Warmth and wealth: re-imagining social class in taxonomies of good parenting
Tracey Jensen is a teaching fellow at the Centre for Creative Industries, Kings College London. Her research interests include parenting policy, culture and advice, audience studies and media analysis, as well as social citizenship and inclusion. Her doctoral research Beyond the Naughty Step: the intersections of class and gender in contemporary parenting culture, explored the intersections of class and gender in contemporary parenting cultures across a range of sites, including parenting expertise on television and government policy, plus local landscapes and spaces. Her work has been published in Subjectivities, Feminism and Psychology and Radical Psychology, and she has contributed to Standing Up To Supernanny (Imprint Academic, 2009).
This paper considers the ways in which notions of competent and incompetent parenting are produced in the emerging socio-political sphere of parenting science. It critically considers the findings of one set of statistical analyses conducted on the data of a significant longitudinal study of child development. Paying close attention to the category of 'tough love' parenting, a category produced and consolidated in the examined analysis, the paper explores the ways in which parenting science displaces attention on material and economic disadvantage and privilege, and the impact this has on parenting and family life. It argues that engaging with structural inequality (wealth) has been replaced by the naming of moral and cultural conduct (warmth) as the cause and symptom of social inequality. Parenting, as this paper argues, has thus emerged as a highly significant site for the promotion of neoliberal agendas and ideas around success and aspiration.