Poor parents and ‘poor parenting’

Dr Esther Dermott, Reader in Sociology and University Research Fellow, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Dr Esther Dermott, Reader in Sociology, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

In popular and political discourse it is parents who must take responsibility for children’s social, emotional and educational success or failure; as the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg phrased it in 2010, “Parents hold the fortunes of the children they bring into this world in their hands”. Following on from this dominant view, it is perhaps unsurprising that it is poor parents who have come in for most criticism, with the suggestion that their children’s relative lack of qualifications and difficulty in obtaining employment that avoids a reliance on benefits, is their fault.

The Field Report which was commissioned by the government in 2010 to develop a strategy to  address child poverty explicitly refers to the role of ‘good parenting’ and notes at the outset that “We imperil the country’s future if we forget that it is the aspirations and actions of parents which are critical to how well their children prosper” (p11). Getting poor parents to be better at parenting has therefore become a central plank in the Coalition government’s attempt to improve children’s future wellbeing.

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