Is “Positive Parenting” really positive for children and families? Early childhood parenting as a site of governance in Aotearoa New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
Educational policies have significant impacts on the lives of those involved, silencing or strengthening one mode of pedagogy over others in society. The way that issues are re/presented within policies limits what is considered to be desirable or even possible in society (Bacchi, 2000). Consequently, looking into how a certain issue is problematised and framed in policies invites individuals to unpack the unspoken regulations and issues that derive from these policies. Drawing from Bacchi’s ‘policy-as-discourse’ model, this thesis explores “what is unsaid yet present” (Bacchi, 2004, p. 131) within the early childhood parenting programme, Incredible Years [IY]. For its wealth of evidence and science-based strategies, IY has been chosen and implemented by many countries as an official parenting programme ‘to prevent and to treat’ children’s conduct problems. The aim of the programme is to equip ‘high risk’ parents with behaviour management skills and developmentally appropriate techniques, so that they can provide better support for their children’s development of social and emotional competence and school readiness. Presenting reports of various clinical trials as evidence, the developers and the supporters of IY argue that the programme is an efficient tool to prevent “predictable negative consequences” such as violence, delinquency, and substance abuse among such child/ren in adolescence and adulthood (Borden, Schultz, Herman, & Brooks, 2010, p. 223). This argument, however, needs more thorough consideration, because evidence-based approaches can be criticised for the gap they leave in our knowledge of the reality of children’s and families’ daily lives (Robertson, 2014). Whether IY does provide sufficient, sustainable, and meaningful support for children and families, as trial reports suggest, remains to be seen. This thesis takes a post-structural, post-colonial, feminist approach, examining what and how the issues are framed in IY through Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’ and ‘discursive normalisation’. By unpacking discourses of parenting produced by IY as an accepted parenting programme, it aims to reveal the ‘norm’ of parenting that is promoted by the current system, and explores how this concept of ‘truth’ in parenting influences the everyday life of families. This critical analysis shows that the IY policy privileges a scientific understanding of child rearing practices while silencing and pathologising other ways of being. The discourses produced in IY reinforce colonised, economic/neoliberal and scientific/clinical docile bodies, which exercise and maintain the existing power relations in society. The author argues that this notion of a curriculum for parents provides only a limited understanding of the issue, and intensifies inequality and injustice.