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Woman carries a worried child

Good enough parenting

The assessment of children and young people who experience issues of risk and vulnerability involves the assessment of the adults surrounding and caring for them. When engaging in this task professionals are concerned with the assessment of ‘parenting capacity’ and ‘good enough parenting’.

Research undertaken by Kellet and Apps in 2009 suggested that ‘good enough’ parenting consists of four elements:

  • Meeting children’s health and developmental needs;
  • Putting children’s needs first;
  • Providing routine and consistent care;
  • Acknowledging problems and engaging with support services.

However, the term ‘good enough’ indicates that what is being looked for is a minimum standard of acceptability as opposed to perfection. This can be a challenging concept to engage with. Quotes from practitioners in the research cited above reflect this.

I think there’s that baseline … those basic things of the stimulation, the love, the warmth … they’re basic needs that human beings need to survive. (Family support worker)

I think it’s a pretty subjective thing, the whole concept behind it is rather vague … I guess you’re talking about the lowest common denominator really. (Paediatrician)

The research identified a key element of ‘good enough parenting’ as being when parents tried their best to put the needs of their child ahead of their own, regardless of their circumstances and what they were able to provide.

I think it’s trying your best. It’s not always about things you can give your children … I think more importantly it’s spending the time with your children and listening to them, giving them attention. (Family support worker)

Good parenting would mean that the parents or the carers themselves regard their family as the first priority. (Paediatrician)

When this willingness to regard their children as their first priority was not present, characteristics of what would be regarded as risk parenting began to be identified:

  • Neglecting basic needs
  • Putting adults’ needs first
  • Chaos and lack of routine
  • An unwillingness to engage with support services

Parents who have issues going on in their own lives, such as depression, or poor mental health, or difficult relationships and they can’t prioritise their children’s needs over their own needs or parents where there are drug and alcohol misuse and they prioritise their need for that over the needs of their child. (Health visitor)

The texts in the ‘See Also’ section below were used when creating this week’s materials - you can consult them for more information on the topic. It should be stressed however that there is no obligation to buy any book for this course.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde

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