Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

 

profile image for Dr Charlotte Faircloth

Dr Charlotte Faircloth

Early Career Fellow

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

 

 

I am a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, in the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent, working on 3-year a project entitled ‘Parenting: Gender, Intimacy and Equality’. I am also a Visiting Scholar at the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research at London South Bank University.

I completed my PhD at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, exploring women’s experiences of attachment parenting and ‘full-term’ breastfeeding in London and Paris. Following that, I was Mildred Blaxter post-doctoral research fellow with the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness, during which I completed my book 'Militant Lactivism? Attachment Parenting and Intensive Motherhood in the UK and France,' which was published by Berghahn Books.

With colleagues in CPCS, I am co-author of 'Blame the Parents? An introduction to parenting culture studies' shortly to be published by Palgrave. With support from the Wenner Gren trust, I also recently co-edited 'Parenting in Global Perspective: Negotiating ideologies of kinship, self and politics,' published by Routledge.

Find me:

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
Books

    Lee, E.J. and Faircloth, C. and Macvarish, J. et al. (2014) Parenting Culture Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 256 pp. ISBN 9781137304605.

    Abstract

    Why do we live at a time when the minutiae of how parents raise their children – how they feed them, talk to them, play with them or discipline them – have become routine sources of public debate and policy making? Why are there now so-called 'parenting experts', and social movements like Attachment Parenting, telling us that 'science says' what parents do is the cause of and solution to social problems? Parenting Culture Studies provides in-depth answers to these features of contemporary social life drawing on a wide range of sources from sociology, history, anthropology, psychology and policy studies to do so, covering developments in both Europe and North America. Key chapters cover the 'intensification of parenting', the rise of the 'parenting expert', the politicizing of parent-child relationships, and the weakening of bonds between generations. Five essays detail contemporary examples of obsessions with parenting, discussing drinking and pregnancy, attachment theory, neuroscience and family policy, fathering, and 'helicopter parenting'. The Introduction situates parental determinism in the wider context of risk consciousness and the demise of social confidence about how to approach the future. Comprehensive in scope and accessibly written, this book will be an indispensable resource for students, researchers, policy-makers and parents seeking a deeper understanding of the debates surrounding parenting and society today.

    Faircloth, C. (2013) Militant Lactivism?: Attachment Parenting and Intensive Motherhood in the UK and France. Berghahn Books, Oxford, 278 pp. ISBN 9780857457585.

    Abstract

    Following networks of mothers in London and Paris, the author profiles the narratives of women who breastfeed their children to full term, typically a period of several years, as part of an "attachment parenting" philosophy. These mothers talk about their decision to continue breastfeeding as the "natural thing to do": "evolutionarily appropriate," "scientifically best," and "what feels right in their hearts." Through a theoretical focus on knowledge claims and accountability, the author frames these accounts within a wider context of "intensive parenting," arguing that parenting practices - infant feeding in particular - have become a highly moralized affair for mothers, practices which they feel are a critical aspect of their "identity work." The book investigates why, how, and with what implications some of these mothers describe themselves as "militant lactivists" as well as reflects on wider parenting culture in the UK and France. Discussing gender, feminism, and activism, this study contributes to kinship and family studies by exploring how relatedness is enacted in conjunction to constructions of the self.

Articles

    Faircloth, C. and Murray, M. (2014) Parenting: kinship, expertise and anxiety. Journal of Family Issues;Special Issue. (in press)

    Faircloth, C. (2013) “What Feels Right”: Affect, Emotion, and the Limitations of Infant-Feeding Policy. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, Special Issue:The Politics of Breastfeeding, 34 (4). pp. 345-358. ISSN 1554-477Xprint,1554-4788online.

    Abstract

    This article explores the place of “feeling” in women's decisions around infant feeding (and specifically long-term breastfeeding). The argument is that policymakers and academics often overlook feeling (or an affective/emotional perspective) in favor of a focus on “informed choice” as a means of understanding and influencing behavior in this area of social life. In exploring the relationship between ideologies and bodily practices, this article therefore suggests that attention to affect and emotion might be useful in coming to a more nuanced view of how, why, and when individuals make the decisions that they do. Rather than advocating policymaking in this intimate sphere, however, the intention is to consider some of the implications of this approach for academic work around individual decision making and the regulation of society more broadly.

    Faircloth, Charlotte (2011) ‘It feels right in my heart’: affective accountability in narratives of attachment. Sociological Review, 59 (2). pp. 283-302. ISSN 0038-0261.

    Abstract

    This article makes a contribution to discussions around ‘affect’ in the social sciences (Clough and Halley, 2007; Connolly, 1999; Massumi, 2002). It emerges from a research project involving a network of mothers – in London – who breastfeed their children to ‘full term’. Typically, this would be up to the age of three or four, though ranged, in this case, to between one and eight years old. For many women, the most fundamental reasoning in their decision to breastfeed to ‘full term’ is that it simply ‘feels right.’ The article therefore explores anthropological approaches to the ‘feelings’ that embodied experiences generate, as revealed in the accounts and practices of the people we work with (whether at the physiological, emotional or moral levels). It considers various means of describing the feelings experienced by women during of long-term breastfeeding – such as ‘hormones’, ‘instinct’ and ‘intuition’– but ultimately argues for a theoretical framework of ‘affect’ to incorporate best the combined physiological and moral aspects of ‘doing what feels right in my heart,’ so critical to women's perceptions of themselves as mothers.

    Faircloth, C. (2010) What Science Says is Best': Parenting Practices, Scientific Authority and Maternal Identity. Sociological Research Online Special Section on ‘Changing Parenting Culture’., 15 (4).

    Abstract

    Based on research in London with mothers from a breastfeeding support organisation this paper explores the narratives of women who breastfeed 'to full term' (typically for a period of several years) as part of a philosophy of 'attachment parenting', an approach to parenting which validates long term proximity between child and care-taker. In line with wider cultural trends, one of the most prominent 'accountability strategies' used by this group of mothers to explain their long-term breastfeeding is recourse to scientific evidence, both about the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding and about the broader cognitive and developmental benefits of attachment parenting more broadly. Women's accounts internalize and reflect popular literature around attachment parenting, which is explored here in-depth as a means of contextualizing shifting patterns of 'scientisation'. What follows is a reflection on how 'scientific evidence' is given credence in narratives of mothering, and what the implications of this are for individuals in their experience of parenting, and for society more broadly. As a form of 'Authoritative Knowledge' (Jordan 1997) women utilise 'science' when they talk about their decisions to breastfeed long-term, since it has the effect of placing these non-conventional practices beyond debate (they are simply what is 'healthiest'). The article therefore makes a contribution to wider sociological debates around the ways in which society and behaviour are regulated, and the ways in which 'science' is interpreted, internalized and mobilized by individuals in the course of their 'identity work'.

    Abstract

    This article examines the narratives of women who breastfeed their children for ‘extended’ periods of time, as a means of exploring the relationship between risk-consciousness, infant feeding and maternal identity. The paper shows that whilst these women practice a form of infant feeding which is validated by wider policy directives emphasising the risks associated with formula milk use, their ‘identity work’ is not as straightforward as may be expected. Indeed, women sit at a juncture between affirmation and marginalisation, highlighting a significant dissonance between statistical, ideological and cultural norms. The argument is that the widespread moralisation of infant feeding practices (and parenting more generally) appears to have amplified tensions between various ‘tribes’ of mothers. In terms of risk consciousness, this leaves the mothers in this sample in a double bind: on the one hand, their marginal position is affirmed through recourse to risk reduction, on the other, their non-conventional practices are left open to the charge of ‘riskiness’ with respect to the social and emotional development of their children.

    Faircloth, C. and Lee, E. (2010) Introduction: 'Changing Parenting Culture'. Sociological Research Online, 15 (4). ISSN 13607804.

    Abstract

    The essays in this special section emerge from the 'Changing Parenting Culture' series of ESRC research seminars, held between January 2009 and June 2011 at a range of UK universities. Run by the network of scholars 'Parenting Culture Studies',[1] the seminars brought together academics working internationally in a range of disciplines, as well as those in policy and practice to examine shifts in parenting culture. Topics discussed included parenting culture and risk, gender and policy, and the extension of 'parenting' into the pre-pregnancy phase.

    Faircloth, C. (2009) Mothering as Identity-Work: Long-Term Breastfeeding and Intensive Motherhood. Anthropology News, 50 (2). pp. 15-17. ISSN 1541-6151.

    Abstract

    This article argues for an anthropological engagement with parenting as “identity-work” in a bid to extend parenting studies beyond the more traditional focus on kinship, and also expand what “kinship” might mean to anthropologists. That is, it proposes a deeper exploration of how relatedness is enacted in conjunction with constructions of the self. Attention to identity- work—in this case the narrative processes of self-making that parents engage in as they raise their children—is borne of an argument that for a certain strata of parents in the UK, the word “parent” has shifted from a noun denoting a relationship with a child (something you are), to a verb (something you do). As Hays notes in The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood (1996), “ideal” parenting is financially, physically and emotionally intensive, and parents are encouraged to spend a large amount of time, energy and money in raising their children. Further, as Lee and Bristow argue in the forthcoming volume Individual Freedom, Autonomy and the State, parenting is now an occupation in which adults (most typically, mothers) are expected to be emotionally absorbed and become personally fulfilled.

    Faircloth, C. (2009) 'Culture means nothing to me’: Thoughts on nature/culture in narratives of ‘full-term’ breastfeeding. Cambridge Anthropology, 28 (2). pp. 63-85. ISSN 0305-7674.

    Abstract

    What anthropologists say: Determining what is a natural age of weaning for human beings raises some problems. Human beings’ ideas about when and how to wean are often determined by culture, not necessarily by what is best or natural for babies and mothers. Anthropologists who have studied weaning have found a great variety in weaning ages, from birth (in much of the United States and Western Society in general) to age seven or eight in other cultures… Dr Dettwyler has used the example of primates to try to determine a natural weaning age for humans, since ‘gorillas and chimpanzees share more then ninety-eight percent of their genes with humans’ but are lacking the cultural biases of humans.

Book Sections

    Faircloth, C. (2013) 'Intensive Motherhood' in Comparative Perspective: Feminism, Full-term Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting in London and Paris (Chapter 7). In: Faircloth, C. and Hoffman, D. and Layne, L. Parenting in Global Perspective; Negotiating Ideologies of Kinship, Self and Politics. Relationships and Resources. Taylor & Francis Ltd, Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415624879.

    Abstract

    Drawing on both sociological and anthropological perspectives, this volume explores cross-national trends and everyday experiences of 'parenting'. Parenting in Global Perspective examines the significance of 'parenting' as a subject of professional expertise, and activity in which adults are increasingly expected to be emotionally absorbed and become personally fulfilled. By focusing the significance of parenting as a form of relationship and as mediated by family relationships across time and space, the book explores the points of accommodation and points of tension between parenting as defined by professionals, and those experienced by parents themselves. Specific themes include: the ways in which the moral context for parenting is negotiated and sustained the structural constraints to 'good' parenting (particularly in cases of immigration or reproductive technologies) the relationship between intimate family life and broader cultural trends, parenting culture, policy making and nationhood parenting and/as adult 'identity-work'. Including contributions on parenting from a range of ethnographic locales - from Europe, Canada and the US, to non-Euro-American settings such as Turkey, Chile and Brazil, this volume presents a uniquely critical and international perspective, which positions parenting as a global ideology that intersects in a variety of ways with the political, social, cultural, and economic positions of parents and families.

Edited Books

    Faircloth, C. and Hoffman, D. and Layne, L. (2013) Parenting in Global Perspective: Negotiating ideologies of kinship, self and politics. Relationships and Resources. Taylor & Francis Ltd, London, 280 pp. ISBN 9780415624879.

    Abstract

    Drawing on both sociological and anthropological perspectives, this volume explores cross-national trends and everyday experiences of 'parenting'. Parenting in Global Perspective examines the significance of 'parenting' as a subject of professional expertise, and activity in which adults are increasingly expected to be emotionally absorbed and become personally fulfilled. By focusing the significance of parenting as a form of relationship and as mediated by family relationships across time and space, the book explores the points of accommodation and points of tension between parenting as defined by professionals, and those experienced by parents themselves. Specific themes include: the ways in which the moral context for parenting is negotiated and sustained the structural constraints to 'good' parenting (particularly in cases of immigration or reproductive technologies) the relationship between intimate family life and broader cultural trends, parenting culture, policy making and nationhood parenting and/as adult 'identity-work'. Including contributions on parenting from a range of ethnographic locales - from Europe, Canada and the US, to non-Euro-American settings such as Turkey, Chile and Brazil, this volume presents a uniquely critical and international perspective, which positions parenting as a global ideology that intersects in a variety of ways with the political, social, cultural, and economic positions of parents and families.

Reviews

    Faircloth, C. (2012) Breastfeeding in the Twentieth Century. Review of: Feeding Babies, Making Mothers: The Science, Practice and Meaning of Breastfeeding in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century by Martucci, Jessica. Dissertation Reviews.

    Abstract

    A review of Feeding Babies, Making Mothers: The Science, Practice and Meaning of Breastfeeding in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century, by Jessica Martucci.

    Faircloth, C. (2012) Unsafe Motherhood: Mayan Maternal Morality and Subjectivity in Post-War Guatemala. Nicole S. Berry. Review of: Unsafe Motherhood: Mayan Maternal Morality and Subjectivity in Post-War Guatemala by Berry, Nicole S. Anthropology in Action, 19 (2). pp. 41-49. ISSN 0967-201X.

    Faircloth, C. (2012) A Well-Rounded Account. Review of: Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Williams, Florence. Literary Review (400). pp. 37-38. ISSN 0024-4589.

Total publications in KAR: 16 [See all in KAR]


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My doctoral work looked at women’s experiences of “full-term” breastfeeding and attachment parenting in London and Paris, with a focus on questions of kinship, identity and the new “parenting culture”.

More broadly, my work explores notions of body, gender and equality in care-giving, and has a theoretical focus on accountability and the constitution of knowledge claims.

Based on research with couples in London, my current project looks at the division of parental leave between mothers and fathers, highlighting some of the problems with talking about ‘equality’ in this context, particularly with regard to infant feeding. Future work will extend this focus on ‘equality’, in looking at childcare provision as a question of the ‘common good’, rather than simply the responsibility of individual families.


 


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Current

I teach sessions on the MA module The Family, Parenting Culture and Parenting Policy and the undergraduate module Gender, Work and the Family: Exploring the Work-Life Balance.

I am also a visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge, lecturing and supervising on two undergraduate papers: Gender, Kinship and Care and The Family for the Faculty of Human Social and Policitcal Sciences.


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Memberships

  • The British Sociological Association, BSA Families and Relationships Study Group; The American Anthropological Association, European Association of Social Anthropologists, The Anthropology of Britain Network, Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth; The Council for Anthropology and Reproduction, Society of Medical Anthropology.
  • Member, Ethical Review Board, SSPSSR, University of Kent

Editorial/Reviewing

  • Journal articles: Sociology of Health and Illness, The Sociological Review, Health, Risk and Society, Sociological Research Online, Anthropology Matters, Agenda, Feminist Journal, Maternal & Child Nutrition, HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Sexualities, Studies in the Maternal (MaMSIE)
  • Dissertations: Social Science Dissertation Reviews
  • Book proposals: Palgrave Macmillan, Berghahn Books
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Links

I co-ordinate the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies website

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Research coverage (See also coverage of CPCS events organised here)

2012:

  • Newsnight discussing the ‘Breastfeeding could save the NHS £40m/year’ UNICEF report (22.30)
  • Radio 5 Live, Drive discussing the ‘Breastfeeding could save the NHS £40m/year’ UNICEF report
  • Quoted in ‘The Backlash Against BreastfeedingGuardian Weekend magazine.
  • Discussing the TIME attachment parenting cover on Channel Four news

2007

  • ‘Sociologists – the life of the party.’ The Times
  • ‘Ignore the Nursery Wars’ The Times
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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 13/01/2014