Article ID: CBB526089134

Neurobiological Limits and the Somatic Significance of Love: Caregivers’ Engagements with Neuroscience in Scottish Parenting Programmes (2020)


While parents have long received guidance on how to raise children, a relatively new element of this involves explicit references to infant brain development, drawing on brain scans and neuroscientific knowledge. Sometimes called ‘brain-based parenting’, this has been criticised from within sociological and policy circles alike. However, the engagement of parents themselves with neuroscientific concepts is far less researched. Drawing on 22 interviews with parents/carers of children (mostly aged 0–7) living in Scotland, this article examines how they account for their (non-)use of concepts and understandings relating to neuroscience. Three normative tropes were salient: information about children’s processing speed, evidence about deprived Romanian orphans in the 1990s, and ideas relating to whether or not children should ‘self-settle’ when falling asleep. We interrogate how parents reflexively weigh and judge such understandings and ideas. In some cases, neuroscientific knowledge was enrolled by parents in ways that supported biologically reductionist models of childhood agency. This reductionism commonly had generative effects, enjoining new care practices and producing particular parent and infant subjectivities. Notably, parents do not uncritically adopt or accept (sometimes reductionist) neurobiological and/or psychological knowledge; rather, they reflect on whether and when it is applicable to and relevant for raising their children. Thus, our respondents draw on everyday epistemologies of parenting to negotiate brain-based understandings of infant development and behaviour, and invest meaning in these in ways that cannot be fully anticipated (or appreciated) within straightforward celebrations or critiques of the content of parenting programmes drawing on neuropsychological ideas.

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Article Susanne Schregel; Tineke Broer (2020) Introduction: Contested Narratives of the Mind and the Brain: Neuro/Psychological Knowledge in Popular Debates and Everyday Life. History of the Human Sciences (pp. 3-11). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Tallis, Raymond
Vidal, Fernando
Chomsky, Noam
Andrea Moro
Schregel, Susanne
Broer, Tineke
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
History of the Human Sciences
Social Studies of Science
Science, Technology and Human Values
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Palgrave Macmillan
Acumen Publishers
MIT Press
Oxford University Press
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Columbia University Press
Philosophy of science
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Andrea Moro
Chomsky, Noam
Great Britain
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
18th century

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