Do children need protecting from adult carers?

Wednesday 14 October, 6.30pm until 8.30pm, Manchester

Venue: Blackwell University Bookshop, The Precinct Centre, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9RN. See a map of the venue.

Tickets: £5 per person. Tickets will be posted when purchased by phone from Blackwell: 0161 274 3331. There will be a £3 discount per ticket against purchases in store at the event.

The relationship between adults and children is increasingly fraught, and viewed through the prism of risk. Not only teachers, neighbours and relatives, but even parents themselves are seen as potential abusers. But some childcare professionals and academics like Manchester Metropolitan University’s Heather Piper have begun to challenge this climate. Her book ‘Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom’ is a critique of the ‘No Touch’ policies ubiquitous in schools and early years settings, and examines the insecurities surrounding adult-child relations. Not so long ago, those who saw something unwholesome in pictures of toddlers in the bath would be accused of having ‘dirty minds’. Nowadays, official policy and institutional practice works on the assumption that those working with children are ‘dirty-minded’ from the outset. Critics like Piper argue that when we are encouraged to view all physical contact with children as something to be avoided, in case it is perceived as inappropriate, we begin to apply a damaging check on every spontaneous interaction.

Meanwhile, family policy increasingly focuses on the need to protect children from the failings of parents, who could either pose a danger to their children, or simply not know what they’re doing. But some parents too have begun to express concerns about the idea that they’re hopeless and don’t try hard enough. Jennie Bristow argues in her book Standing up to Supernanny that the professionalisation of parenting undermines the authority of parents, and inhibits the spontaneous loving relationships with parents, and other adults, that children need in order to flourish.

So, how much do child protection policies help prevent abuse - and how much do they damage adults’ ability to conduct normal, caring relationships with the children in their charge?

Jennie Bristow
senior lecturer in sociology, Canterbury Christ Church University; author, The Sociology of Generations: New directions and challenges and Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict; co-author, Parenting Culture Studies

Heather Piper
professorial research fellow, Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University; author, Researching Sex and Lies in the Classroom and Don't Touch!: the educational story of a panic

Hilary Salt
actuary; founder, First Actuarial

Produced by
Simon Belt IT consultant; coordinator, Manchester Salon
Recommended readings
Standing Up to Supernanny

Parenthood, we are told, requires a massive adjustment to our lives, emotions, and relationships, and we have to be taught how to deal with that. But can it really be so bad that we need constant counselling and parenting classes? It is a myth that today's parents are hopeless and lazy: in many ways, we have become too diligent, too hopeful of great outcomes and clear rewards, to the point where we lose ourselves in trying to provide some kind of professional service to our children.

Jennie Bristow, Imprint Academic, 16 September 2009

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Matthew Hickley, Daily Mail, 17 August 2009

Children are the lifeblood of Blue Peter,’ says Biddy Baxter

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Biddy Baxter, The Times, 12 August 2009

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Doctors, nurses and health visitors must do more to protect children and raise “early alerts” over suspected violence or child abuse, the health regulator says.

David Rose, The Times, 13 March 2009

This database is good mother, not big brother

Our details are all over the web. And a central bank of information will help vulnerable children, not harm secure ones.

Alice Miles, The Times, 28 January 2009

Licensed to Hug: How Child Protection Policies Are Poisoning the Relationship Between the Generations

Since the establishment of the Criminal Records Bureau in 2002, more than a third of British adults have had to get a certificate to say they are safe to be near children, and the numbers affected are increasing. Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow argue that the growth of police vetting has created a sense of mistrust.

Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow, Civitas, 30 June 2008

You can’t care for kids unless you touch them

Under new guidelines, teachers can be chastised for patting a boy on the head or for putting a plaster on a girl’s knee. A stirring new book says these mad anti-touch measures are killing the spirit of teaching and caring.

Joise Appleton, spiked, 13 May 2008

Don't Touch!: The Educational Story of a Panic

Touch, Heather Piper and Ian Stronach, argue, has been detached from the relationships of guidance, discipline and caring that give it meaning. Guidelines mean the ‘micro-regulation of professional behaviours’: teachers’ actions are viewed as if through an alien eye, regardless of context or intent.

Heather Piper and Ian Stronach, Routledge, 1 October 2007

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