“Rather than a pill…”: Reflections on parents, children and scientific parenting

The background to this presentation is our recent work on the changing discourse of ‘parenting’, where we explore accounts of childrearing and the parent-child relationship in order to suggest a philosophically-informed analysis of the practical experience of being a parent.

Central to this work is a critique of the scientization of the parent-child relationship, focussed on two interrelated issues: the psychologization of this relationship, i.e. that the meaning and significance of childrearing is predominantly expressed in the languages of psychology (specifically neuropsychology); and the professionalization of parents, i.e. that parents are expected to see themselves as learning subjects, who must continuously gain more knowledge (provided by the disciplines of psychology), and so must refine their skills in order to properly raise their children. In our work, our concern is with how the scientific account of parenting defines and restricts both how we think and talk about childrearing and the parent-child relationship and also, therefore, how parents understand themselves.

In this talk, we will focus on Oliver James’ Love-Bombing; Reset Your Child’s Emotional Thermostat, a popular book aimed at parents, which, as we will discuss, exemplifies some of the philosophical, ethical and political problems inherent in the dominant account of scientific parenting.