Parenthood in the Society of Individuals: ‘Helicopter Parents' As Prime Example of Individually Inescapable Blame Gossip.

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 30 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Désirée WATERSTRADT, University of Education Karlsruhe, Germany
To grant social stability and continuity in generation chains societies have to manage not only environmental but also social risks. Therefore they develop social standards of care for the next generation (generativity), including the development of a generative habitus as well as the formation of generative institutions. According to social changes these standards of generativity change over time, but always provide the foundation of individual generativity.

In the competition mechanism of globally integrating and differentiating societies a growing pressure of competition unfolds – not sparing generativity. The competitiveness of generativity can not only be observed on a global level, where organisations like the UN and the OECD foster competition comparing generative standards and outcomes. It can also be observed on and between all other institutional levels of societies like universities, schools, day care-centres or families.

Of course competition on generative standards can also be identified on the individual level. Experts compete between and inside their professions regarding generative standards, promoting professionalization, a professionalized self-image with a strong group charisma based on the ‘minority of the best’ and enhancing social coherence of professionalized positions and institutions.

On the other hand this professionalization of generative standards leads to a weakening parental image, classifying parents as unprofessional and unreliable laypersons with a growing group shame based on the ‘minority of the worst’ and weak social coherence. As a prime example of individualizing stigmatization the blame gossip term of ‘helicopter parents’ stands for a pars pro toto-distortion. It is individually inescapable for parents and shows the self-dynamics of individualization and professionalization regarding parenthood. Modern generativity seems to be institutionalized and habitualized, forming an established-outsider-figuration of competent generative professionals with limited responsibilities and parents as incompetent generative laypersons with unlimited personal responsibilities.