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

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

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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
Uncontrolled keywords: pregnancy; risk; family policy; neuroscience; maternal stress; foetal development; risk consciousness
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics > RG551 Pregnancy
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research > Centre for Health Services Studies
Depositing User: Tony Rees
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2015 12:12 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2016 09:24 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/47075 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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