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Mothers, Fathers, Parents – Is Gender Still Relevant?

  • Sean Collinge
  • 0
  • 1790

This session will be delivered by Dr Linda Bell, Associate Professor at Middlesex University.

The session will raise a question of whether ‘gender’ is an issue that needs to be taken more fully into account when professional practitioners and researchers are working with parents and will be referring to various examples from research.

Research suggests, for example, that mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of both parenting and working with children’s social services often differ; fathers in particular may consider themselves to be treated as ‘invisible’ in some circumstances (Brandon, Philip, & Clifton, 2017). Are there normative, and different, expectations of what makes a ‘good mother’ or a ‘good father’? (see for example May (2008), Williams (2008). Taking a critical focus on what has been called ‘parenting culture’ (Lee et al, 2014) suggests that parenting may be seen as a key site of ‘risk’ in present-day industrial societies; this produces a paradox in which parents are typified both as ‘all powerful’ yet also foolish and in need of expert guidance. Furthermore, whilst gender appears to play a key role underlying professional responses to ‘parenting’, gender can also be glossed over when this gender-neutral term is being used.

The session will be referring to two recent studies carried out at Middlesex University:

  • the ‘Mothers Apart’ project that involves a partnership team including myself and colleagues from both the university and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
  • A secondary literature review I have recently carried out with Middlesex colleagues, focused on fathers and substance misuse.

There will be discussion of these ‘gender’ issues and parenting, and their relevance for professional practice and education, allowing you to draw on your own experiences.

This half-day session aims:

  1. To understand the critical concept of ‘parenting culture’and how it mayberelevant to professionals who are working with parents.
  2. To understandsome key‘gender’issues fromrecent research aboutand withmothers/ fathers/ parents.
  3. To consider to what extenttheexperiences of mothers and fathers involved in child protection or other family-based services may or may not differ, and the implications for professional practice.



Brandon, M, Philip, G and Clifton, J (2017) Counting Fathers In: Understanding Men’s Experiences of the Child Protection System. Nuffield Foundation (Report)

Dermott, E & Pomati, M (2016) ‘Good’ parenting practices: how important are poverty, education and time pressure? Sociology, 50 (1):125 – 142

Lee, E, Bristow, J, Faircloth, C and McVarish, J (2014) Parenting culture studies London: Palgrave / Macmillan

May, V (2008) On being a ‘good’ mother: the moral presentation of self in written life stories. Sociology , 42 (3): 470 – 486

Williams, S (2008) What is fatherhood? Searching for the reflexive father Sociology , 42 (3): 487 – 502

* This session is open to Social Workers and staff working in Social Care across the Teaching Partnership (Barnet, Hackney, Haringey, Enfield, and Norwood).

* This session is open to Social Workers and staff working in Social Care across the Teaching Partnership (Barnet, Hackney, Haringey, Enfield, and Norwood).


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