For anyone studying childhood or families a consideration of the state may not always seem obvious, yet a good critical knowledge of politics, social policy and social theory is vital to understanding their impacts upon families’ everyday lives. Accessibly written and assuming no prior understanding, it shows how key concepts, including vulnerability, risk, resilience, safeguarding and wellbeing are socially constructed.
Carefully designed to support learning, it provides students with clear guidance on how to use what they have read when writing academic assignments alongside questions designed to support the develop of critical thinking skills.
Covering issues from what the family is within a multicultural society, through issues around poverty, social mobility and life-chances, this book gives students an excellent grounding in matters relating to work with children and families. It features:
‘using this chapter’ sections showing how the content can be used in assignments;
tips on applying critical thinking to books and articles – and how to make use of such thinking in essays;
Chapter 2 considers how families are formed and defined with a focus on socially liberal and socially conservative views as well as the way that this feeds into policy. A discussion of romantic love and of relationships points to how things which can be taken for granted are socially constructed before moving on to introduce and explain discourse. This also raises the issue of discourse operating as power and of the way in which discourses compete.
Chapter 1 illustrates how students can frame their assignments, with Bronfenbrenner’s socio-ecological model being an example of this. Bronfenbrenner is used to provide a frame for the book as a whole in terms of how children and families exist within social, political and cultural contexts that may change over time. A comparison of Piaget and Vygotsky is also used to illustrate the shortcomings of many psychological approaches towards child development.
This chapter takes another taken-for-granted concept, life-chances, and explores how this is understood and how it comes to shape our understanding of childhood, especially in relation to a society characterised by inequalities. Life-chances are explained and distinguished from life-choices, illustrating how life-choices reflect a neoliberal perspective. Issues relating to social class, gender and ethnicity are all used to provide a critical insight into children’s life-chances. Housing is considered to illustrate how governments have changed the landscape of housing, for ideological reasons, with real consequences in making the lives of many children unstable. The chapter also provides a discussion of social mobility and explores how the social structures that we live in have a significant bearing on our futures.
This chapter considers how the state may act to regulate families in line with ideological concerns. It draws on examples of state intervention historically and internationally to illustrate how the state acts towards families. A particular focus is on parenting with consideration of types of parenting and ideas about parenting drawing on political ideologies and policies. A focus on failing families is used to demonstrate discourse and rhetoric in policy with this being used to explore ideas about an underclass.
This chapter introduces students to a range of relevant political ideologies and aims to illustrate how political parties move along the Left–Right axis showing how governments are rarely consistent in terms of ideology. Importantly, in respect of issues such as Black Lives Matter we explore neoconservatism, something which is often overlooked in texts. We demonstrate that neoliberalism is not necessarily a laissez faire approach and show how, although Labour may often be presented as left wing, under Blair they introduced approaches that reflected neoliberalism.
Resilience is often presented as a concept that is taken for granted but this is another concept that can be quite slippery. This chapter compares ideas about resilience as something that some have and others do not with ideas that position it along a continuum and as something which is a dynamic process. The relationship between the individual, the family and the community is important here but it has to be considered within a broader framework. Resilience affords the scope to explore the concept that young people are snowflakes, something which we reject.
Risk can often be presented as something that is harmful for children and young people but this chapter considers that without risk our development may be adversely affected. The chapter considers a range of issues around risk from the idea of paranoid parents to our inability to assess risk rationally in presenting ideas about what a concern with risk means in a social context. We recognise that children and young people actively negotiate risks but that they often exist in a policy framework which does not recognise that and where removing immediate risks often exacerbates long-term risks such as health.
This chapter starts by distinguishing safeguarding from child protection and illustrates how, as governments have changed, our practice has changed also. It is noted how ideas related to social inequalities result in different outcomes for children. The consideration of safeguarding is extended by considering ideas, legislation and technologies relating to sexual activity and the contradictory issues raised in relation to selfies and the possession of indecent images. The chapter ends by using cases of child abuse to explore managerialism and practice with children.
This chapter provides definitions of the state, legislation and of policy, as well as discussing how states operate, and considers how policy is put into practice by bodies such as local authorities. It also refers to supra-national bodies such as the European Union. The chapter talks about how the state exists as a framework within which we have rights and explores issues relating to rights and how this relates to power, including how we may deny rights to certain groups and what this means for children. It uses the example of seeing children as becomings rather than beings to justify actions aimed at children.