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'My Son's a Bit Dizzy.' 'My Wife's a Bit Soft': gender, children and cultures of parenting

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ABSTRACT What it means to be a child and what it means to be a parent are both cultural inventions, ideologies which are (re)constructed and (re)produced over time. The two are deeply intertwined. The dominant contemporary Western imagining of children as vulnerable and incompetent in public space contributes towards structuring the way that parents look after their offspring and determine their children's personal geographies. Children's safety in public space from traffic accidents and stranger-dangers is an issue that is high on the public agenda in the USA and UK, heightening parental anxieties about the amount of independence and spatial freedom they should grant their offspring. Mothers' and fathers' understandings of their children's safety and the culture and conduct of parenting are gendered processes. This paper therefore explores how parents' attitudes towards girls' and boys' respective vulnerabilities and competencies to handle danger in public space vary. It then goes on to consider the way that parental practices, such as taking responsibility for managing children's spatial boundaries and disciplining them for any infringements, are also gendered.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1997

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