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What really is new under the spotlight? (Re)-discovering parents and parenting in France


As in many other European and non-European countries, an explicit parenting support policy made its way onto the French political agenda during the early 1990s: a ‘turn to parenting’ complete with its trail of new terms, instruments and institutions. In France, some decision-makers now consider this parenting support policy (politique de soutien à la parentalité) as a new, but still financially marginal, ‘pillar of French family policy’. It responds to a growing political demand for a solution capable of guaranteeing the success of the parental educational mission, or at the very least of helping avoid its failure, as well as the consequences of such a failure for the entire community. In this paper, we analyse the French case, in a bid to clarify this question. We argue that the slow policy process that led to current French parenting support policy is at once the consequence of a political desire to structure and manage a myriad of grassroots initiatives, and the outcome of an ideological battle (Martin, 2014). This battle brings into conflict fundamental alternatives pitting universalism against targeting, parental empowering against parental control, offering support to parents via services versus re-educating them through advice and behavioural training, and local and community actions versus national regulatory actions. A fiercely-fought battle of ideas around the parenting issue is taking place behind the scenes, mixing old and new ideas, reactivating norms and stereotypes that are deeply rooted in our social history concerning the private and public spheres respectively as well as the respective roles of mothers, fathers and public institutions. Although parenting support does indeed concern many European and non-European countries, following a mainstream of ideas, instruments and issues, we argue that the French configuration has certain specificities that need to be addressed, not only in order to estimate the commonalities but also to avoid making hasty generalisations. Our paper is organised in three steps: first, consideration of the hypothesis of an international turn to parenting; second, a presentation of the policy process and arguments in the French configuration; third, a return to a very longstanding tradition of policing family and, finally a conclusion on our main question: “What really is new?”
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halshs-01279146 , version 1 (25-02-2016)


  • HAL Id : halshs-01279146 , version 1


Claude Martin. What really is new under the spotlight? (Re)-discovering parents and parenting in France. 2016. ⟨halshs-01279146⟩
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