The Problem with Parenting


By Nancy A. McDermott

cover image of The Problem with Parenting

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The Problem with Parenting serves as an essential guide to the recent origins and current excesses of American parenting for students, parents, and policy makers interested in the changing role of the family in childrearing.

Family scholarship focuses predominately on the evolution of family structure and function, with only passing references to parenting. Researchers who study parenting, however, invariably regard it as a sociological phenomenon with complex motivations rooted in factors such as class, economic instability, and new technologies.

This book examines the relationship between changes to the family and the emergence of parenting, defined here as a specific mode of childrearing. It shows how, beginning in the 1970s, the family was transformed from a social unit that functioned as the primary institution for raising children into a vehicle for the nurturing and fulfillment of the self. The book pays special attention to socialization and describes how the change in our understanding of parenthood, from a state of being into the distinct activity of "parenting," is indicative of a disruption of our ability to transfer key cultural values and norms from one generation to the next.

  • Suggests that families are no longer able to reliably socialize children

  • Proposes that the reason the family has ceased to function as a socializing institution has less to do with changes in structure than the replacement of a child-centered ideal with a therapeutic imperative

  • Suggests that parenting is new mode of childrearing that arose in the absence of a reliable institution for childrearing

  • Argues that parenting culture itself is a response to the experience of the breakdown in socialization that occurred that began in the 1970s

  • Makes the case for a renewal of a societal commitment to children and the rising generation

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    The Problem with Parenting