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In the changing world of family life, parenting itself has come under closer examination. How important is quality parenting, who judges it, and is its provision the sole responsibility of parents – should parents just be left to get on with it? This unit explores what parenting actually means, what is meant by quality parenting, how it can be enhanced and promoted, and how services intended to promote quality parenting can be strengthened.

While working through this unit, you will be asked to reflect on your own experience of being parented, on being a parent and on working with parents. We shall also look at how parenting in the UK compares with parenting in other countries. Parenting within different cultures in the UK may vary too, and the unit invites you to consider this. Important issues are also raised about parental responsibility, preparation for parenthood, and how quality parenting is defined or assumed. However, we are not primarily concerned here with the psychology of fatherhood and motherhood or the parenting role. Rather, the unit takes a broader view. It encourages reflection on the social and political aspects of parenting, how current social policy is influenced by different political agendas about parenting, and how support for families is organised and delivered. That parenting has a political dimension cannot be denied, given government pronouncements on the value of good quality parenting, the importance of marriage, and initiatives to support and sustain ‘family life’ (Home Office, 1998). Yet parenting remains widely understood as an essentially private activity, in which the state should intervene only to protect a child in certain defined circumstances. This raises fundamental questions about the principles practitioners should apply when working with parents and about how support services for parenting might be developed, offered and evaluated.

The unit is divided into four sections. In Section 1 we explore ideas of parenthood and how they can differ from the experience of parenting. Section 2 looks at what makes for quality parenting and in Section 3 you will focus on the kind of help that may be required by some parents. Section 4 examines a range of different explanations for the need for support.

This unit is from our archive and it is an adapted extract from Working with children and families (K204) which is no longer in presentation. If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this curriculum area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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