Bringing up baby: Parenting, expertise and the media

14 December 2007, 10:00 - 14:30

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane

Convener:  Charlotte Faircloth (PhD student, Social Anthropology, Cambridge)


Is there, or has there ever been, a 'right' way to bring up children? Why is this such an emotive issue? What is the role of 'parenting experts', and how do they effect the experience of parenting and being parented? How do the media reflect, magnify or alter perceptions about appropriate childcare?



Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Reproduction Forum (CIRF

14 December 2007  

10.00 - 10.30

Welcome and registration (Tea and Coffee)

10.30 -13.30

Round table discussion

10.30 - 11.00

Screening and Presentation

Daisy Goodwin (Executive producer Bringing up baby, journalist, author)

Daisy will talk about the rationale behind her recent programme Bringing up baby, show an edited selection of clips and discuss some of the reactions it has evoked. The show set out to compare different methods of childcare, and Daisy will elaborate on the finding that whilst there is no 'right' way to raise one's child, for many parents this is a highly emotive issue.

11.00 - 12.00

Discussion and Presentations

Christina Hardyment (Author Dream Babies)

Christina will sketch how advice on baby and childcare has always reflected contemporary social and psychological theories as well as medical knowledge, with especial emphasis on the last 50 years. She will suggest that awareness of such shifts in fashion helps parents cope with bringing up their own babies.

Eileen Hayes (Parenting Advisor to the NSPCC, Editor-in-Chief Your Family, Chair Media and Parenting Group)

Eileen will draw on her experience as a parent of four, Parenting and Child Behaviour Expert, author, magazine columnist, trained family counsellor and parent coach, and frequent broadcaster on T.V. and radio to take part in this roundtable discussion. Eileen will discuss the role of parenting 'experts' in the creation of contemporary parenting initiatives, as well as in television programmes and other media disseminating parenting advice. She will argue that there is a body of expertise that can and should be shared with parents, but there has traditionally in the UK been a deep emotional resistance to this. It is essential to use mass media in order to get out information and advice universally, and to de-stigmatise seeking helping with parenting problems. It has done this extremely successfully, but has used as 'experts' many who have little expertise at all, and may have contributed to a loss of confidence for parents.

Dr Ellie Lee (Social Policy, University of Kent/Parenting Culture Studies group)

Ellie will discuss the rise of 'expertise' in contemporary parenting, noting the ramifications for parental (and childhood) experiences. Where parenting is understood to be both the root of, and the solution to, social problems, Ellie will show that this can 'intensify' parenting, with important social ramifications.

Dr Joanna Hawthorne (Research psychologist, Centre for Family Research Cambridge and Director and trainer, Brazelton Centre in Great Britain)

Joanna is a psychologist and practitioner working with parents and newborns. She will present ideas about supporting parents through the baby in an effort to help parents understand newborn behaviour and the ways to provide developmentally supportive care. She discusses the strengths and positive aspects of this approach.

12.00 - 12.15

Audience Comments

12.15 - 13.00

Discussion and Presentations

Ciara Doyle (Sociology, Trinity College, Dublin)

Ciara will look specifically at the role of one sort of media, television, in contemporary parenting culture, questioning whether the 'mothercraft' of earlier parenting guides has now become 'infotainment'. She will ask what effects this has for modern parents, and society at large.

Jennie Bristow (Journalist on parenting, authorGuide to Subversive Parenting, spiked-online)

Jennie will talk about 'parenting in the public eye': how the growing interest in individual parenting practices by mass media and policymakers threatens assumptions about privacy in the home.

Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert (Institute of Ideas Parents' Forum)

Alka will speak as a parent with an active interest in the effect of representations of parents and parenting in popular media. She questions why there are so many programmes about parenting and families on our television sets these days - from 'Tiny Tearaways', to 'Eco Family' or the strikingly titled 'Honey We're Killing the Kids'. Alka will ask why most representations of parents in these shows are generally so negative. She will argue that such infotainment, in today's context, indicates a deeper loss of confidence in ourselves and children at the societal level.


Audience Comments and Closing Discussion

13.30 - 14.30