Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

Who's Fit to Be a Parent?


In recent years the notion of parenting and parenthood have increasingly come under examination from the media and professionals and, in particular, government and politicians. More and more, parents are being held to account by society for their failure to deliver the sort of citizens it wants. But what are parents supposed to be doing? Are there some people that are inherently unfit to be parents and does there exist a body of knowledge that defines fit parenting?
Who's fit to be a parent'covers this highly topical and important subject in a stimulating and accessible way that cuts across numerous professional disciplines and opens up the boundaries between professional and personal expertise on parenting.
It is essential reading for any professional or student of social work and social policy, those working in the voluntary services concerned with the family, social policy makers and for anyone interested in understanding what it means to be a parent today.


The idea for this book came to me during a period when I was approached for advice in a succession of cases of parents with disabilities whose fitness to parent was being called into question. I had written a book on pregnancy and disability (Campion 1990) which had brought me into contact with hundreds of parents with disabilities, many of whom reported increased professional scrutiny and surveillance due to the fact of their disability. I began to wonder how professionals made their assessments of whether parents were fit to care for their own children or not and whether there existed a body of knowledge which objectively defined what comprises fit parenting.

As I began to explore the area it became apparent that there are many books on the practical aspects of caring for children which seem to take for granted that everyone knows the norm to which all parents should be aspiring. Aspects of parenthood have variously been researched and explored by sociologists, doctors and psychologists who have proposed certain models of what good parenting should contain. None seemed to have directly tackled the question of who is fit to be a parent. Yet this is a question that is becoming increasingly important in western societies. The notion of 'fitness' (as opposed to 'goodness') suggests selection criteria that have to be met before someone will pass the parenting test and be allowed to care for children. Who is allowed to adopt? Whose children are removed and taken into care? Who 'gets' the children after the parents split? Who is allowed fertility treatment? More and more professionals are exercising power when deciding who will be permitted to be a parent. So it seemed timely to examine what criteria different practitioners are using to assess fitness and to see whether a consensus view emerges that all parents should be aspiring to fulfil.

But it is not just professionals who determine who is considered fit to be a parent. The media, politicians and religious leaders regularly pass judgement on certain groups of people and assert that it is their unfitness as parents that is responsible for all of society's problems. Parents nowadays appear to be under siege both from their children's demands and from society at large. So it also seemed timely to examine exactly what it is that society expects parents to be doing.

This book is a chronological account of my own personal investigation which took in a wide swathe of opinion and ideas. In exploring the nature of what is deemed fit parenting and how it is assessed, I looked to the following sources:

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