cast poor or socially excluded mothers – associated with social problems as diverse as crime, underachievement, unemployment and mental illness – as bad mothers. Their mothering practices are held up as the antithesis of good parenting and are associated with poor outcomes for children.

Marginalised Mothers provides a detailed and much-needed insight into the lived experience of mothers who are frequently the focus of public concern and intervention, yet all too often have their voices and experiences overlooked. The book explores how they make sense of their lives with their children and families, position themselves within a context of inequality and vulnerability, and resist, subvert and survive material and social marginalisation.

This controversial text uses qualitative data from a selection of working class mothers to highlight the opportunities and choices they face and to expose the middle class assumptions that ground much contemporary family policy. It will be of interest to students and researchers in sociology, social work and social policy, as well as social workers and policymakers.Buy from Amazon UK

Gatrell, C. 2005.
Hard Labour: The sociology of parenthood, family life and career. Open University Press: Maidenhead
Synopsis: This innovative book examines changes in family practices and paid work in the 21st century. Focusing on highly qualified mothers who combine childcare with employment, it makes a valuable contribution to current debates. It also takes into account the views of fathers, making it a rounded study of family practice in the new millennium.
Hard Labour puts forward some new and thought-provoking arguments about both mothers’ and fathers’ commitments to parenting and paid work.

The first part of the book provides an up-to-date, comprehensive and readable overview of the literature on motherhood, fatherhood, family practices, and women in employment. The second part draws on a qualitative study of the lives of twenty mothers and their husbands or partners, each of whom is educated to degree level or above, and has at least one child under five. This study considers key aspects of the family lives of the men and women interviewed, including:

How they manage their commitments to one another, their children and their professional work; Sharing out family tasks such as childcare and housework. At each stage, the empirical research is placed in the context of the literature referenced in the first part, and of the wider debate on career and motherhood. Hard Labour is essential reading for students and academics in sociology, family policy, family studies, women’s or gender studies and the sociology of management/employment. Buy from Amazon UK

Infant care and parental identity

Bobel,C. 2002. The Paradox of Natural Mothering. Philadelphia: Temple University Press
Synopsis: Single or married, working mothers are, if not the norm, no longer exceptional. These days, women who stay at home to raise their children seem to be making a radical lifestyle choice. The women in this work have renounced consumerism and careerism in order to reclaim home and family. These natural mothers favour parenting practices that set them apart from the mainstream: home birth, extended breast feeding, home schooling, and natural health care. Regarding themselves as part of a movement, natural mothers believe they are changing society one child, one family at a time. This work profiles 30 natural mothers, probing into their choices and asking whether they are reforming or conforming to women’s traditional role. It illuminates the paradoxes of natural mothering, the ways in which these women resist the trappings of upward mobility but acquiesce to a kind of biological determinism and conventional gender scripts.Buy from Amazon UK

Blum, L. 1999.
At the Breast: Ideologies of breastfeeding and motherhood in the contemporary United States. Boston: Beacon Press
Synopsis: Discouraged by the medical community for most of the century, breastfeeding regained esteem in the ‘breast is best’ message of the 1980s. In fact, Blum shows popular media and experts so strongly emphasise the health benefits of breastmilk for infants that breastfeeding is now considered the ‘bond’ that cements the mother/child relationship. For contemporary working mothers, then, ‘good mothering’ has come to require the awkward intervention of breast-pumping, and lots of it. Linda Blum reveals the complexity and diversity of American motherhood and American women’s experiences with (or refrain from) breastfeeding.
At the Breast highlights the potential for breastfeeding to be an “empowering, radical feminist” act, a tool for social and state control and many things in between. A must read for people interested in feminist research and discussions of the body and particularly, how women’s bodies are entangled with state power and race and class relations in the United States.Buy from Amazon UK

Hausman, B. 2003.
Mother’s Milk: Breastfeeding controversies in American culture. London: Routledge
Mother’s Milk examines how and why nursing a baby – the breast or bottle debate – has become such a complex experience in contemporary culture. By looking at medical, popular and scholarly materials, Bernice Hausman demonstrates how much is at stake in this ongoing debate – economically, socially, and in terms of women’s rights. Feminism, she argues, has dropped the ball by ignoring the political and social tensions at work in debates over breastfeeding. Drawing upon biostatistical data, the health industry’s own literature, practices in cultures as diverse as Sweden and !Kung society, and her wide knowledge of popular culture, Hausman demonstrates convincingly that breastfeeding has no simple story.Buy from Amazon UK

Apple, R. 1987.
Mothers and Medicine: A social history of infant feeding 1890-1950. London: University of Wisconsin Press
Synopsis: In the nineteenth century infants were commonly breast-fed; yet by the middle of the twentieth century, women typically bottle-fed their babies on the advice of their doctors. Rima D. Apple analyses the complex interactions of science, medicine, economics, and culture that underlie this dramatic shift in infant-care practices. As infant feeding became the keystone of the emerging specialty of paediatrics, the manufacture of infant food became a lucrative industry. More and more mothers reported difficulty in nursing their babies. While physicians were establishing themselves as the scientific experts, women embraced ‘scientific motherhood’ believing that science could shape child care practices. This book clarifies the complex and contradictory interaction between women and the medical profession in America.Buy from Amazon UK

Dermott, E. 2008.
Intimate Fatherhood: A sociological analysis. London: Routledge
Synopsis: Fatherhood is gaining ever more public and political attention, stimulated by the increasing prominence of fathers’ rights groups and the introduction of social policies, such as paternity leave.
Intimate Fatherhood explores discourses of contemporary fatherhood, men’s parenting behaviour and debates about fathers’ rights and responsibilities.

The book addresses the extent to which fatherhood has changed by examining key dichotomies – culture versus conduct, involved versus uninvolved and public versus private. The book also looks at longstanding conundrums such as the apparent discrepancy between fathers’ acceptance of long hours spent in paid work combined with a preference for involved fathering. Dermott maintains that our current view of good fatherhood is related to new ideas of intimacy. She argues that in order to understand contemporary fatherhood, we must recognise the centrality of the emotional father-child relationship, that the importance of breadwinning has been overstated and that flexible involvement is viewed as more important than the amount of time spent in childcare.

Drawing on original qualitative interviews and large-scale quantitative research, Intimate Fatherhood presents a sociological analysis of contemporary fatherhood in Britain by exploring our ideas of good fatherhood in relation to time use, finance, emotion, motherhood and policy debates. This book will interest students, academics and researchers in sociology, gender studies and social policy.Buy from Amazon UK

Lupton, D. and Barclay, L. 1997.
Constructing Fatherhood: Discourses and experiences. London: Sage
Constructing Fatherhood provides an analysis of the social, cultural and symbolic meanings of fatherhood in contemporary western societies. The authors draw on poststructuralist theory to analyze the representation of fatherhood in the `expert’ literature of psychology, sociology and the health sciences, and in popular sources such as television, film, advertisements and child-care and parenting manuals and magazines. Men’s own accounts of first-time fatherhood are also drawn upon, including four individual case studies.Buy from Amazon UK

Rogers, C. 2007.
Parenting and Inclusive Education: Discovering difference, experiencing difficulty. Palgrave Macmillan
Parenting and Inclusive Education questions the very heart of the weak inclusive education discourse and unpacks parents’ narratives in relation to denial, disappointment and social exclusion. It is written from the perspective of a sociologist and a mother of a learning disabled daughter and is about the lives of 24 parents who have negotiated, or are in the process of negotiating, the emotional and practical journey in mothering or fathering their learning ‘disabled’ child.

The difficulties experienced affect parents, the child and the extended family, and are calculated on a continuum of ‘normal’ family practices, which can render the family ‘disabled’, difficult and excluded. Chrissie Rogers’ findings reveal that while parents have been depressed, turned to alcohol, felt suicidal, suffered in their relationships and wanted to desert their children, many have also fought the health and education systems, shown resilience, set up self-help groups and, most importantly, demonstrated that their children are worth fighting for. This book will engage, parents, an academic audience, health and education practitioners, and policy makers.Buy from Amazon UK

Vincent, C. and Ball, S. 2006.
Childcare, Choice and Class Practices. London: Routledge
Synopsis: This book draws on research of middle class parents’ choice of childcare, providing an in-depth analysis of consumer and producer behaviour in the childcare marketplace, and encompasses broader issues such as social class, gender, and parenting.Buy from Amazon UK

McLaughlin, J., Goodley, D., Clavering, E.K. and Fisher, P. 2008.
Families Raising Disabled Children: Values of enabling care and social justice. Basingstoke, Palgrave
Synopsis: Drawing upon qualitative material from parents and professionals, including ethnography, narrative inquiry, interviews and focus groups, this book brings together feminist and critical disability studies theories to make sense of parental identities, the making and unmaking of disabled children, professional and institutional practices, community practices, the impact of parents’ groups and the transformative potential and boundaries of care.Buy from Amazon UK

Medicalising parenthood

Kukla, R. 2005. Mass Hysteria: Medicine, culture and mothers’ bodies. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Mass Hysteria examines the medical and cultural practices surrounding pregnancy, new motherhood, and infant feeding. Late eighteenth century transformations in these practices reshaped mothers’ bodies, and contemporary norms and routines of prenatal care and early motherhood have inherited the legacy of that era. As a result, mothers are socially positioned in ways that can make it difficult for them to establish and maintain healthy and safe boundaries and appropriate divisions between public and private space.Buy from Amazon UK

Eyer, D. 1992.
Mother-Infant Bonding: A scientific fiction. London: Yale University Press
Synopsis: In the 1960s and 1970s two paediatricians published a series of articles and books arguing that mothers and their infants must be physically close immediately after birth in order for their future relationship to develop properly. In spite of the fact that the research findings on boding have now been dismissed by most of the scientific community, women are still told that the need to bond is a reason not to go back to work and social workers are taught that bonding is important in preventing child abuse, delinquency and school problems. In this book, Diane Eyer traces the history of the bonding myth and explains its continuing popularity despite its demonstrated lack of validity. She also shows how it reflects a tendency in society to accept “scientific” research without question – and without awareness that it can be distorted by professional agendas and public demands. The story of bonding, says Eyer, is one example of the way that the scientific and medical communities have deluded women (and themselves) into accepting dicta based on fiction and not fact.Buy from Amazon UK

Arney, W. R. 1984.
Medicine and the management of living: taming the last great beast. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press
In recent years, relations between patients and physicians in America have undergone a dramatic change. The growing acceptance of natural childbirth, support groups for patients with serious illnesses, health maintenance organizations, and hospices for a “happy death” among family and friends is part of a redefinition of medical practice and reformulation of the field of medical power. No longer is medical practice confined to “taming the beast” of death and fighting the diseases observable in the human body. The modern practitioner is now a manager of the living, taking an ecological view of the patient as a “whole person” in a network of relationships.

Medicine and the Management of Living questions how it has been possible for the patient to change from a silenced specimen observed in the clinic to a person whose subjective experience of illness is important to medical practice and discourse. Arney and Bergen ask, What incited the demand that medicine take the whole person, including the patient’s presentation of his or her illness, into consideration? And in whose terms are patients speaking about themselves? The authors argue that the inclusion of patients’ experiences in medical discourse that has come about since the 1950s is not so much a result of a “patient rebellion” as an activity preciptated by the medical establishment itself. Drawing inspiration from the work of Michel Foucault, Arney and Bergen examine the structure of medical power, contending that new social technologies like support groups make the patient’s subjectivity available for medical evaluation, judgment, and manipulation.

Throughout this sensitively written discussion, the authors vivify the issues they raise with excerpts from many sources—the writings of a poet dying of cancer, the comments of doctors pondering their own fatal illnesses, and excerpts from popular magazines, medical journals, and sociological studies. They examine the changing role of the medical profession through history, using a modern advertising image and woodcuts from Vesalius’s Renaissance anatomy text to show the symbolic portrayal of health and medicine. Their wide-ranging concerns lead the reader through such topics as teenage pregnancy; the historical treatment of medical anomalies like hermaphrodites and the “elephant man” (John Merrick); and literary representations of illness in Sartre, Chekhov, and Brian Clark’s recent Broadway drama, “Whose Life Is It Anyway?”

In a provocative yet thoughtful way, Medicine and the Management of Living points the way for a radical reassessment of medical power and the medical establishment.Buy from Amazon UK

Malacrida, C. 2003.
Cold Comfort: Mothers, professionals and Attention Deficit Disorder. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
Synopsis: Mothers of children with Attention Deficit Disorder must inevitably make decisions regarding their children’s diagnosis within a context of competing discourses about the nature of the disorder and the legitimacy of its treatment. They also make these decisions within an overriding climate of mother-blame. Claudia Malacrida’s text provides a contextualized study of how mothers negotiate with/against the ‘helping professions’ over assessment and treatment for their AD(H)D children. Malacrida counters contemporary conceptions about mothers of AD(H)D children (namely that mothers irresponsibly push for Ritalin to manage their children’s behaviour) as well as professional assumptions of maternal pathology. This examination documents Malacrida’s extensive interviews with mothers of affected children in both Canada and the United Kingdom, and details the way in which these women speak of their experiences. Malacrida compares their narratives to national discourses and practices, placing the complex mother-child and mother-professional relations at the centre of her critical inquiry.Buy from Amazon UK

Work-life balance

Hochschild, A. 2003. The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from home and work. Berkeley: University of California Press
Synopsis: Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of three “New York Times” Notable Books, has been one of the freshest and most popular voices in feminist sociology over the last decades. Her influential, unusually perceptive work has opened up new ways of seeing family life, love, gender, the workplace, market transactions – indeed, American life itself. This book gathers some of Hochschild’s most important and most widely read articles in one place, includes new work, and brings several essays to American audiences for the first time. Each chapter reflects on the complex negotiations we make day to day to juggle the conflicting demands of love and work. Taken together, they are a compelling, often startling, look at how our everyday lives are shaped by modern capitalism.

These essays, rich with the details of everyday life, explore larger social issues by looking at a series of intimate moments in people’s lives. Among them, “Love and Gold” investigates the globalization of love by focusing on care workers who leave their own children and elderly to care for children and the elderly in wealthy countries. In “The Commodity Frontier,” Hochschild considers an Internet ad for a ‘beautiful, smart, hostess, good masseuse – $400/week’, and explores our responses to personal services for hire. In “From the Frying Pan into the Fire” she asks if capitalism is a religion. In addition to these recent essays, several of Hochschild’s important early essays, such as ‘Inside the Clockwork of Male Careers’, have been revised and updated for this collection.Buy from Amazon UK

Lasch, C. 1997.
Women and the Common Life: Love, marriage and feminism. New York: Warner Books
This study looks at the role of women and the family in Western society, examining the impact on them of politics and economics, with special emphasis on the lives of children. Questioning the accepted status quo of patriarchy, this book explores women’s experience from ancient Greece to modern America. An introduction by Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, daughter of the author, sets these writings into the context of Lasch’s oeuvre.Buy from Amazon UK

J. 2000. Feminism and the Family: Politics and society in the UK and USA. Hampshire and London: Macmillan
Why has the interlacing of gender issues and the family become a dominant strand of political discourse and policy development in the late 20th century? Will the historical contradictions that have beset the relationship between the family and feminist aspirations continue through the new millennium? Is the “new feminism” a resolution of these tensions or part of the “anti feminist backlash”? This study examines the continuing “war over the family” in the USA and the UK in the context of major socio economic and cultural changes that have fundamentally shifted the ground of traditional gender relations and redrawn the material and psychological conditions for family life in the 21st Century.Buy from Amazon UK

Garey, A. 1999.
Weaving Work and Motherhood. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press
Synopsis: Garey focuses not on the corporate executives so often represented in ads but on the women in jobs that typify the majority of women’s employment in the United States. Focusing on the health service industry Garey analyses what it means to be at once a mother who is employed and a worker with children.Buy from Amazon UK

Edin, K. and Kefalas, M. 2005.
Promises I can Keep: Why poor women put motherhood before marriage. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
Synopsis: Millie Acevedo bore her first child before the age of 16 and dropped out of high school to care for her newborn. Now 27, she is the unmarried mother of three and is raising her kids in one of Philadelphia’s poorest neighbourhoods. Would she and her children be better off if she had waited to have them and had married their father first? Why do so many poor American youth like Millie continue to have children before they can afford to take care of them? Over a span of five years, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas talked in-depth with 162 low-income single moms like Millie to learn how they think about marriage and family.
Promises I Can Keep offers an intimate look at what marriage and motherhood mean to these women and provides the most extensive on-the-ground study to date of why they put children before marriage despite the daunting challenges they know lie ahead.Buy from Amazon UK

Randall, V. 2000. The Politics of Child Daycare in Britain
. Oxford University Press
Synopsis: Child daycare is a crucial issue for gender equality. In Britain its provision, and especially publicly provided or subsidised daycare, has been meagre in comparison with a range of European States. In seeking to explain childcare policy in post-war Britain to the present, this study focuses primarily on the institutional context. It shows how the liberal state tradition, limiting intervention in the private family, and market spheres has intersected with an issue that impinges on family responsibilities and, arguably, requires public resources for its effective resolution.

The book also argues that liberalism – in practice an eminently flexible approach – cannot on its own explain policy. Account must be taken of the gender assumptions of policy-makers and their principal advisers, including in the past trade unions; of the centralisation of the British governmental process; of the weakness and fragmentation of the childcare lobby, including the less than wholehearted involvement of the women’s movement; and of the sheer contingencies of timing.Buy from Amazon UK

Pre-pregnancy and pregnancy

Golden, J. 2006. Message in a Bottle: The making of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Synopsis: A generation has passed since a physician first noticed that women who drank heavily while pregnant gave birth to underweight infants with telltale physical characteristics. Women whose own mothers enjoyed martinis while pregnant now lost sleep over a bowl of rum raisin ice cream. Janet Golden charts the course of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome through the courts, media, medical establishment, and public imagination.Buy from Amazon UK

Armstrong, E. 2003.
Conceiving Risk, Bearing Responsibility: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the diagnosis of moral disorder. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press
Synopsis: In American society, the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is considered dangerous, irresponsible and in some cases illegal. Pregnant women who have even a single drink routinely face openly voiced reproach. Yet foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in infants and children is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and the relationship between alcohol and adverse birth outcomes is riddled with puzzles and paradoxes. Sociologist Elizabeth M. Armstrong uses foetal alcohol syndrome and the problem of drinking during pregnancy to examine the assumed relationship between somatic and social disorder, the ways in which social problems are individualized, and the intertwining of health and morality that characterises American society. Buy from Amazon UK


Meyer, A. 2007. The Child at Risk: Paedophiles, media responses and public opinion. Manchester: Manchester University Press
Synopsis: What makes this book notable is Meyer’s bold attempt to demonstrate ‘how and why paedophilia is produced as a significant social problem.’ One of the particular strengths of this book is Meyer’s attempt to challenge the grand narratives that are too often used to explain this very complex phenomenon. –Claire Wardle, Cardiff University, European Journal of Communication 23 (1).Buy from Amazon UK

Sikes, P. and Piper, H. 2009. Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom
. London, Routledge
Synopsis: Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom draws on in-depth qualitative research exploring the experiences, perceptions and consequences for those who have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct with pupils.Buy from Amazon UK

Piper, H. and Stronach, I. 2008.
Don’t Touch! The educational story of a panic. London, Routledge
Synopsis: Don’t Touch! is the first book in the UK to explore the problems involved in ‘touching’ children in an educational environment. The book uses real-life examples taken from ground-breaking research into the mentality of today’s risk culture, and highlights a maddening state of affairs in which ordinary well-meaning professionals feel they cannot offer even very young children basic levels of comforting or affection.

This fascinating and long-overdue book examines the ‘no-touch’ pandemic in early years settings and primary and secondary schools today by use of extensive interviews with practitioners, parents and pupils, which:

  • outline the confusion experienced by many in knowing if, when and how to touch and the more recent backlash by those who attempted to buck the trend;
  • suggest why this issue is important now (for example, at a time when men are being encouraged to work in early years settings);
  • consider explanations such as panic, risk, society and fear.

Don’t Touch! also examines and explains where the law stands on these issues, and keeps its key focus on practice throughout, representing an unsensationalised and sensible approach to an issue that causes so much professional anxiety. It will be welcomed by the entire teaching profession and child-care professionals, along with researchers and other academics within education and the social sciences.Buy from Amazon UK

Guldberg, H. 2009. Reclaiming Childhood: Freedom and play in an age of fear.
London and New York: Routledge
Children are cooped up, passive, apathetic and corrupted by commerce’, or so we are told.
Reclaiming Childhood confronts the dangerous myths spun about modern childhood. Yes, children today are losing out on many experiences past generations took for granted, but their lives have improved in so many other ways. This book exposes the stark consequences on child development of both our low expectations of fellow human beings and our safety-obsessed culture. Rather than pointing the finger at soft ‘junk’ targets and labelling children as fragile and easily damaged, Helene Guldberg argues that we need to identify what the real problems are – and how much they matter.

We need to allow children to grow and flourish, to balance sensible guidance with youthful independence. That means letting children play, experiment and mess around without adults hovering over them. It means giving children the opportunity to develop the resilience that characterises a sane and successful adulthood. Guldberg suggests ways we can work to improve children’s experiences, as well as those of parents, teachers and ‘strangers’ simply by taking a step back from panic and doom-mongering.Buy from Amazon UK

Gill, T. 2007.
No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
No Fear
joins the increasingly vigorous debate about the role and nature of childhood in the UK. Over the past 30 years activities that previous generations of children enjoyed without a second thought have been relabelled as troubling or dangerous, and the adults who permit them branded as irresponsible. No Fear argues that childhood is being undermined by the growth of risk aversion and its intrusion into every aspect of children’s lives. This restricts children’s play, limits their freedom of movement, corrodes their relationships with adults and constrains their exploration of physical, social and virtual worlds.Focusing on the crucial years of childhood between the ages of 5 and 11 – from the start of statutory schooling to the onset of adolescence – No Fear examines some of the key issues with regard to children’s safety: playground design and legislation, antisocial behaviour, bullying, child protection, the fear of strangers and online risks.

It offers insights into the roles of parents, teachers, carers, the media, safety agencies and the Government and exposes the contradictions inherent in current attitudes and policies, revealing how risk-averse behaviour ironically can damage and endanger children’s lives. In conclusion, No Fear advocates a philosophy of resilience that will help counter risk aversion and strike a better balance between protecting children from genuine threats and giving them rich, challenging opportunities through which to learn and grow.Buy from Amazon UK

Parton, N. 2006.
Safeguarding Childhood: Early intervention and surveillance in a late modern society. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan
This new text by a recognized authority offers a clear, invigorating and theoretically sophisticated commentary on child abuse and child welfare policy. Parton critically assesses the latest developments in child protection thinking and practice, explaining how changes in philosophy and intervention have been informed by cultural, economic and political context. Carefully blending core examples, evidence and the latest social theory, this book is essential reading for both students and practitioners. Buy from Amazon UK

LGBT/Queer parenting

Taylor, Y. 2009. Lesbian and Gay Parenting: Securing Social and Educational Capitals (Palgrave)
Much current work on lesbian and gay kinship still overlooks the significance of socio-economic status. This book explores the intersections between class and sexuality in lesbians’ and gay men’s experiences of parenting and the everyday pathways navigated therein, from initial routes into parenting and household divisions of labour, to location preferences, schooling choice and community supports. In a context of international legal changes, this study seeks to situate parents as both sexual and classed subjects, interrogating the relevance of class and sexual (dis)advantages.

Frequently lesbian and gay families are positioned at the vanguard of transformations in intimacy while often empirically absent in such declarations: they are misplaced in this dual over-emphasis (as agents of social change) and sidelining (under-investigated when compared to the research on heterosexual families). This book utilizes the concept of social capital, combining a Bourdieusian notion of capital as specifically classed, alongside that evidenced in the ‘families of choice’ literature. The theoretical opposition of different frameworks of ‘social capital’ advances class conceptualisations, exploring too the ways that (middle) classed capitals sometimes do not pay off, as a result of occupying non-normative sexualities.Buy from Amazon UK