Beyond the Naughty Step: The intersections of class and gender in contemporary parenting culture

Jensen, Tracey (2010). Beyond the Naughty Step: The intersections of class and gender in contemporary parenting culture. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis examines the texture of contemporary parenting culture, examining how 'childrearing', as the activity of raising children, has been rhetorically eclipsed by 'parenting', as a broader orientation towards one's children, oneself and the future. Parenting has been increasingly visualised across culture and policy as both a classless activity and as the key to transcending social inequalities of all kinds. In these visualisations, it is poor parenting which limits and constrains children. Consequently, good, competent or responsible parenting has become imbued cross a range of sites with enormous explanatory power, and is invoked to account for developmental differences in behaviour, vocabulary, and cognition. This thesis critically examines these socio-cultural shifts and explores how parenting discourse is implicated within these drifts away from a sociological imagining of inequality and towards a more psychological account of social change. It pays specific attention to one television programme, Supernanny (Richochet Productions, 2003-), which proved highly popular amongst viewers and highly tenacious in policy circles; a programme in which the staging of 'poor parenting' became an opportunity for Both education and entertainment. This thesis pays close attention to the subjectivising encounters between parenting culture and parents. It argues that, far from parenting being a classless activity, it has emerged as a new site for the production of social distinction.

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