Demonising parents
Saturday 27 October, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Lecture Theatre 2 Lunchtime Debates

Being a parent today seems to be less about loving and caring for one’s children than learning a set of rules laid down in countless and often conflicting parenting books and government advice leaflets and campaigns. It is all but impossible to follow all rules all the time, but parents are told there will be lethal consequences if they get things wrong. No wonder parents talk about ‘guilt’ and ‘anxiety’ rather than enjoying bringing up their children. A recent UNICEF report on Children’s Well-Being placed the United Kingdom right at the bottom of the table of 21 countries in the developed world, and it is parents who shouldered the blame in the ensuing media brouhaha. Meanwhile report after report stresses how crucial the first three years are for a child’s development. There is relentless examination and critique about what parents, and more specifically mothers, should be doing better.

Increasingly, parents are told that everything should be child-focused and that expert advice is required from ever-watchful Supernanny if parents are to get things right. Pressure is put on the parents to be perfect from the word go - the yet unconceived foetus is in danger if the future mum drinks, smokes and doesn’t eat the right kind of food; a pregnant woman’s every action is judged in relation to the effect it might possibly have on the embryo. At birth the correct bonding must happen and after birth breast feeding must take place for an unspecified length of time. But what happens if parents become too anxious and too worried to care for their children?


Professor Val Gillies
director, Families & Social Capital Research Group, Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University; co-editor, Family Troubles? Exploring changes and challenges in the family lives of children and young people
Sue Palmer
author, Toxic Childhood and Detoxing Childhood; former headteacher
Jane Sandeman
convenor, IoI Parents Forum; contributor, Standing up to Supernanny; director of finance and central services, Cardinal Hume Centre

 Produced by

Jane Sandeman convenor, IoI Parents Forum; contributor, Standing up to Supernanny; director of finance and central services, Cardinal Hume Centre

Expression management: Infant feeding and maternal anxiety, Charlotte Faircloth

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