The Family in Crisis? Neoliberalism and the Politicisation of Parenting and the Family

The family and, in particular, maternal behaviour, has long been subject to public scrutiny. However, since the mid-1990s heightened government and media concern with parenting practices has produced a series of escalating moral panics around child welfare issues. While overt parent-bashing and bewailing the demise of the ‘traditional’ family were once associated with the moral majority in the US and old-style Conservatives in the UK, government intrusion into and commentary on family life has become increasingly central to the discourse of all mainstream political parties. The assumption parental incompetency– rather than broader socio-economic conditions–is responsible for a range of social problems has been reflected in public policy and the rise of media commentary (in current affairs journalism and reality TV), on the subject of modern parenting.

The Family in Crisis symposium brings together a range of scholars from sociology, cultural studies, journalism, history and literature in order to analyse the way the neoliberal rhetoric of competitiveness and individualism has accompanied the hostile scrutiny of parents/family life reflects and reinforced certain middle-class, hetero-normative views of gender relations and family life as well as the ways in which this can and has been resisted.
Topics include: The family and moral crusades, the ‘problem’ of teenage girls, maternal memoirs, childcare gurus and the discourse of infant determinism, the same sex couples bill, comic dad’s lit and the domestic sublime in contemporary literature.

Confirmed speakers: Professor Frank Furedi, Dr Julia Dane, Dr Roberta Garrett, Dr Jan Macvarish, Professor Peter Childs and Dr Michael Peplar.

Venue: SportsDock (SD) 1.12, Docklands Campus, University of East London.

The event is free but registration is required in advance and places are limited. Please contact Roberta Garrett ( the seminar convener, to confirm your attendance.

Professor Frank Furedi, Keynote speaker
Frank Furedi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. He is a cultural commentator who has appeared on Newsnight, Sky and BBC News, Radio Four’s Today program and has published many articles in UK and international newspapers . He is the author of Culture of Fear, Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone?, Paranoid Parenting, Therapy Culture, and On Tolerance: In Defence of Moral Independence and has recently published a book on the Jimmy Saville scandal : Moral Crusades in an Age of Mistrust: The Jimmy Saville Scandal

Dr Julia Dane
Having obtained a degree in Psychosocial Studies at UEL, Julia conducted her Postgraduate research in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College, London. Julia’s research interests are around media representation of gender and sexuality. In particular, she is interested in teenage girls’ engagement with contemporary discourses of femininity. Julia has taught Media and Advertising at UEL since 2006, with a focus on representation and audience/consumer research.

Dr Jan Macvarish
Dr Jan Macvarish is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Kent. Her interests lie in the sociology of interpersonal relationships, parenting, family life, sex and intimacy. Her doctoral thesis (2007), entitled ‘The New Single Woman: Contextualising Individual Choice’, explored the construction of contemporary singleness through qualitative interviewing of single, childless women and cultural analysis of the new ‘culture of singleness’. She has been involved in a study of teenage parents, a ESRC-funded study, ‘Assessing Child Welfare under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: the new law ‘ and is currently working on the Faraday Institute funded study, ‘Biologising parenting: neuroscience discourse in English social and public health policy’

Dr Roberta Garrett
Dr Roberta Garrett is a senior lecturer in literature at the University of East London. She has published a book on gender and postmodern film: Postmodern Chick Flicks (Palgrave, 2007) and articles on women’s film and gender and the family. She is currently researching a book on literary representations of the modern family which examines misery memoirs, comic ‘mum’s lit, women’s autobiographical writing on motherhood and dysfunctional domestic novels

Professor Peter Childs
Peter Childs has recently been appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor (leading research and scholarship) at Newman University. He has published numerous essays and articles on authors such as Paul Scott, Ian McEwan, E. M. Forster and Hanif Kureishi. He has additionally edited or written over a dozen books on diverse subjects ranging from contemporary British culture to post-colonial theory. He has published most recently on Ian McEwan and contemporary British heritage fiction, and is currently researching a monograph on Julian Barnes for Manchester University Press. Peter was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy in 2004 and elected a Fellow of the English Association in 2005.

Dr Michael Peplar
Dr Michael Peplar is Assistant Professor of History, Academic Director, Boston University London. He is currently teaching literature and history, with a particular focus on contemporary London. He has written a monograph on the Family Matters: Ideas about the Family in British Culture since 1945, Longman, 2002 and is currently working on debates on the same-sex marriage bill.