Parenting before Children?

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Wigoder Building

University of Kent

Canterbury Campus

Canterbury

CT2 7NB

United Kingdom

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Parenting before Children? Parenting culture, pregnancy and the ‘pre-conception period’ is an event organised by CPCS and CRRC.

About this event

This event is free to attend, but you must register. See information for livestreaming access below.

Programme outline

12:15-13:00 - Arrival and refreshments

13:00-13:20 - Welcome: Dr Patricia Lohr, Director of the Centre for Reproductive Research & Communication (CRRC) at BPAS, and Prof. Ellie Lee, Director the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS) (Chair for the Day).

13:20-14:45 - Roundtable: Assessing the rise of the preconception period: Dr Kirsty Budds: 'Fit to Conceive? Preconception Health in the U.K.' (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Leeds Beckett University) and Natalie Davies: 'The implications of ‘abstinence-only’ drinking guidelines for women who are trying to conceive, and thoughts on an alternative approach' (Society for the Study of Addiction and Winner of the Inaugral Heather Trickey Essay Prize), with responses from Clare Murphy (Chief Executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service) and Dr Sue Mann (Consultant in Sexual and Reproductive Health).

15:00-16:30 - Panel discussion: Fetal Disorders and Maternal Responsibilisation: Presentations by Rachel Arkell: 'Risk and Responsibility: The Problems of Sodium Valproate and Pregnancy Prevention' (ESRC funded PhD Candidate, University of Kent) and Professor Fiona Woollard: 'Alcohol and Pregnancy Policy: The Midwives Perspective' (Professor of Philosophy, University of Southampton).

16:30-17:30 - Paper presentation: “Policing the maternal mind: Prenatal care and the psychologisation of pregnancy" Presentation by Dr Edmée Ballif (Swiss National Science Foundation Research Fellow and visiting scholar at University College London and Rutgers University; Associate at the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent).

17:30-19:00 - Drinks and Snacks

Background to the event

Research about parenting culture has pointed to the many ways in which ‘parenting’ tends to extend backwards, to the time before the birth of a child. Scholarship has discussed how the idea that the health and abilities of a child are determined before birth is centuries old. It is found for example, in claims about how a person’s future is given ‘by the stars’, and in the notion of ‘maternal imprinting’.

In the context of modern parenting culture, what prospective parents do – and especially what pregnant women do – remains a powerful focus for accounts of what will most determine key aspects of those yet to be born. Perhaps most distinctive, according to some accounts, is the extent of scientisation. Very strong claims purporting to find support in neuroscience, epigenetics, and research about the origins of disease give power and moral urgency to the case for ‘doing more’. For example, the claim that what happens in the first ‘1001 days’ of life, defined as conception to age 2, drives family policy. The power of ‘parenting’ across this time in life is said to be so great it, more than anything else, determines individual and social welfare, meaning more should and must be done.

Health policy programmes now include pregnancy as part of ‘the early years’ of a child’s life and advise accordingly. More recently, parenting has been extended backwards further still, to the so-called ‘preconception period’, with women advised about health behaviours in order to be ‘pregnancy ready’. While advocates of attention to the earliest stages of life perceive an opportunity to improve the health and life chances of future generations, others see overreach in claims about the impact of parenting before children and emphasise overbearing control of women’s reproductive lives. Not only pregnancy, but also pre-pregnancy has become more and more characterised by fear and health policing, it is argued.

This event is an opportunity to discuss the issue raised. It is organised as a collaboration between researchers from the University of Kent working with the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies and BPAS’ CRRC. All Welcome.

Please email Rachel Arkell (rca26@kent.ac.uk) with any dietary requirements for the day.

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Location

Wigoder Building

University of Kent

Canterbury Campus

Canterbury

CT2 7NB

United Kingdom

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