Maggio, R., Positive Parenting, Moderate Measures: Teaching Motherhood in North Dublin, ABSTRACT accepted for conference

Abstract accepted at the 14th Biennial Conference of EASA – European Association of Social Anthropology, Milan, 20-23 July 2016


Preparing For Life (PFL) is a community-led initiative (funded by the Irish Department of Children and Youth Affairs and The Atlantic Philanthropies) that seeks to improve the lives of children in Dublin 5 and 17. It provides local families with a set of early intervention services ranging from antenatal care to home visiting, covering the children’s first five years of life. In this paper, I concentrate on the Home Visiting Programme, in which mentors help families with parenting, child development, and school readiness.

The PFL Evaluation Team at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy reported that the initiative is having a moderately positive impact. Interestingly, it appears that PFL is delivering better results if compared with home visiting programmes in other places and times. However, 35% of families dropped out of the study due to attrition or disengagement. Why are these families responding in this way? How do they understand the initiative? How does their ideal of a ‘good’ mother interact with the values inspiring the PFL programme, its managers, and mentors?

My aim in this paper is to illustrate how an ethnographic approach can illuminate the response of these families. This early intervention programme, though intended to improve the life of their children, can be perceived in different and unexpected ways. I argue that important insights can be collected with a focus on how parenting values are concretised and negotiated in the everyday interaction between family members, as well as at the interface between mothers and mentors.

Panel: Raising Europe: managing parents and the production of good citizens


Anouk de Koning (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen)

Charlotte Faircloth (University of Roehampton )

Panel abstract:

European national publics are diversifying. Governments often see this diversity as creating challenges with respect to the fabric of national society, social cohesion, and the production of good future citizens. Simultaneously, in times of economic crisis and neoliberal reforms many governments redefine their role vis-à-vis citizens and society, stressing citizens’ ‘responsibility’, their ‘own strength’ and mutual aid. This panel examines how, against the background of these governmental concerns, European welfare states attempt to produce good citizens. It does so by using the realm of parenting as its vantage point, since this is the space where new citizens are most literally moulded, both in the intimate sphere of the family and in public institutions.

This panel invites papers that discuss how governmental agencies, such as schools and health care institutions, manage parents through a range of policies, institutional arrangements and professional practices, and how various parents respond to such attempts at governing. In what ways do various institutional actors attempt to govern and foster the production of future citizens? What are the parental responses to governmental interactions and interventions related to their parenting? What might be some of the unintended or corrosive consequences of these interventions at the level of intimate family relations, and society more widely? By comparing cases from across Europe, this panel will provide insights into European welfare states’ attempts to raise their citizens in the context of diversifying national publics and neoliberal reforms.

Panel website

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