Worthless and undeserving? : problematising the subjectivities of single parenthood

Coe, Sandra May (2011) Worthless and undeserving? : problematising the subjectivities of single parenthood. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


A considerable body of knowledge has been constructed perpetuating the notion single parenthood is a significant problem for society, and while this is supported by specific research designs and sampling practices, it is also maintained by two key discourses. The first constitutes single parenthood as a deficit, while the second identifies it as a risk. In both cases, these discourses are operationalised by the philosophy of neo-liberalism, which envisions good citizenship as economic autonomy. Historically, it has been the convergence of the risk and deficit discourses that has constituted single parenthood as a social problem.

More recently, however, risk discourses have come to dominate thinking about single parenthood. As a result, this thesis terms risk discourses as dominant discourses. As dominant discourses, risk sidelines or discounts other ways of thinking about single parenthood. While a few exceptions are notable, including some feminist, poststructural and family resilience scholars, most researchers appear unable to see past the positioning of these discourses and envision another way of being for parents who are single. This means that alternative subjectivities are obscured and have limited influence in this field of research.

Because this thesis aimed to problematise dominant subjectivities of single parenthood, a poststructural Foucauldian framework has been utilized in order to document the discursive constructions of single parenthood through literature, insider discourses, and outsider discourses. For the purposes of this thesis, outsider discourses are constituted as those outside the subjectivities of single parenthood, such as media and research discourses. An examination of the Australian media has been undertaken over a one year period, the results of which form the basis for the analysis of media discourses of single parenthood. Parents who are single were also targeted for self selection into this project to provide insider discourses about single parenthood. This analysis explored how respondents negotiated the discourses of single parenthood and how they themselves used or rejected the subjectivities constructed for them via these discourses to constitute their own subjectivities.

This thesis aimed to explore the role of discourses in the construction of individuals' subjectivities. Specifically, it draws attention to the way in which knowledge and power work through discourses to emphasize what is allowable, both publicly and privately, in relation to single parenthood. Most importantly, this thesis offers alternative subjectivities for single parenthood to facilitate new ways of thinking about parents who are single.

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ID Code: 51576
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Dwyer, Angela & Carpenter, Belinda
Keywords: Poststructuralism, discourse analysis, Michel Foucault, power, truth, knowledge, discourse, single parenthood, subjectivities, games of truth, media analysis, insider discourses, outsider discourses, normalisation, dividing practices, risk, neoliberal discourses, child wellbeing, parenthood, resilience
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 11 Jul 2012 07:24
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2012 07:24

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