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Family Boundaries

Family Boundaries: The Invention of Normality and Dangerousness

Caroline Knowles
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 212
  • Book Info
    Family Boundaries
    Book Description:

    This book surveys the conceptions of motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood that emerge from the practices of agencies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0256-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-5)
    (pp. 6-6)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
    (pp. 9-12)
    Caroline Knowles
    (pp. 13-16)

    The Sociology of the Family has to contend with what is in effect a deep-seated conviction which is widely held and not amenable to reason. This is the view that the family is some kind of primeval living arrangement rooted in human reproductive biology, and that is has always been and will remain in its current form. Sociology has countered these certainties about the family by arguing that the family as we know it is both historically recent and constantly changing. It has also argued that the family is a key social institution because of the part it plays in...

    (pp. 17-44)

    In this chapter I intend to discuss the key points making up the theoretical (conceptual) approach of this book. In doing this we will encounter other approaches to understanding the family around which I will develop a critique. In this way I hope both to establish the intellectual context for the book as a whole, and to give the reader an idea of how this approach to the family relates to others. It is thus possible to avoid the conventional text book “tour” through the available theories explaining the family — Functionalism, Marxism, Feminism, and so on — as these...

    (pp. 45-80)

    Our point of access to the family is the proposition that family life is bounded by the prospect of certain forms of dangerousness directed toward children. But understanding child abuse sociologically is no straightforward matter. Child abuse is situated at a confluence of narratives concerning its meaning; its significance to society; its legal, procedural, and administrative apparatuses; its agencies; its child expertise; its epidemiology (distribution); its notions of risk, prevention, and prediction; its social maps of dangerousness; and its concern with the psychopathology of dangerous people. This chapter discusses some of these issues because they have important implications for our...

    (pp. 81-114)

    What is childhood? How is it socially constructed? Through what kinds of agencies, practices, narratives or networks is it organized? What does it mean? Or rather, because there is no single answer to this last question, what are some of the meanings which have become associated with the idea of childhood? What are the main points of disagreement or contention between these meanings? And what are the social implications of these meanings for the ways in which we see and deal with children? These are some of the questions to be addressed in this chapter. Childhood is not just a...

    (pp. 115-154)

    The social attention paid to expert commentaries on child “needs” has placed some heavy demands on mothers. Between this attention to the experts on children and the contemporary work of feminist scholars, motherhood has become a central object of social commentary. As the needs of children were asserted by experts, so feminist scholars took them on. But they did so in a rather limited way, focusing on theories of “maternal deprivation” (Riley 1983). Mother absence, according to the experts, was the source of all childhood pathology. Feminists did not generally challenge the concept of child needs; they did not examine...

    (pp. 155-188)

    Fatherhood, like motherhood, is the site of multiple and contradictory meanings in the professional, practice-oriented narratives which deal with child abuse. What is most striking about professional narratives is the marginality of fatherhood. While professional narratives are replete with references to motherhood, references to fatherhood are so scarce they have to be found with a magnifying glass and interrogated for every nuance. Hence the range of meanings “invented” around fatherhood are highly restricted in comparison with motherhood. It emerges that motherhood and fatherhood, not surprisingly, are construed in terms of quite distinct relationships to the family, to childhood, and to...

    (pp. 189-196)

    The family is usefully conceptualized in sociology as a narrative enterprise: it is generated, ortalked-up, through the many ways in which it is “dealt” with in social policy, and in fiscal and political arenas. The family is generated in the minutiae of the daily performance of family in the lives of its members: actions and interactions are also (unwritten) narratives. It is a narrative production with multiple meanings generated through definite social apparatuses. Conceptualizing the family as generated and sustained through narratives means that we can think about the family in terms which are neither overly abstract, nor simply...

    (pp. 197-208)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 209-212)