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Welfare practice in response of child neglect: reconstruction and analysis of the discourses on family, childrearing, and motherhood


Vogel Campanello, Margot; Niehaus, Susanna; Pisoni, Delia; Röthlisberger, Michèle; Mitrovic, Tanja (2021). Welfare practice in response of child neglect: reconstruction and analysis of the discourses on family, childrearing, and motherhood. Advances in Applied Sociology, 11(01):34-47.

Abstract

Child neglect is an ongoing social problem, estimated to affect 5 - 10 per cent of children. The term neglect describes a behavior that deviates from an ideal norm. However, both the form of this ideal norm and the definition of deviation depend on contemporary discourses and scientific positions. Historically, it has been more frequently poor families and single mothers who have been disciplined for child neglect by the state, whilst their economic situation was marginalized. Parallel current findings raise questions regarding how these discourses form, how they influence decision-making processes, and whether a continuity can be ascertained in measures of social disciplining. Our ongoing research project on welfare practice in response of child neglect aims to reconstruct and analyze current discourses on family, childrearing, and motherhood in the context of child neglect. Taking a multi-perspectival approach, it will analyze and compare the expert discourse, the political/public discourse, and the perspective of affected mothers across two different time periods in five selected Swiss cantons. Preliminary findings indicate that gender categories, especially motherhood, continue to be of great importance. On the basis of a first analysis of casefiles, one could speak of a “motherism”: in case processing and in the course of the case, responsibility is attributed to the mother, and social and pedagogical contexts are neglected, even the financial situation seems to be given less importance. Instead, the willingness to cooperate often seems to be a key factor in deciding on further interventions. Furthermore, there are indications that in decision-making processes with far-reaching consequences, legal arguments are preferred while childrearing aspects are neglected. It can also be noted that normative and sometimes stigmatizing statements do not seem to belong to the past. In this article, we will give insight into the research design and first findings and discuss the necessity of reflecting on the images of family, childrearing, and motherhood in light of the rapid social changes in the spheres of family, motherhood, and fatherhood.

Abstract

Child neglect is an ongoing social problem, estimated to affect 5 - 10 per cent of children. The term neglect describes a behavior that deviates from an ideal norm. However, both the form of this ideal norm and the definition of deviation depend on contemporary discourses and scientific positions. Historically, it has been more frequently poor families and single mothers who have been disciplined for child neglect by the state, whilst their economic situation was marginalized. Parallel current findings raise questions regarding how these discourses form, how they influence decision-making processes, and whether a continuity can be ascertained in measures of social disciplining. Our ongoing research project on welfare practice in response of child neglect aims to reconstruct and analyze current discourses on family, childrearing, and motherhood in the context of child neglect. Taking a multi-perspectival approach, it will analyze and compare the expert discourse, the political/public discourse, and the perspective of affected mothers across two different time periods in five selected Swiss cantons. Preliminary findings indicate that gender categories, especially motherhood, continue to be of great importance. On the basis of a first analysis of casefiles, one could speak of a “motherism”: in case processing and in the course of the case, responsibility is attributed to the mother, and social and pedagogical contexts are neglected, even the financial situation seems to be given less importance. Instead, the willingness to cooperate often seems to be a key factor in deciding on further interventions. Furthermore, there are indications that in decision-making processes with far-reaching consequences, legal arguments are preferred while childrearing aspects are neglected. It can also be noted that normative and sometimes stigmatizing statements do not seem to belong to the past. In this article, we will give insight into the research design and first findings and discuss the necessity of reflecting on the images of family, childrearing, and motherhood in light of the rapid social changes in the spheres of family, motherhood, and fatherhood.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Education
Dewey Decimal Classification:370 Education
Language:English
Date:1 January 2021
Deposited On:09 Feb 2021 13:27
Last Modified:10 Feb 2021 15:20
Publisher:Scientific Research Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:2165-4336
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.4236/aasoci.2021.111004

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