Adult Supervision Required considers the contradictory ways in which contemporary American culture has imagined individual autonomy for parents and children. In many ways, today’s parents and children have more freedom than ever before. There is widespread respect for children’s autonomy as distinct individuals, and a broad range of parenting styles are flourishing. Yet it may also be fair to say that there is an unprecedented fear of children’s and parents’ freedom. Dread about Amber Alerts and “stranger danger” have put an end to the unsupervised outdoor play enjoyed by earlier generations of suburban kids. Similarly, fear of bad parenting has not only given rise to a cottage industry of advice books for anxious parents, but has also granted state agencies greater power to police the family.
Using popular parenting advice literature as a springboard for a broader sociological analysis of the American family, Markella B. Rutherford explores how our increasingly psychological conception of the family might be jeopardizing our appreciation for parents’ and children’s public lives and civil liberties.
"Markella Rutherford provides a skillful sociological analysis of the changing dynamics of parenting in the U.S. context, demonstrating how the study of parenting can inform key social questions and problems in novel ways."
—Daniel Thomas Cook, Department of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden
"Rutherford surveys changes in the culture of parenting in the U.S. over the course of the 20th century by analyzing the concerns of parents together with advice available to them in popular magazines between 1910 and 2009. She further supplements this analysis with intensive, open-ended interviews of 30 contemporary parents. Her focus is on supervision, freedom, and constraint. Drawing on relevant sociological theory, the author provides an interesting analysis of changing U.S. cultural norms in an important area of life. Recommended."
Author / Editor Bio
MARKELLA B. RUTHERFORD is an associate professor of sociology at Wellesley College.
Table Of Contents
1 Take It with a Grain of Salt: How Parents Encounter Experts and Advice
2 Seen and Heard: Children’s Growing Freedom at Home
3 Keeping Tabs on Kids: Children’s Shrinking Public Autonomy
4 Mixed Messages about Responsibility: Children’s Duties and the Work of Parenting
5 Psychology’s Child: Emotional Autonomy and the Privatization of the Self