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Article

Managing grandparental involvement in child-rearing in the context of intensive parenting

Sociological Research Online. 2018. Vol. 23. No. 4. P. 830-846.

Intensive parenting ideology is on the rise in expert discourses, social policy, and popular culture. A growing body of research focuses on how mothers try to satisfy the requirements of intensive parenting in their child-rearing practices. However, little is known about the broader effects of this culture, including the implications for intergenerational relationships. In this paper, we investigate how mothers manage the pressures of intensive parenting and at the same time maintain relationships with the child’s grandparents. We use data from 50 interviews with mothers of pre-schoolers, living in Russia. We show that in the context of parental determinism and the expert-oriented parenting culture, mothers may construe grandparents’ practices and beliefs as wrong and harmful for the child, and they experience grandparents’ involvement as a source of anxiety. We also unpack the strategies that mothers use to micro-manage grandparental involvement and cope with anxiety, which are as follows: (a) restrictions of grandparental involvement, (b) negotiations over child-rearing practices and ideas, and (c) constructions of therapeutic narratives to re-describe involvement to render it acceptable. This study contributes to the debates on intensive parenting by demonstrating its isolating potential and showing how mothers try to overcome it.