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Support in Parenting: Values and Consensus concerning who to turn to

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2004

Corresponding author: Professor in Social Policy and Director, Families & Social Capital ESRC Research Group, London South Bank University, 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA email:
Senior Research Fellow in the Families & Social Capital ESRC Research Group at London South Bank University


Recent years have seen an explicit focus on parenting as a designated area of policy intervention. Parents are posed as in need of education and advice from ‘experts’, under conditions of social change. This article counterposes norms concerning who parents should turn to for support that government policies aim to inculcate with those held by parents themselves, drawing on a national representative sample of parents of 8–12 year old children. It uses a ‘consensus baseline’ approach to look at parents' perceptions of social change in parenting support, and whether or not they hold norms concerning whom to turn to and for what sort of help in parenting: practical, emotional, behaviour, health and education. Our results indicate that policy-makers have more work to do if they want to achieve a cultural step-change in norms held by parents about who is best placed to help and advice them. Family, followed by friends, are (still) regarded as the people to turn to for most childrearing issues, with ‘experts’ only providing practical help and advice about long institutionalised areas of children's lives. We also show that norms about parenting support are related to parents' differential social positioning regarding gender, class and ethnicity.

© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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