The Politics of Parenting


Invited editors: Susanne Bregnbæk, Anja Marschall, Crisstina Munck & Noomi Matthiesen 

Over the last decade parenting practices and new ways of optimizing children for success have become prevalent issues in increasingly competitive societies around the world. This special issue of Qualitative Studies gives a platform to explore cross-culturally the ways in which parenting ideals and practices involve a growing range of interventions intended to optimize the psychological health, educational achievement and social performance of children and young adults. An unprecedented number of experts seek to give advice and offer parenting courses, new therapies and even pharmaceuticals, intervening in the private sphere of family life and the subjectivities of parents, teenagers, and children. Parenting practices have consequently been described as “professionalized” stressing an ideal of “scientifically” informed parenting. Such interventions often spring from a (welfare) state that increasingly encroaches upon “vulnerable” families targeted by policies that seek to identify social vulnerabilities even before they emerge as actual social problems. The politics of parenting is thus oriented towards risk-management and differentiated and stratified by class, gender, and race.

This special issue addresses questions of how the practices of (welfare) professionals and policy makers attempt to (trans)form the lives of families striving to create ideal citizens. It seeks to illuminate how social and educational work speaks to parents’ hope for the current wellbeing and future success of their children through new forms of audit culture and a market for early interventions. We invite contributions across different disciplines that explore how the politicized ideals, norms and practices play out in the everyday lives of families as they are influenced by many-fold actors including officials regulating day-care, school, medical services, and child protection. What is at stake when distinguishing "good" from "bad" practices of parenting and what are the specific (unintended) consequences for families of different social and ethnic backgrounds? How do parents themselves attempt to shape their children’s lives and how are their decisions and desires inspired and constrained by professionals’ evaluative processes?

Contributors may address (but are not limited to) the following questions:

  • How are the entanglements of kinship and state experienced by professionals and families?
  • How do state and private actors intervene in the parenting practices of citizens of various social strata/different ethnic backgrounds?
  • How do early interventions shape the lives of parents and their children?
    Which social expectations do parents face respectively?
  • What are the concerns, hopes and desires of parents on behalf of their children and which constraints do they experience?
  • What consequences do these practices of risk-management and optimization have for the collaboration between parents and (welfare)state professionals and/or on the everyday family life?

Important dates

1st Maj 2022: Abstracts submitted to the editors

1st June 2022: Contributors invited to write a full paper

1st December 2022: Manuscripts submitted to the editors and subjected to peer review

1st March 2023: Peer reviews sent to the contributors

1st Maj 2023: Deadline for submission of revised and finalised manuscripts

1st June 2023: Special issue published

Please send abstract proposals to: 

Abstract proposals should be between 400-500 words delineating the contribution of the proposed article, including the overall theme, theoretical and methodological framework as well as key conclusion.