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Parenthood and Civilisation: An Analysis of Parenting Discourses Produced in Australia in the Inter-War Years.

Kitchens, Rachael Maree (2010) Parenthood and Civilisation: An Analysis of Parenting Discourses Produced in Australia in the Inter-War Years. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis investigates parent education literature produced in Australia in the inter-war years. This period saw the emergence of various organisations concerned to safeguard and protect the health and well-being of children. For example, infant health clinics were established in most states, kindergarten associations were active in promoting early childhood education, and the mental hygiene movement gained a foothold in Australia. These associations engaged in parent education activities and produced a growing volume of literature. This literature contained instructions relating to various aspects of child care. Initially, advice was directed towards the management of health, but increasingly, information was provided on guiding child behaviour. Although the care of children was the main focus of this literature, it had wider implications. Authors provided comment on the emotional structure of family life and the patterning of parent-child relationships. Importantly, this literature contained advice for parents in relation to the management of their own personal care and conduct. This thesis contends that these discourses can be explained in relation to long-term changes in the history of childhood and the family, which are connected to particular developments in the structuring of social life that Norbert Elias describes as the ‘civilizing process’. In particular, it is argued that the growing distance between children and adults, and the positioning of the family as the primary site for regulating, or ‘civilizing’ the behaviour of children, can help to explicate the increasing emphasis placed on parent education in the inter-war years. This thesis also demonstrates how an Eliasian analysis, which emphasises long-term unintended processes of change, provides an alternative to Marxist, feminist, and Foucaultian approaches that focus on social control.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Wickham, Gary
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