Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

 

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Dr Ellie Lee

Reader in Social Policy

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Location:
Room 106
School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Cornwallis North East
Canterbury , Kent, CT2 7NF

 

I am a Reader of Social Policy at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. See the rest of the Social Policy team.

I have written numerous articles on health-related issues, including abortion, reproductive technologies, infant feeding, post-natal depression and men’s health. I am the author of Abortion, Motherhood, and Mental Health: Medicalizing Reproduction in the US and Britain (Aldine Transaction 2003) and my articles have appeared in journals including Sociology of Health and Illness, Health, Risk and Society and Reproductive Health Matters.

I am the Director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, based in SSPSSR. I’m also the Co-ordinator of the Pro-Choice Forum, Director of the Institute of Ideas and I frequently discuss my research in the media, read more here or see my activity tab.
 
In 2007, I gave evidence to the parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee on women's need for abortion after the first trimester.

My research and teaching draws on constructionist theories of social problems and sociological concepts such as “risk consciousness” and “medicalisation” to analyse the evolution of family policy and health policy.

My longest standing research area is abortion policy and service provision and, more recently, I have developed research projects about parenting. My work explores why everyday issues, for example, how mothers feed their babies, turn into major preoccupations for policy makers and become heated topics of wider public debate.

Career


I joined SSPSSR as a member of staff in 2004, having researched my PhD thesis in the late 1990s as a student in the Centre for Women’s Studies in the school. From 2000 to 2004, I was a lecturer at Southampton University and then a research fellow there working on a study about teenage pregnancy and abortion.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
Books

    Lee, Ellie J. and Faircloth, Charlotte and Macvarish, Jan 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.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2003) Abortion, Motherhood and Mental Health: The Medicalization of Reproduction in the U.S. and Britain. Social Problems and Social Issues. Aldine Transaction, New York, 293 pp. ISBN 978-0202306810.

    Abstract

    Whatever reproductive choices women make whether they opt to end a pregnancy through abortion or continue to term and give birth they are considered to be at risk of suffering serious mental health problems. According to opponents of abortion in the USA, potential injury to women is a major reason why people should consider it a problem. On the other hand, becoming a mother can also be considered a big risk. This fine, well-balanced book is about how people represent the results of reproductive choices. It examines how and why pregnancy and its various outcomes have come to be discussed this way.

Articles

    Lee, Ellie J. and Macvarish, Jan and Sheldon, Sally (2014) Assessing Child Welfare under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008: A Case Study in Medicalization? Sociology of Health & Illness, 36 (4). ISSN 0141-9889.

    Abstract

    This article reports findings from a study of interviews with 66 members of staff working in assisted conception clinics in the UK about their experience of making ‘welfare of the child’ (WOC) assessments pre-conception. This aspect of the provision of infertility treatment services is obligatory under section 13(5) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. This provision was amended in 2008 and the primary aim of the study was to find out how this change had impacted on practice. In describing what we found, we also make a contribution to scholarship about the medicalization of reproduction. Section 13(5) has often been discussed as a prime example of medicalization, as it gives clinics power to grant or deny access to infertility treatment on wide ranging ‘child welfare’ grounds, encompassing far more than purely clinical considerations. Yet while such medicalization may be entrenched in the law, our findings suggest this power is used in a very ‘light touch’ way, with clinics explicitly directed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that they should operate with a presumption to treat. Further, while our interviewees offered near-universal support for the need to consider child welfare before offering treatment, this is now justified by concerns which focus not on family form (e.g. the need for a father figure) but more on the quality of interactions and relationships between parents and children. In this light, and by virtue of the fact that a wide variety of clinic staff share the gatekeeping role with doctors, we suggest that the concept of medicalization may offer a rather blunt tool for understanding a far more complex reality.

    Macvarish, Jan and Lee, Ellie J. and Lowe, Pam K. (2014) The ‘First Three Years’ Movement and the Infant Brain: A Review of Critiques. Sociology Compass, 8 (6). pp. 792-804. ISSN 1751-9020.

    Abstract

    This article reviews a particular aspect of the critique of the increasing focus on the brain and neuroscience; what has been termed by some, ‘neuromania’. It engages with the growing literature produced in response to the ‘first three years’ movement: an alliance of child welfare advocates and politicians that draws on the authority of neuroscience to argue that social problems such as inequality, poverty, educational underachievement, violence and mental illness are best addressed through ‘early intervention’ programmes to protect or enhance emotional and cognitive aspects of children's brain development. The movement began in the United States in the early 1990s and has become increasingly vocal and influential since then, achieving international legitimacy in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK and elsewhere. The movement, and the brain-based culture of expert-led parent training that has grown with it, has been criticised for claiming scientific authority whilst taking a cavalier approach to scientific method and evidence; for being overly deterministic about the early years of life; for focusing attention on individual parental failings rather than societal or structural problems, for adding to the expanding anxieties of parents and strengthening the intensification of parenting and, ultimately, for redefining the parent–child relationship in biologised, instrumental and dehumanised terms.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Macvarish, Jan and Sheldon, Sally (2014) Assessing child welfare under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008: A case study in medicalisation? Sociology of Health and Illness, 36 (4). pp. 500-515. ISSN 0141-9889.

    Abstract

    This article reports on a study with staff working in assisted conception clinics in the UK about making welfare of the child (WOC) assessments pre-conception. This aspect of infertility treatment is obligatory under section 13(5) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which was amended in 2008. The aim of the study was to find out how this change to the law had impacted on practice. In describing what we found, we also make a contribution to scholarship about the medicalisation of reproduction. S13(5) has often been discussed as a prime example of medicalisation, giving clinics power to grant or deny access to treatment on child welfare grounds, encompassing far more than purely clinical considerations. Yet, while such medicalisation may be entrenched in the law, our findings suggest this power is used with a very light touch. Further, while our interviewees offered near-universal support for the need to consider child welfare, this is now justified by concerns that address not only family form (e.g. the need for a father figure) but also the quality of interactions between parents and children. In this light we suggest that the concept of medicalisation may offer a rather blunt tool for understanding a far more complex reality.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Macvarish, Jan and Sheldon, Sally (2013) The role of counsellors in infertility clinics. BioNews (691).

    Abstract

    Counselling has become an increasingly central – and sometimes mandatory – part of the provision of infertility treatment services in the UK, although its role is not always clearly defined. In a recent research project, we interviewed 66 staff, with different roles at 20 clinics that provide infertility treatment services (around one quarter of the total). Our research offered some interesting insights into the role of counsellors in this process.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2011) Breast-feeding advocacy, risk society and health moralism: a decade’s scholarship. Sociology Compass, 5 (12). pp. 1058-1069. ISSN 1751-9020.

    Abstract

    This article reviews research published this century that engages critically with the mantra ‘Breast is Best’ and the associated expansion of official breast-feeding promotion programmes. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of such studies published. They mostly explore experience in English speaking, industrialised countries (the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Great Britain) which are in some social and cultural respects dissimilar, yet where very similar developments and problems are detected in regards to breast-feeding promotion. We highlight how this exploration of breast-feeding promotion internationally has developed understanding of wider sociological themes. This scholarship, we suggest, has provided a powerful illustration of the relation between risk society (more particularly a heightened consciousness of risk) and the evolution of a code of conduct that regulates behaviour, that has been termed ‘health moralizm’. The article covers three themes: ‘Science, risk society, authority and choice’; ‘Public health policy and infant feeding’; and ‘Moralization and women’s identity work’. We conclude that the research discussed shows how the sociological imagination continues to shed light on the relation between private troubles and public issues. We also suggest one conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that official discourse and everyday maternal experience appear increasingly distant from each other.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Ingham, Roger (2010) Why do women present late for abortion. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 24. pp. 479-489. ISSN 1521-6934.

    Abstract

    This article summarises the findings of studies relating to why women present for abortion at gestations of more than 12 weeks. Its primary focus is on British experience, but relevant studies from other countries are described. Key findings reveal that there are many different reasons. Much of the delay occurs prior to women requesting an abortion; other key issues include women’s concerns about what is involved in having the abortion and aspects of relationships with their partners and/or parents. Further, after requesting an abortion, delays are partly ‘service-related’ – for example, waiting for appointments – and partly ‘woman-related’ for example, missing or cancelling appointments. The relative contributions to the delay of these various factors are discussed. The implications of the research for abortion education and service provision are considered. Abortion for reasons linked to foetal abnormality is not covered in this article.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Macvarish, Jan and Bristow, Jennie (2010) Editorial: Risk, health and parenting culture. Health, Risk & Society, 12 (4). pp. 293-300. ISSN 1369-8575.

    Abstract

    In this Editorial, we have three aims. We mainly aim to highlight the key issues raised in the papers that follow, and orient readers to some thematic and methodological connections between them. We have divided the papers into three thematic groups: expert-led constructions of the risk-managing parent; risk society and the development of parental identity with reference to food; and extending 'parenting' backwards. We explain what we mean by these themes and how each paper fits in. We also seek to explain the background to this special issue of Health Risk and Society, and we describe the seminar series that gave rise to it, and make some points about what we mean by the general subject area for that series, 'parenting culture'. Our final objective is to draw attention to a key point that emerges from the research discussed here, namely the importance of 'parenting' as a key site for the development of the risk-centred society and risk-consciousness.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Lowe, Pam K. (2010) Advocating alcohol abstinence to pregnant women: Some observations about British policy. Health, Risk & Society, 12 (4). pp. 301-311. ISSN 1369-8575.

    Abstract

    In 2007, the English Department of Health (DH) issued advice stating 'pregnant woman' and 'those trying to conceive' should abstain from drinking alcohol. As others have noted, this advice was issued despite their being no new evidence about the deleterious effects of low levels of alcohol consumption. In this paper, we argue this development is significant for the social construction of 'risk', since in advocating abstinence without an evidence base for this advice, policy makers formalise a connection between uncertainty and danger. We suggest this development has important implications, most obviously for pregnant women, certainly impacting on the nature of the advice they will now receive and likely more generally on their experience of the transition to motherhood. We suggest it has wider implications for individuals' experience also, as policy makers appear to be advocating the same approach to risk to non-pregnant people. Further, it suggests a noteworthy formalisation of a new definition of risk, which should be debated far more extensively, as it matters for the future development of health policy.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Macvarish, Jan and Bristow, Jennie (2010) Risk, health and parenting culture. Health, Risk & Society, 12 (4). pp. 293-300. ISSN 1369-8575.

    Abstract

    In this Editorial, we have three aims. We mainly aim to highlight the key issues raised in the papers that follow, and orient readers to some thematic and methodological connections between them. We have divided the papers into three thematic groups: expert-led constructions of the risk-managing parent; risk society and the development of parental identity with reference to food; and extending 'parenting' backwards. We explain what we mean by these themes and how each paper fits in. We also seek to explain the background to this special issue of Health Risk and Society, and we describe the seminar series that gave rise to it, and make some points about what we mean by the general subject area for that series, 'parenting culture'. Our final objective is to draw attention to a key point that emerges from the research discussed here, namely the importance of 'parenting' as a key site for the development of the risk-centred society and risk-consciousness.

    Faircloth, Charlotte and Lee, Ellie J. (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.

    Lowe, Pam K. and Lee, Ellie J. and Yardley, Liz (2010) Under the influence? The construction of foetal alcohol syndrome in UK newspapers. Sociological Research Online, 15 (4). pp. 2. ISSN 13607804.

    Abstract

    Today, alongside many other proscriptions, women are expected to abstain or at least limit their alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This advice is reinforced through warning labels on bottles and cans of alcoholic drinks. In most (but not all) official policies, this is linked to a risk of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or one of its associated conditions. However, given that there is little medical evidence that low levels of alcohol consumption have an adverse impact on the foetus, we need to examine broader societal ideas to explain why this has now become a policy concern. This paper presents a quantitative and qualitative assessment of analysis of the media in this context. By analysing the frames over time, this paper will trace the emergence of concerns about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It will argue that contemporary concerns about FAS are framed around a number of pre-existing discourses including alcohol consumption as a social problem, heightened concerns about children at risk and shifts in ideas about the responsibility of motherhood including during the pre-conception and pregnancy periods. Whilst the newspapers regularly carried critiques of the abstinence position now advocated, these challenges focused did little to refute current parenting cultures. © Sociological Research Online, 1996-2010.

    Ingham, Roger and Lee, Ellie J. and Clements, Steve et al. (2008) Reasons for Second Trimester Abortions in England and Wales. Reproductive Health Matters, 16 (31S). pp. 18-29. ISSN 0968-8080.

    Abstract

    This paper summarises the findings of a study on second trimester abortion in England and Wales in 2005. Second trimester abortions constitute a relatively small proportion of the total number of legal abortions performed in these countries yet attract quite substantial public, and particularly media, attention. Discussion of these abortions has, however, been conducted within a context of little understanding of the factors which explain why they happen. This paper starts with a brief introduction to the policy context for provision of second trimester abortion, and a summary of existing research in the area. It then presents the results of a survey of 883 women on their own reasons why they had abortions in the second trimester The key concept is that of "delay" and reasons for delay in seeking or obtaining abortion at five stages in the pathway to abortion. No clear, single reason emerges. Amongst the main reasons identified ore uncertainty about what to do if they were pregnant, not realising they were pregnant, experiencing bleeding which may hove been confused with continuing to hove periods, and changes in personal circumstances. The paper ends with a consideration of the implications of the results for education, policy development and service provision.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2008) Living with risk in the age of 'intensive motherhood': Maternal identity and infant feeding. Health, Risk & Society, 10 (5). pp. 467-477. ISSN 1369-8575.

    Abstract

    Socio-cultural studies have suggested that, even in societies where it is a commonplace practice, infant feeding with formula milk can compromise women's identity as 'good mothers.' This proposition is explored in this paper. We first provide a brief review of literature that has considered the broad socio-cultural context for infant feeding, that of 'intensive motherhood.' Attention is drawn to the idea that this context is one in which feeding babies formula milk is constructed as risky, for physical health but also for the mother-child relationship. Drawing on data from a study of mothers living in the UK, the paper then explores how mothers actually experience infant feeding with formula milk and how they live with a context that deems their actions risky. Maternal experience is found to include variously moral collapse, feelings of confidence, expressions of defiance and defensiveness, and opting to go it alone in response to 'information overload.' Despite these variations in how mothers live with risk, the conclusion is drawn that the current cultural context does appear to be one overall in which mothers who formula feed often have to struggle hard to maintain a positive sense of themselves as mothers.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Ingham, Roger and Clements, Steve (2008) Reasons for second trimester abortion in England and Wales. Reproductive Health Matters, 16 (31(1)). pp. 18-29. ISSN 0968-8080.

    Abstract

    This paper summarises the findings of a study on second trimester abortion in England and Wales in 2005. Second trimester abortions constitute a relatively small proportion of the total number of legal abortions performed in these countries yet attract quite substantial public, and particularly media, attention. Discussion of these abortions has, however, been conducted within a context of little understanding of the factors which explain why they happen. This paper starts with a brief introduction to the policy context for provision of second trimester abortion, and a summary of existing research in the area. It then presents the results of a survey of 883 women on their own reasons why they had abortions in the second trimester. The key concept is that of “delay” and reasons for delay in seeking or obtaining abortion at five stages in the pathway to abortion. No clear, single reason emerges. Amongst the main reasons identified are uncertainty about what to do if they were pregnant, not realising they were pregnant, experiencing bleeding which may have been confused with continuing to have periods, and changes in personal circumstances. The paper ends with a consideration of the implications of the results for education, policy development and service provision. Cet article résume les conclusions d'une étude sur l'avortement du deuxième trimestre en Angleterre et au Pays de Galles en 2005. Les avortements du deuxième trimestre représentent une proportion relativement modeste du nombre total d'avortements légaux pratiqués dans ces pays, mais ils attirent beaucoup l'attention du public et en particulier des médias. Le débat sur ces avortements s'est néanmoins déroulé dans un contexte où les facteurs qui les expliquent sont mal compris. L'article commence par une brève présentation du contexte politique pour la pratique de l'avortement du deuxième trimestre, et un résumé de la recherche dans ce domaine. Il expose ensuite les résultats d'une enquête ayant demandé à 883 femmes leurs raisons pour avoir avorté au deuxième trimestre. Le concept clé est celui de « retard » et des raisons du retard de la demande et de l'obtention de l'avortement à cinq étapes de la voie vers l'avortement. Aucune raison claire et unique n'est apparue. Parmi les principales raisons identifiées, figurent l'incertitude sur la conduite à tenir en cas de grossesse, le fait que les femmes ignoraient qu'elles étaient enceintes, des pertes de sang leur ayant fait croire qu'elles continuaient à avoir leurs règles, et des changements dans leur situation personnelle. L'article s'achève en examinant les conséquences des résultats pour l'éducation, la définition des politiques et la prestation des services. En este artículo se resumen los resultados de un estudio sobre el aborto en el segundo trimestre, realizado en Inglaterra y Gales, en 2005. Los abortos de segundo trimestre constituyen una proporción relativamente pequeña del número total de abortos legales efectuados en estos países; sin embargo, atraen considerable atención pública, particularmente de los medios de comunicación. No obstante, el debate sobre estos abortos ha transcurrido en un contexto de poco entendimiento de los factores que explican por qué ocurren. Este artículo comienza con una introducción concisa al contexto de políticas para la prestación de servicios de aborto en el segundo trimestre, y un resumen de las investigaciones realizadas al respecto. Después, se presentan los resultados de una encuesta entre 883 mujeres sobre sus propios motivos para tener abortos en el segundo trimestre. El concepto clave es el de “demora” y las razones para aplazar la búsqueda u obtención de servicios de aborto en cinco etapas en la ruta hacia el aborto. No surge ninguna razón clara y única. Las principales razones mencionadas fueron: incertidumbre sobre qué hacer si estaban embarazadas, no darse cuenta de que estaban embarazadas, experimentar sangrado, que pudo haber sido confundido con continuar teniendo la regla, y cambios en circunstancias personales. Para concluir, se analizan las implicaciones de los resultados para la educación, la formulación de políticas y la prestación de servicios.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2007) Infant feeding in risk society. Health, Risk & Society, 9 (3). pp. 295-309. ISSN 1369-8575.

    Abstract

    A large percentage of British women, in common with women in other Western countries, feed their young babies formula milk. The paper reports some findings of a study of infant feeding that focussed on women's experiences of feeding their babies this way. Data about this issue were collected through detailed, qualitative face to face interviews with 33 mothers and through telephone interviews using a structured questionnaire with 503 mothers. The study found overall that mother's accounts of feeding babies formula milk draw attention to contradictions and tensions in motherhood and mothering. Formula feeding is predominantly experienced by mothers as 'easy,' enabling them to address a wide range of demands and difficulties that mothering a small baby poses for them. At the same time, mothers demonstrate awareness of the socio-cultural construction of the 'moral mother' as the mother who minimizes and avoids risk, and so does not use formula milk for infant feeding. How women react to this tension between 'real life' and 'doing what is healthy' varies, but the study reported here found a large minority of women experience manifestly difficult and debilitating feelings as they attempt to reconcile a pragmatic wish or need to formula feed with dominant constructions of the 'moral mother.' By detailing women's accounts of this aspect of motherhood, the paper contributes to sociological investigation of everyday experiences of risk society. To contextualize this discussion, a brief account of the relationship between eating, feeding babies and risk society is also offered.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2007) Health, morality, and infant feeding: British mothers' experiences of formula milk use in the early weeks. Sociology of Health & Illness, 29 (7). pp. 1075-1090. ISSN 0141-9889.

    Abstract

    The way mothers feed their babies is, internationally, the subject of research, health policy initiatives, and popular discussion, which commonly affirm the mantra 'breast is best'. On one level, this mantra reflects scientific evidence about nutrition and maternal and infant health. From a socio-cultural perspective, the pro-breastfeeding message has, however, been considered an aspect of morality, which influences maternal identity in important ways. This article explores this idea. It does so primarily by reporting and discussing some findings from a study about British mothers' experiences of using formula milk for infant feeding. The paper begins by contextualising this discussion by briefly outlining some aspects of the construction of infant feeding as a social problem in Britain, focusing in particular on the influence of 'the new paradigm of health'.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2006) Medicalizing Motherhood. Society, 43 (6). pp. 47-50. ISSN 0147-2011.

    Abstract

    Frank Furedi's contribution to the discussion of medicalization" resonated strongly with findings from my own research about contemporary representations of women's emotional experiences. It is indeed the case that compared to the 1970s there is very little contest and debate about the increasing use of illness labels to account for these experiences. To the contrary, there is now wide acceptance of the idea that the most positive development that can take place for women is for more of them to be diagnosed as ill. It is also the case that, as part of this, women's lives are subject to the "unprecedented medicalization of social experience" through the "construction of new psychological conditions" to which Furedi refers.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2004) Young women, pregnancy and abortion in Britain: a discussion of law ‘in practice’. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 18 (3). pp. 283-304. ISSN 1360-9939.

    Abstract

    This contribution draws primarily on findings of an interview study with a group of young women living in Britain who conceived a pregnancy when aged under 18. Through discussion of their narratives, it aims to provide insights about areas of young women’s experience that legal scholars have highlighted as potentially problematic under the current legal framework; namely involvement of parents when those aged under 16 seek medical treatment, and the provision of abortion to under 18s. The broader aim here is to provide comment on the gap between abortion law ‘on paper’, and ‘in practice’. The paper finds that abortion law in Britain operates in practice in a way that differs from what might be expected on the basis of its terms on paper, in that most young women are unlikely to encounter major difficulties when accessing abortion. Nevertheless a key criticism made of the law by legal scholars – that it medicalizes abortion – emerges as having continuing validity, and the conclusion is drawn that the rules that regulate abortion in Britain should remain subject to challenge.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2003) Tensions in the Regulation of Abortion in Britain. Journal of Law and Society, 30 (4). pp. 532-553. ISSN 0263-323X.

    Abstract

    This article discusses policy and practice in abortion provision, paying particular attention to the provision of counselling before abortion. It discusses the way the Abortion Act 1967 constructs the woman seeking abortion, the reasons for the development of a policy about abortion counselling in the 1970s, and that policy's relationship to the assumptions about women underlying the statute. The ways in which policy has developed since 1977 are considered, and how policy and practice have come to view women seeking abortion in a way that contrasts with the construction of them that emerges from the law. Thus, the article argues, given that the 1967 Act and other rules that regulate abortion provision seem to rest on contradictory assumptions, the law should be reformed in line with policy and practice.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2000) II. Young people's attitudes to abortion for abnormality. Feminism & Psychology, 10 (3). pp. 396-399. ISSN 0959-3535.

Book Sections

    Lee, Ellie J. (2013) Afterword. In: Faircloth, Charlotte and Hoffman, Diane M. and Layne, Linda L. Parenting in Global Perspective: Negotiating Ideologies of Kinship, Self and Politics. Taylor & Francis Ltd, pp. 244-248. ISBN 9780415624879.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2011) Infant feeding and the problems of policy. In: Liamputtong, Pranee Infant Feeding Practices; A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Springer-Verlag New York Inc., pp. 77-94. ISBN 9781441968722.

    Abstract

    How a mother feeds her baby is, formally, a decision for her to make. Yet, infant feeding is surrounded by conventions and precepts about appropriate maternal decisions. British women feed their babies in a policy context where no ambivalence is associated with attaching breastfeeding to important benefits for individual children, mothers, and the wider society. Social scientific research indicates that the presumptions of policy are to some extent widely shared; assessments of mothers’ attitudes to infant feeding show they mostly agree ‘breast is best’. Yet, practice departs greatly from official advice. One interpretation of this difference is that mothers are more ambivalent about the benefits of breastfeeding in practice than in the abstract. Research utilising social scientific methods has largely not concerned itself with exploring maternal ambiguity and ambivalence, as the paradigm informing most studies is a public health perspective. A small number of studies have, however, utilised social science methods to generate important insights about the tensions between policy and maternal practice and experience. This chapter summarises findings of this work indicating three major themes: breastfeeding promotion and the individualisation of social problems; ‘scientisation’ and the effacing of maternal choice; and moralisation and the problem of moral jeopardy. It concludes by indicating future possibilities for socio-cultural research about infant feeding.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2010) Abortion in the Twentieth Century in England. In: Brockliss, Laurence and Montgomery, Heather Childhood and Violence in the Western Tradition. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 9781842179789.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Bristow, Jennie (2009) Rules for Infant Feeding. In: Day-Sclater, Shelly and Richards, Martin and Jackson, Emily Regulating Autonomy, Sex reproduction and the family. Hart, Oxford, pp. 73-92. ISBN 9781841139463.

    Abstract

    These essays explore the nature and limits of individual autonomy in law, policy and the work of regulatory agencies. Authors ask searching questions about the nature and scope of the regulation of 'private' lives, from intimacies, personal relationships and domestic lives to reproduction. They question the extent to which the law does, or should, protect individual autonomy. Recent rapid advances in the development of new technologies - particularly those concerned with human genetics and assisted reproduction - have generated new questions (practical, social, legal and ethical) about how far the state should intervene in individual decision making. Is there an inevitable tension between individual liberty and the common good? How might a workable balance between the public and the private be struck? How, indeed, should we think about 'autonomy'? The essays explore the arguments used to create and maintain the boundaries of autonomy - for example, the protection of the vulnerable, public goods of various kinds, and the maintenance of tradition and respect for cultural practices. Contributors address how those boundaries should be drawn and interventions justified. How are contemporary ethical debates about autonomy constructed, and what principles do they embody? What happens when those principles become manifest in law?

    Lee, Ellie J. (2009) Pathologising fatherhood: the case of male Post Natal Depression in Britain. In: Gough, Brendan and Robertson, Steve Men, Masculinities and Health: critical perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 161-177. ISBN 9780230203129.

    Abstract

    This chapter discusses the emergence of male Post Natal Depression (PND) as a health concern in Britain. Up to the early 1990s, PND was represented as an exclusively female condition. Some however – including medical professionals, academics and media commentators - now take a different view. PND, they suggest, can affect men and some argue almost as many men as women are affected. We offer here a sociological perspective on this development. First, we draw on work about the process of medicalization. Second, we consider social constructionist accounts of ‘the problem of fatherhood’. Third, we situate male PND in relation to analysis of ‘masculinity’ and its pathologisation. In conclusion, we suggest that a central aspect of the emergence of male PND is the validation of need for professional intervention in childrearing.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Frayn, Elizabeth (2008) The Feminization of Health. In: Wainwright, David A Sociology of Health. Sage, London, pp. 115-133. ISBN 9781412921589.

    Abstract

    • The past 20 years has seen the emergence of a ‘new paradigm’ of health, at the centre of which is the idea that ‘prevention is better than cure’ • Contemporary health concerns are often ‘gendered’. The emergence of campaigns about ‘men’s health’ is a notable development of recent years • There is a striking contrast between feminist constructions of the problem of women’s health in the 1970s, and the contemporary problem of gender and health • In the context of the ‘new paradigm’, ‘masculinity’ has come to be defined as a barrier to health. ‘Feminine’ attitudes such as a willingness to consider oneself vulnerable and ‘at risk’, and to seek help have, in turn, been validated as desirable characteristics for both men and women • Contemporary gendered health concerns have much less to do with evidence-based developments in science and medicine, than with developments in the spheres of politics and society • The practical outcome of the feminization of health is that men and well as women may become more anxious and worried about their health, for little discernable benefit

    Lee, Ellie J. (2008) Abortion. In: Cane, Peter and Conaghan, Joanne The New Oxford Companion to Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199290543.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2006) The abortion debate today. In: Biggs, Hazel and Horsey, Kirsty Human Fertilisation and Embryology: Reproducing Regulation. Biomedical Law & Ethics Library. Routledge, London, pp. 231-250. ISBN 9781844720903.

    Abstract

    Ideal for students, academics and practitioners, this text analyzes issues associated with assisted reproduction and embryology. Interdisciplinary in approach, it evaluates areas where there is debate and further/renewed regulation is needed.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2005) Women's Need for Abortion in Britain. In: Glasier, Anna and Wellings, Kaye and Critchley, Hilary Contraception and Contraceptive Use. Cambridge University Press RCOG Press, Cambridge, pp. 33-43. ISBN 9781904752158.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2002) Psychologizing Abortion: Women's "Mental Health" and the Regulation of Abortion in Britain. In: Morris, Anne E. and Nott, Susan M. Well Women: The Gendered Nature of Health Care Provision. Ashgate Publishing Group, pp. 61-78. ISBN 9781840147209.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Jackson, Emily (2002) The Pregnant Body. In: Evans, Mary and Lee, Ellie J. Real Bodies: A Sociological Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 115-132. ISBN 9780333947524.

    David, Henry and Lee, Ellie J. (2001) Abortion and its Health Effects. In: Waller, Judy The Encyclopedia of Gender. Academic Press, New York, pp. 1-14.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2001) Post-abortion syndrome: reinventing abortion as a social problem. In: Best, Joel How Claims Spread: Cross-National Diffusion of Social Problems. Aldine de Gruyter, New York, pp. 39-68. ISBN 978-0202306544.

    Abstract

    Why do the same social problems emerge in different societies? Unlike traditional sociological explanations, which argue that the structural and cultural causes of social problems are to be found within different societies, the chapters in this collection examine the role played by external diffusion in the construction of social problems. Claims that appear in one country spread to other nations through various channels, ranging from interpersonal contacts among claimsmakers, to mass media coverage, to folklore. Diffusion of claims is possible, but by no means inevitable; a claim may be adopted in some countries but be ignored in others. Often, diffusion involves reconstructing social problems to fit the concerns of those in the countries adopting the claims. Various chapters in this collection examine the diffusion of particular social problems between the United States and such countries as Britain, Canada, Japan, and Austria, as well as among the nations of Europe. Topics include such social problems as post-abortion syndrome, road rage, gun violence, bullying, sexual abuse, youth cultures, and organ thefts, as well as such social policies as sexual harassment law, adoption of the metric system, and child welfare. The effect of How Claims Spread is to expand the constructionist orientation by raising new questions about how social problems emerge and evolve in different nations linked by political, economic, social, and media ties.

Monographs

    Lee, Ellie J. and Macvarish, Jan and Sheldon, Sally (2012) Assessing Child Welfare Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: The new law. Summary of findings. project_report. University of Kent, Canterbury

    Abstract

    In 1990 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act introduced an extensive legal framework for all research and treatment using human embryos in the UK. One short section of this Act placed on assisted conception services an obligation to assess ‘the welfare of the child’ (WOC) who may be born as a result of treatment pre-conception. This part of the HFE Act became the subject of research and debate in the subsequent years.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Furedi, Frank (2009) Review of the effectiveness of the controls on infant formula and follow-on formula, Literature Review. project_report. The Food Standards Agency

    Abstract

    The objectives of the research were as follows: • To assess whether infants under 6 months are being fed follow-on formula and if so, the reasons why • To assess whether the new controls upon the ways in which follow-on formula are presented and advertised2 have been effective in making it clear to all those likely to be involved in child care, including parents, formal and informal carers, health professionals and parents-to-be, that advertisements for follow-on formula relate to formula only for older babies (6 months plus), and are not perceived as, or confused with, infant formula advertising, which is prohibited and • Based upon this evidence, to draw conclusions about what changes, if any, could be made to the presentation and advertising of infant / follow-on formula, for consideration by the review panel

    Ingham, Roger and Lee, Ellie J. (2008) Evaluation of Early Medical Abortion (EMA) pilot sites. project_report. Department of Health

    Abstract

    This DH commissioned research assessed the safety, effectiveness and acceptability of early medical abortions in non-traditional settings, and will contribute towards the establishment of a protocol to cover the elements and processes required for a safe EMA service in non-traditional settings.

    Lee, Ellie J. and Furedi, Frank (2005) Mothers’ experience of, and attitudes to, the use of infant formula for feeding babies. project_report. SSPSSR

    Abstract

    In British society, breastfeeding is offered cultural affirmation. Images of women breastfeeding their babies are prominently displayed in maternity wards and other healthcare settings. Magazines for pregnant women and new mothers promote breastfeeding to their readers, drawing attention in particular to its health benefits for babies. Advice books and manuals about baby care make it clear that breastfeeding is best. The aim of the study reported on here was to investigate the experience of women in this context. Its particular focus is mothers who feed their babies with formula milk. How do mothers who feed their baby formula milk engage with the cultural expectation to breast-feed? Why do they use formula milk? What information do they receive about doing so? Who provides it and in what form? How do they feel about feeding their babies this way? In particular, given that formula use appears discouraged, to what extent do such women feel respected as mothers?

    Lee, Ellie J. and Clements, Steve and Ingham, Roger et al. (2004) A Matter of Choice?: Explaining National Variations in Teenage Abortion and Motherhood. project_report. Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Research Reports

    Ingham, Roger and Lee, Ellie J. and Clements, Steve et al. (2007) Second-trimester abortions in England and Wales. Centre for Sexual Health Research, University of Southampton, 4 pp.

    Abstract

    In recent years, there has been a great deal of public debate about the ethics of ‘later abortions’ - those that are carried out in the second trimester of pregnancy (13–24 weeks), and especially towards the end of that time. However, relatively little research has been conducted into why women have abortions in the second trimester. This study, conducted by the Centre for Sexual Health Research at the University of Southampton and the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent, aims to address this gap in the research by examining the reasons that women give for delays in seeking and obtaining abortions.

Edited Books

    Evans, Mary and Lee, Ellie J. (2002) Real Bodies, a sociological introduction. Palgrave, Basingstoke, 224 pp. ISBN 978-0333947524.

    Abstract

    This introductory text sets out to make the links between sociological theories of the body and actual human behaviour and experience. It covers a broad range of topics, from long standing sociological concerns to more contemporary issues. With a focus on the changeability of the body, it examines the part that bodies play in the social construction of categories such as race, sexuality and disability and explores how we express ourselves through our bodies, whether in eating, dress or pain. It also debates how the body is regulated, both through the life course and in reproduction.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2002) Teenage Sex: What Should Schools Teach Children? Debating Matters. Hodder Arnold H&S, London, 112 pp. ISBN 978-0340848340.

    Abstract

    Under New Labour, sex education is a big priority. New policies in this area are guaranteed to generate a furious debate. "Pro-family" groups contend that young people are not given a clear message about right and wrong. Others argue there is still too little sex education. And some worry that all too often sex education stigmatizes sex. So what should schools teach about sex? In this text, contrasting approaches to this topical and contentious question are presented by various specialists on the subject. The Institute of Idea's mission is to expand the boundaries of public debate through organizing conferences, discussions and salons, and publishing written conversations and exchanges in a hope to play a part in shaking up a culture that seems to shy away more and more from confrontation and the clash of ideas.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2002) Abortion: Whose Right? Debating Matters. Hodder Arnold H&S, London, 112 pp. ISBN 978-0340857366.

    Abstract

    The number of abortions carried out in England and Wales stands at around 185,000 per year. The abortion rate shows no signs of decreasing - to the contrary, quarterly figures demonstrate a systematic increase in the number of women terminating pregnancies. It is arguably the case that abortion is now a fact of life in British society. Is it right to think of abortion as "just like any other operation" that can be guided by the principle of patient autonomy? Or are there specific issues to consider - given the matter at hand is whether a new life should be born? This controversial issue is discussed by contributors from both sides of the debate. The Institute of Idea's mission is to expand the boundaries of public debate through organizing conferences, discussions and salons, and publishing written conversations and exchanges in a hope to play a part in shaking up a culture that seems to shy away more and more from confrontation and the clash of ideas.

    Lee, Ellie J. (2002) Designer Babies: Where Should We Draw the Line? Debating Matters. Hodder Arnold, London, 112 pp. ISBN 978-0340848357.

    Abstract

    Science fiction has been preoccupied with technologies to control the characteristics of our children since the publication of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World". Current arguments about "designer babies" almost always demand that lines should be drawn and regulations tightened. But where should regulation stop and patient choice in the use of reproductive technology begin? In this book, five contributors set out their arguments. In this text, contrasting approaches to this topical and contentious question are presented by various specialists on the subject. The Institute of Idea's mission is to expand the boundaries of public debate through organizing conferences, discussions and salons, and publishing written conversations and exchanges in a hope to play a part in shaking up a culture that seems to shy away more and more from confrontation and the clash of ideas. This series aims to present thought-provoking arguments.

    Lee, Ellie J. (1998) Abortion Law and Politics Today. Macmillan, 233 pp. ISBN 978-0333715567.

    Abstract

    Women's needs are placed at the centre of this collection. The contributors discuss the extent to which the contemporary legal framework on abortion matches the needs of women faced with unwanted pregnancy. The book contains sections on Britain, including an account of the campaign to legalize abortion, written by those centrally involved with that campaign; international comparisons of abortion law, with chapters on France, the United States, Ireland and Poland; and chapters covering contemporary debates, including men's rights in abortion and abortion for foetal abnormality.

Total publications in KAR: 49 [See all in KAR]
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Research interests

I began my research career in the late 1990s. Based in the Women’s Studies Centre at Kent University, I researched a PhD thesis that considered the development and effects of the claim made by those who oppose legal abortion that many women suffer from a “post abortion syndrome” after they terminate a pregnancy.

I was intrigued by this claim because it seemed to suggest that a moral argument (that abortion is wrong) had given way to an apparently medical argument (that abortion makes women ill). I wanted to know why this had happened and whether this sort of argument against abortion had influenced abortion law and policy-making.

I completed my PhD in 2000, but this work led me on a journey in the following couple of years that encompassed comparative analysis of the abortion issue in the US and Britain; an investigation of what has been termed “the syndrome society”; and a consideration of the ways in the emotional effects birth and the early stages of parenthood have been “medicalised’.

I became more and more influenced by social constructionist sociology, in particular by what has been termed “contextual constructionism”, and persuaded by the insights this approach offers for understanding social problems and the development of policy.

The outcome of this work and thinking was published in 2003 as Abortion, Motherhood and Mental Health: Medicalizing Reproduction in the U.S. and Britain (Aldine Transaction), but I have carried on thinking and writing about the issues discussed in it in the subsequent years. I have more recently researched and written about social problems including ‘late’ and ‘early’ abortion, assisted conception, maternal and paternal mental health, infant feeding, and alcohol and pregnancy.

Current


In 2007 I decided, in collaboration with colleagues in SSPSSR, to try and develop a research network concerned with the way “parenting” has been constructed as a social problem in Britain and in many other countries. This has turned into an energetic and energising project, leading us to establish the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, based in SSPSSR in 2011.

My research for now will continue to focus on “parenting culture” and I am interested in initiating/collaborating on work about any of the following themes:

  • The medicalisation of parenthood
  • Risk consciousness and parenting culture
  • Gender and parenting: the “intensification” of fatherhood
  • The management of emotion in pregnancy and parenthood
  • The politics of parenting culture
  • The policing of pregnancy and reproductive choices
  • The moralisation of parenting practices.

Research projects

  • Assessing Child Welfare under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: the new law (ESRC funded)

The research team includes Dr Ellie Lee, Professor Sally Sheldon and Dr Jan Macvarish from the University of Kent.

  • Infant feeding in the age of “intensive parenthood”

The first phase of this project involved a study of mothers' experiences of infant feeding (funded by IDFA). Read a summary of research findings here or the full report here.

The second phase comprised a conference held at the University of Kent in May 2007. Read more here.

The third phase (on-going) is a socio-cultural study of the historical evolution of the infant feeding problem.

Past research projects

  • The Construction of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in British Newspapers (British Academy funded, with Pam Lowe, Aston University).

Outputs of the study to date include papers given at the British Sociological Association annual conference, the “Mother Wars” conference, and the ESRC seminar series Changing Parenting Culture, and articles published in Health, Risk and Society and Sociological Research Online.

  • Changing Parenting Culture (ESRC funded, seminar series)
    Read more here.
  • 'Late' abortion in England and Wales
    Read more here.
  • A Matter of Choice? Influences on young women's decisions about abortion or motherhood’ (funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
    Read more here.

Supervision

If you want to research any aspect of social or policy developments related to reproductive health, motherhood or parenting, and want to study at the University of Kent then get in touch.

I have built up experience through doing a number of studies about policy developments on these areas, and about people's experience of making choices about these aspects of their lives. This means I have a lot of experience in qualitative research.

 


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Current

I teach the following modules:

  • The Family, Parenting Culture and Parenting Policy (post-graduate, Masters)
  • Health, Illness and Medicine (undergraduate)
  • Reproductive Health Policy in Britain (undergraduate)
  • The Sociology and social politics of the family (undergraduate)
  • Research Dissertation (undergraduate)
  • Social Problems and Social Policy (undergraduate)

I offer research supervision at all levels (MPhil/PhD, MA/MSc, undergraduate)

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Professional activities

TV appearances

  • BBC Newsnight on ‘early intervention’ (September 2011)
  • Read more broadcast and print commentary here.

BBC Radio 4: Woman’s Hour appearances

Radio and video clips

Written comment for Spiked-online.com

Online comment

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Websites of interest in this field

 

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Youtube

Dr. Ellie Lee

Sex in the brain: do men and women think differently?

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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: 20/01/2014