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Parenting and childhood in a culture of fear

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posted on 2011-06-24, 08:31 authored by Leanne Franklin
This thesis draws primarily upon the work of Furedi (2001; 2002) and his notion of a culture of fear to explore contemporary parenting and childhood from a social psychological perspective. Furedi argues that contemporary society is dominated by a sense of anxiety which is ubiquitous and free-floating (2007) and it is arguable that this fear is particularly easily attached to issues around childhood as children are considered increasingly vulnerable - giving rise to the phenomenon of paranoid parents (Furedi, 2002). While these and related issues have been explored elsewhere in the social sciences (e.g. Jackson & Scott, 2000; Katz, 2008; Valentine, 1996) there has yet to be a study from a social psychological perspective which would seek to understand how these fears are articulated, constructed and managed in relational interaction. The first stage of analysis is a content analysis of newspaper articles, providing partial information about the socio-cultural backdrop of the study. This is complemented by focus group data from both parents and children (aged 12-13) which is analysed using strategies and tools drawn from discursive psychology (Edwards & Potter, 1992). This approach allows for an examination of how participants construct fears, anxieties and concerns that exist in and around modern parenting and childhood. Themes that emerged from this analysis include a focus on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a fear of hypothetical dangers, and a catalogue of potential risks. These concerns are also worked up in the participants talk as related to wider social changes (such as an increase in crime and changes in family structure) and connected with a nostalgia for a past which is constructed as safer, simpler and more liberated; even the children display a fondness for this utopian childhood. Hence the study begins to develop an empirical understanding of how aspects of a culture of fear may be worked up in relation to contemporary parenting and childhood, and so points toward some of its possible psychological implications.



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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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