38. Parenting experiences and family practices

Silvia Fargion e Teresa Bertotti

The care and upbringing of children in recent decades has been subjected to strong pressures related in part to the spreading of neoliberal ideologies across the world; in this framework the discourse on child rearing as an indivisible responsibility of individual parents has become dominant. The neologism ‘parenting’ refers more and more to a de-contextualised performance, with goals to be reached, and requiring competences to be learned. Currently, discourse on parenting thus entails what has been defined as ‘parental determinism’ which in turn leads to blaming parents, often described as incompetent and in need of guidance. In this picture It is therefore not surprising that parents’ voices have seldom been considered and systematically explored. 

This void is particularly evident in situations that feature complexities or challenges, such as highly conflictual parents, family forms not yet recognised by institutions, families dealing with migration and/or difficulties., such as financial insecurity or the presence disability. For this session we invite contributions from qualitative and ethnographic research that address this knowledge gap and explore the perspectives and ways of constructing one’s own experience as fathers and mothers in these contexts. In particular, we are interested in studies that address these issues within the framework of the family practices approach, and explore family practices also in connection to social services and institutions. The knowledge provided by these studies is particularly relevant to inform the interventions of professionals, such as social workers, that engage both with parents and with policies aimed at families and parents. 

More specifically we look for contributions that will address issues such as: 

1) How in situations of complexity or challenge parental tasks are redrawn and represented by the subjects themselves 

2) How the pressures of dominant ideologies and parental determinism are perceived in family practices 3) What old and new ways of constructing gender can be identified in the study of parenting practices 4) Place and time in parenting practices: what issues are raised in parents’ representations? 5) Experiences and reflections in the relationship between parents, professionals and institutions. 6) What methodological and ethical challenges can be identified in the study of parenting practices. 

Key words: Family practices, parenting experiences, intensive parenting, doing gender in parenting practices parenting in complex circumstances, LGBTQ+ parenting; space and time in everyday parenting. 

Short Bio
Silvia Fargion (PhD University of Edinburgh, 2001) is Professor of Social Work and Sociology at the University of Trento in the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Silvia combines experiences as a social worker and as an academic researcher. She is currently Principal Investigator in an Italian national research project studying constructions of parenting on insecure grounds, which explores the experiences of parents and social workers in challenging circumstances.

Teresa Bertotti is an associate professor of social work at the University of Trento. Prior to her academic career, she was involved for more than 20 years in supporting children and families with problems of violence and neglect and in the supervision and training of practitioners. Current research interests lie in the quality of social work in child protection and family support, decision-making, ethics in social service research and the training of social workers. She favours qualitative research with a participatory approach.

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