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Parenting agendas: an empirical study of intensive mothering and infant cognitive development

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Abstract

Intensive parenting debates reflect the critical importance of a child’s early years, and parents’ roles in determining later developmental outcomes. Mothers are usually assigned primary responsibility for facilitating their infants’ cognitive development through adequate and appropriate sensory stimulation. Drawing on Foucault’s technologies of the self, this article explores how new mothers shape their mothering practices in order to provide appropriately stimulating interactions. Using findings from 64 interviews (31 women were interviewed twice, 2 women were interviewed only once) three main positions are identified of how mothers function in relation to their infants’ development: mother as committed facilitator, creative provider and careful/caring monitor. The study considers the perceived normative nature of these positions and the impact they can have on middle-class women’s subjectivities as new mothers. This analysis of parental agendas and infant cognitive development suggests that a continued focus on the mother’s role within early infant development reflects and upholds ideologies of child-centred, intensive mothering, which risks precluding ‘alternative’ maternal subjectivities and promotes conservative feminine identities.

Citation

(2017). Parenting agendas: an empirical study of intensive mothering and infant cognitive development. Sociological Review, 336-352. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026116672812

Acceptance Date Aug 28, 2016
Publication Date Nov 1, 2017
Journal The Sociological Review
Print ISSN 0038-0261
Publisher SAGE Publications
Pages 336-352
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026116672812
Keywords transition to motherhood, intensive mothering, child development, technologies of the self
Publisher URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1467-954X

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