Chapter three takes a critically informed look at the role of families, and children’s position within families, in understanding child poverty and disadvantage. It looks at the role of social support and gendered relationships and examines how families are not value-free environments. Family life under conditions of disadvantage tends to be pathologised and denigrated: parents who are ‘poor’ are frequently situated as ‘poor parents’. Low income families are particularly vulnerable to categorisation as ‘troubled families’ or troublesome families (Ribbens McCarthy et al 2013). This chapter looks at the myths and realities of family life at the bottom of the income structure, how children understand, negotiate and mediate poverty in family life and their experiences and agency within the family. It also considers how wealthier families, who are held up as the benchmark of the ideal family, reinforce and perpetuate the disadvantage of poor children and families by employing their superior resources to confer (further) advantage onto their own children.
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