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Growing better brains? Pregnancy and neuroscience discourses in English social and welfare policies.

Lowe, Pam, Lee, Ellie J., Macvarish, Jan (2015) Growing better brains? Pregnancy and neuroscience discourses in English social and welfare policies. Health, Risk & Society, . ISSN 1369-8575. (doi:10.1080/13698575.2014.994479) (KAR id:47075)

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2014.994479

Abstract

In recent years, English welfare and health policy has started to include pregnancy

within the foundation stage of child development. The foetus is also increasingly

designated as ‘at risk’ from pregnant women. In this article, we draw on an analysis

of a purposive sample of English social and welfare policies and closely related

advocacy documents to trace the emergence of neuroscientific claims-making in

relation to the family. In this article, we show that a specific deterministic understanding

of the developing brain that only has a loose relationship with current

scientific evidence is an important component in these changes. We examine the

ways in which pregnancy is situated in these debates. In these debates, maternal stress

is identified as a risk to the foetus; however, the selective concern with women living

in disadvantage undermines biological claims. The policy claim of neurological ‘critical

windows’ also seems to be influenced by social concerns. Hence, these emerging

concerns over the foetus’ developing brain seem to be situated within the gendered

history of policing women’s pregnant bodies rather than acting on new insights from

scientific discoveries. By situating these developments within the broader framework

of risk consciousness, we can link these changes to wider understandings of the ‘at

risk’ child and intensified surveillance over family life.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/13698575.2014.994479
Uncontrolled keywords: pregnancy; risk; family policy; neuroscience; maternal stress; foetal development; risk consciousness
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics > RG551 Pregnancy
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Depositing User: Ellie Lee
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2015 12:12 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2021 14:37 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/47075 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Lee, Ellie J.: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8131-6872
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