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Disempowering parents: the erosion of parental mana with particular reference to the parents of at risk children and young persons

Over the last one hundred and fifty years the treatment and status of children and young persons in New Zealand has moved from a position of near absolute parental (paternal) authority over children and a state largely uninvolved in the conditions of childhood, to a position which increasingly acknowledges children and young persons as individual possessors of rights. The parent-child relationship has become progressively more governed and monitored by the state, which now intervenes in many previously private areas of family life. This shift has been motivated by growing concern regarding the treatment and status of children. Legislative changes throughout the period under review reflect a gradual improvement in both treatment and status, with the earlier legislation concerned to promote the protection of children, and the more recent legislation reflecting current notions of children as citizens. The elevation of children and young persons necessarily entailed adjustments to the previous authority, rights and autonomy of parents. Accompanying this has been an associated, though largely unintended, denigration of the credibility, competence and beneficence of parents, emanating from the view of parents as causes of the problems of childhood. These constitute an erosion of parental mana that significantly affects parents’ capacity to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of parenthood. Poor perceptions of parents have entered the public domain and have been exacerbated by aspects of the constantly changing social and political context, leaving parents marginalised and disempowered. Current legislation, informed by New Right ideology emphasising individual responsibility, firmly places responsibility for children with parents and extended family. The family empowerment ethos of the legislation is undermined in the implementation process, however, as a result of the frequent failure to allocate adequate resources to families and communities. The consequences are particularly pertinent for families whose children are engaged in at risk behaviour. The practical effects of these changes in the daily lives of thirteen families are examined here through the analysis of the lived experiences of the families. The parents’ experiences demonstrate the ways in which legislation and its implementation combine with contextual factors to leave parents in an untenable position. It is contended that parental mana has been progressively eroded to the point where it is no longer commensurate with their parental responsibilities.
Type of thesis
Campbell, M. M. (2000). Disempowering parents: the erosion of parental mana with particular reference to the parents of at risk children and young persons (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14501
The University of Waikato
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