Individuals and society in transition
: a narrative study of parents’ use of smacking

  • Susan Redman

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Parents’ use of smacking with children has been the subject of much private and public debate within the UK in recent years. Within this qualitative study, narrative methods have been used to explore relationships between societal change and individuals’ own biographical narratives of growing up and becoming parents and for some, becoming health visitors.At the heart of this study ‘small’ stories of individual experience are set within the context of what Tilly (1984) referred to as ‘big structures and large processes’. This thesis weaves ideas about social and cultural narratives with the personal or autobiographical narrative and explores their interconnectedness, places of convergence and divergence and significance for self-identity.Initially print media texts that spanned the past twenty years were analysed to discover the dominant 'storylines' about parents’ use of smacking. Secondly, narrative interviews were carried out with parents, grandparents and health visitors (most of whom were also parents or grandparents). The approach to analysis was sequential and narratives were considered in terms of their form and their content, across all of the narrative data and then within six selected narrative exemplars.The stories recounted by participants are of personal 'transition' and the formation of new identities within a society that could be described as being in a 'state of flux' as the children's rights agenda is interpreted and played out in different ways. Identification of personal turning points during the life course and the use of Frank’s (1995) narrative types has allowed further understanding of the ways in which these stories are culturally constructed. Participants’ biographical narratives of chaos, quest and restitution, focusing upon experience of parental use of smacking, illustrate ways in which different experience of transition, triggers, turning points and evolution, work in a transformational way to reconstruct moral identity of parents and foster relationships of reciprocity amongst children and parents. Understandings of relationship between adults and children have implications for the cultural politics of childhood which are significant for the present and on into the future. It is this very notion of reciprocity amongst children and parents that is likely to foster as cultural knowledge, equal protection against assault.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJulie Taylor (Supervisor) & Joanne Corlett (Supervisor)


    • Parenting
    • Physical punishment
    • Children

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