Parenting As a Risky Venture: A Narrative Analysis of the Parental Experience in Non-Engaged Youth’s Life and Career Development

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Siu-ming TO, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Yuk-yan SO, Department of Social Work, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The precariousness of life in late modernity has induced a reconstruction of the meanings of parenthood and an upsurge in parental anxiety. Whereas studies on the needs of non-engaged youth (NEY) in school-to-work transitions have supported an increased policy focus on risk management through parental involvement, how parents of NEY perceive their parenthood and negotiate their risk responses remains unexplored. This study thus examined the parental experience in NEY’s life and career development. Narrative analysis was adopted for the research design. Fifteen Chinese parents were selected as research participants. They had at least one child aged between 15 and 21, who was not in education, employment, or training (NEET), or who was at risk of becoming a NEET. They were recruited through five social service centers providing career counseling for NEY in different districts of Hong Kong. Each participant was interviewed twice for narration of their life stories. The findings indicate that these parents drew on contemporary cultural understandings of risks and parenting to make sense of their children’s circumstances and experienced various negative emotions. While some parents interpreted their parental experiences along this storyline and narrated stories of self-blame and blame for their children, other parents made use of their biographical narratives and social resources to renegotiate parental choices and dilemmas in their children’s school-to-work transitions and reconstruct the meanings of parenthood. The findings suggest that on the one hand, parents’ self-perception is shaped by the risk discourses and neo-liberal policy focus; on the other hand, parents who are able to reconstitute their reflexive selves can create a space, no matter how tenuous, within which they can have a more positive view of themselves and their children. Policy makers and practitioners should hence be cognizant of the ideological and social contexts in which parental distress and parents’ resistance coexist.