14 SES 01 A, Child-Rearing and Parenting: Past and Present.
Family policy has been a key component of the British Labour government’s family, social, and education policy since the election of the first ‘New’ Labour government in 1997. The 1997 Labour Party manifesto set out the overall approach to family policy that has characterised that policy in the last 13 years: ‘Labour does not see families and the state as rival providers for the needs of our citizens. […] But families cannot flourish unless government plays its distinctive role: […] Society, through government, must assist families to achieve collectively what no family can achieve alone.’ (Labour Party, 1997). The Labour government subsequently introduced a wide range of family focused initiatives and interventions designed to ‘support’ families and improve individual, family, and social outcomes. The variety of policy initiatives were matched by important government reports and legislation, such as Every Child Matters (H M Government, 2003), the 2004 Children Act, and the Children’s Plan (DCSF, 2007). This UK approach has been mirrored in recent European developments. In particular, the Council of Europe commissioned important work in respect of positive parenting and the role of governments and parents in family life. For example, Daly (ed. 2007) addressed key issues relating to positive parenting and parents’ entitlement to support from the state in carrying out their role as parents. And in 2006, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recommended that member states should adopt of a range of measures to ‘promote positive parenting as an essential part of the support provided for parenting’ (Council of Europe, 2006).
A key English family policy initiative, the Parenting Early Intervention Pathfinder ran from September 2006-March 2008, providing £7.6 million of central government funding to 18 Local Authorities (LAs) in England to implement one of three evidence-based parenting programmes for parents of children aged 8-13. The pathfinder was followed, in 2008-2011, by the Parenting Early Intervention Programme (PEIP) - across all English LAs in two roll outs, Wave 2 (from 2008) and Wave 3 (from 2009), with two further evidence-based programmes added to the original three.
This paper focuses on the experience of parents undertaking the parenting programmes, and argues that the programmes are experienced as an educative process leading to changes in the cultures of family life. These cultural changes are overwhelmingly experienced in positive terms by participating parents. The paper grew out of the national evaluation of the pathfinder programme, and the ongoing PEIP, undertaken by the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR), the University of Warwick.
The main theoretical frameworks underpinning the paper are those drawn from social learning theory (Patterson & Gullion, 1968), and the more humanistic, psychotherapeutic theory approach (e.g., Gordon, 1975). In addition, the quantitative and qualitative data generated by the national evaluation regarding parents’ perceptions of the parenting programmes will be used to critique the arguments of social policy theorists who have stressed the regulating and control function of family intervention (e.g. Gillies, 2005).
Council of Europe (2006). Recommendation Rec(2006)19 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on policy to support positive parenting. Strasbourg, The Council of Europe. Daly, M. (ed.) (2007). Parenting in contemporary Europe: a positive approach. Strasbourg, Council of Europe. Department for Children, Schools and Families (2007). The Children’s Plan; Building brighter futures. CM 7280. London, The Stationary Office (TSO). Gillies, V. (2005). ‘Meeting parents’ needs? Discourses of “support” and “inclusion” in family policy’, Critical Social Policy, vol. 25, 70, pp.70-90. Gordon, T. (1975). Parent Effectiveness Training. New York, Peter Wyden. HM Government (2004). Children Act 2004. London, TSO. HM Government (2003). Every Child Matters. Green Paper, Nottingham, DfES. Labour Party (1997). New Labour Because Britain Deserves Better, London, The Labour Party. Patterson, G. & Gullion, M. (1968). Living with Children; New Methods for Parents and Teachers. Champaign, Illinois, Research Press.
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