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Family troubles?Exploring changes and challenges in the family lives of children and young people$
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Jane Ribbens McCarthy, Carol-Ann Hooper, and Val Gillies

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781447304432

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447304432.001.0001

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Normal problems or problem children? Parents and the micro-politics of deviance and disability

Normal problems or problem children? Parents and the micro-politics of deviance and disability

(p.84) (p.85) Chapter Seven Normal problems or problem children? Parents and the micro-politics of deviance and disability
Family troubles?

Ara Francis

Policy Press

This chapter draws on a study of middle-class parents in the US who identify their children as having significant problems, such as learning and developmental disabilities, mental illnesses and substance addictions, focusing on the processes of problem construction, i.e. how parents come to view their children as having significant problems of a particular kind. A social constructionist perspective is taken, addressing whose definitions of trouble prevail, in which contexts, and why, and exploring the micro-politics of this process. The formative role of wider family members, friends, school officials and medical professionals is highlighted in reinforcing perceived maternal responsibilities to monitor and cultivate development. For parents raising children with challenging behaviour, a medical frame of reference could simultaneously be the source of the problem, shaping their interpretations of their children’s conduct in ways that may sometimes problematise behaviour which would otherwise be viewed in terms of difference and nonconformity, and the solution, with parents fighting hard to gain public recognition that their children’s problems were legitimately medical, as opposed to the more ‘ordinary’ consequences of bad parenting.

Keywords:   Deviance, Disability, Social construction, Parents, Children, Micro-politics of definition

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