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University of Bristol State Control of Childrens Bodies Through Discourses of Wellbeing: conflicting ideologies of well, being and becoming for children.

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Presentation on theme: "University of Bristol State Control of Childrens Bodies Through Discourses of Wellbeing: conflicting ideologies of well, being and becoming for children."— Presentation transcript:

1 University of Bristol State Control of Childrens Bodies Through Discourses of Wellbeing: conflicting ideologies of well, being and becoming for children and young people Dr. Debbie Watson

2 Proliferation of wellbeing UNICEF report on wellbeing in rich countries- UK came bottom of rankings (UNICEF, 2007); Good Childhood Inquiry (Childrens society, 2009); Concerns about demise of childhood (Palmer,2007; Layard & Dunn, 2009); ECM agenda in England and Wales (DfES, 2004); Emotional learning programmes (SEAL- DfES, 2005). Wellbeing is used in all contexts but not defined. 2

3 Origins of the concept Ancient origins/ philosophical basis: Parfit (1984) suggested three concepts of wellbeing: a. Hedonism- pleasure/ pain/ happiness; b. Desire-fulfilment/ Eudaimonic- achieving desire preference and living in accordance with ones self; c. Objective List Theories- achieving those needs/ capabilities that others have determined are important for a good life e.g QOL theories. 3

4 Wellbeing is poorly defined for children Discourse analysis of wellbeing raises a number of questions (Ereaut & Whiting, 2008): –What is the binary opposite? Ill-being? (non word); –Well and being are two words- hard to fix a meaning for the signified when two signifiers involved; –Why wellbeing and not welfare/ well-living/ well- feeling? –How to spell wellbeing? –Focus is on wellness- opposite ill/ unwell 4

5 Discourses of wellbeing (Ereaut & Whiting, 2008) Medicalised; Operationalised e.g. ECM outcomes define wellbeing so it does not need to be problematised or challenged; Sustainability discourse; Discourse of holism; Philosophical discourse. 5

6 Writing about QOL theories: what is essential is that these are theories according to which an assessment of a person's well-being involves a substantive judgment about what things make life better, a judgment which may conflict with that of the person whose well-being is in question (Scanlon, 1993) (p.188). 6

7 Open to paternalism? Children may require enforced protection of and stimulation of their capabilities, for example through compulsory education –(Gough, 2002:16). Who decides what is good for children? What say do they have? 7

8 Childhood is contested Becoming- e.g. Adults in the making? Being- social agents in their own right? Being & Becoming simultaneously? –What judgment?- Competence? Development? Growth? (e.g. Lee, 2002) –Epistemological component (child being a child) and ontological component (ageing body of the child) (Uprichard, 2008) –Where do we focus on both concepts of childhood in respect of wellbeing? –Tendency to dissociate concepts (Cartesian dualist thinking) focus on mental/ physical health- but is this wellbeing? 8

9 The Being in wellbeing Bodies are highly complex and contested sites. One theory suggests that we occupy 3 bodies: –The individual body as phenomenologically understood; –The social body referring to the representational uses of the body as a natural symbol with which to think about nature, society and culture, and; –The body politic referring to the regulation, surveillance, and control of bodies (individual and collective) (Scheper-Hughes and Lock, 1987) (pp.7-8). 9

10 Well bodies? Individual- In respect of wellbeing this suggests that we search for individualised accounts of childrens wellness and locate these in medicalised corporeal explanations; Social- there is a direct correlation mapped between a healthy body and a healthy society and childrens health and wellbeing are used as indicators for the wellbeing of society in general- connection between body and the external world; Body politic- The body politic is experienced and exerted on individuals in many ways and these are subject to other social forces such as gender. The epidemic in eating disorders amongst young girls and women may be a testament to the dual expectations on them to be both Hedonistic and remain slim, fit and composed. 10

11 The complexity of human bodies The individual body should be seen as the most immediate, the proximate terrain where social truths and social contradictions are played out, as well as a locus of personal and social resistance, creativity and struggle (Scheper-Hughes & Lock, 1987, p.31). 11

12 State control of childrens bodies? National child measurement programme (2010) Reporting of childrens weight to parents/ carers What role are schools playing? docile bodies? (Foucault, 1991) –Discipline increases the forces of the body (in economic terms of utility) and diminishes these same forces (in political terms of obedience) (138). 12

13 Behaviour control? ADHD and use of drug treatment; Under the guise of wellbeing clinicians have detrimentally affected the wellbeing of children (Traxson, 2010); Behaviour that falls outside normal range (evidence to suggest the range has shifted) 60-fold increase in Ritalin use with children in UK in 10 years to 2004; Established side effects of increased anxiety, damage to working memory and even onset of Parkinsons disease (Higgins, 2009). Individual/ somatic level treatment with little question of implications; Societal intolerance of difference? 13

14 The Happy child? Absence of age-appropriate measurements for childrens emotions results in inappropriate labelling of children as depressed/ unhappy/ suffering mental disorders; –potential for a profound intrusion into our childrens emotional lives using diagnostic labelling that is of questionable validity –(Horwitz & Wakefield, 2007: 163). 14

15 National Wellbeing programmes SEAL programme- delivered in 90% primarys/ 70% secondarys in England; Regularly encourages the explicit sharing of emotions where feelings are to be regulated and schooled (Craig, 2009: 12) Inherently female bias in SEAL; Allowed a psychological and mental health perspective on wellbeing to predominate the discourse in schools (Craig, 2009) 15

16 Therapeutic ethos? Should children not be allowed to experience negative emotions as well as positive ones? Surely we need to help them build resilience to failure/ upset? Are we presuming a fragility and vulnerability amongst children? (Ecclestone & Hayes, 2009)- Is this not very paternalistic and protectionist? Should a focus be on individual self-esteem? Can result in unhealthy materialism and individualism and so undermines rather than contributes to wellbeing (Crocker & Park, 2004). 16

17 Lack of evidence base? (Humphreys et al, 2010 national evaluation of SEAL) SEAL failed to have a positive impact in schools; Analysis of school climate scores indicated significant reductions in pupils trust and respect for teachers, liking for school, and feelings of classroom and school supportiveness during SEAL implementation. Additionally, qualitative data around perceptions of impact indicated a feeling that SEAL had not produced the expected changes across schools. However, school climate data also showed a significant increase in pupils feelings of autonomy and influence, and this was supplemented by anecdotal examples of positive changes in general outcomes (e.g. reductions in exclusion), as well as more specific improvements in behaviour, interpersonal skills and relationships. 17

18 What focus on childrens bodies is revealed? They can be controlled at an individual level- what they consume, how they behave and how their happiness is judged; Open to scrutiny and measurement and normalised; Focus on individual bodies driven by body politic What place for the social (collective?) body in wellbeing agendas? Other than as a thermometer? Operationalised and medical discourses predominate 18

19 The Being child can be fixed A Being discourse allows us to fix and normalise patterns of being child; Becoming discourse presumes children are deficient when regarded against adults. Need to take both discourses together to understand multi-faceted nature of childhood and wellbeing. Goodley (2007) asserts that we are all in a state of becoming where, – becoming challenges the marketized product of being (325). 19

20 The Becoming child (Goodley, 2007, drawn from Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) Rhizomatic ideas challenge being as a singular and individualised experience & focuses on a multiplicity of experiences based upon the social body- which connects people and the world; A becoming view equates to hedonistic/ desire theories (Eudaimonic); Desiring requires that the membership of the community (children?) define their own membership and the good emerges as a subjective/ interpretive process. Requires development of methods for accessing childrens accounts of well living in all contexts. Not acceptable to exert our definition of the good on children in OLTs that can be operationalised and measured. 20

21 References 1 CRAIG, C. (2009) Well-being in schools: the curious case of the tail wagging the dog?, Centre for Confidence and Well-being. DELEUZE, G. & GUATTARI, F. (2004) A thousand plateaus- capitalism and schizophrenia, Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. DFES (2004) Every child matters: change for children. London, UK, Crown Copyright. DFES (2005) Social and emotional aspects of learning. Crown Copyright ECCLESTONE, K. & HAYES, D. (2009) Changing the subject: the educational implications of developing well-being. Oxford Review of Education, 35, EREAUT, G. & WHITING, R. (2008) What do we mean by 'wellbeing'? And why might it matter? London, DCSF. FOUCAULT, M. (1991) Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison, London, Penguin Books. 21

22 Refs 2 GOODLEY, D. (2007) Towards Socially Just Pedagogies: Deleuzeoguattarian critical disability studies. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 11, GOUGH, I. (2002) Lists and thresholds: comparing our theory of human need with Nussbaum's capabilities approach. Promoting women's capabilities: examining Nussbaum's capabilities approach. St Edmund's College, Cambridge. HUMPHREY, N., LENDRUM, A. & WIGELSWORTH, M. (2010) Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme in secondary schools: national evaluation. Manchester, University of Manchester. HIGGINS, E. S. (2009) Do ADHD drugs take a toll on the brain? Scientific American Mind, 20, HORWITZ, A. & WAKEFIELD, J. C. (2007) The Loss of Sadness: how psychiatry transformed normal sorrow into a depressive disorder, New York, Oxford University Press. LAYARD, R. & DUNN, J. (2009) A Good Childhood: searching for values in a competitive age, Harmondsworth, Penguin. 22

23 Refs 3 LEE, N. (2002) Childhood and Society: Growing Up in an Age of Uncertainty, Buckingham, Open University Press. PALMER, S. (2007) Toxic childhood: how the modern world is damaging our children and what we can do about it, Orion. PARFIT, D. (1984) Reasons and Persons, Oxford, Clarendon Press. SCANLON, T. (1993) Value, desire and quality of life. IN NUSSBAUM, M. & SEN, A. (Eds.) The Quality of Life. Oxford, Clarendon Press. SCHEPER-HUGHES, N. & LOCK, M. L. (1987) The Mindful Body: A prolegomen to future work in medical anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 1, TRAXSON, D. (2010) The Medicalisation of Childhood. Every Child Journal, 1, UNICEF (2007) Child Poverty in Perspective: an overview of child well-being in rich countries. Innocenti report card 7. UPRICHARD, E. (2008) Children as 'Beings and Becomings: children, childhood and temporality. Children & Society, 22,

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