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The challenge of State involvement
in parenting

Although the State in every nation has an obligation to promote the well-being of its families, there is a narrow dividing line between promoting family well-being and becoming actively involved in managing families and family life for political, economic or social reasons. The act of supporting families and legislating for their well-being brings the State into a position where its fiscal, welfare and other services can significantly influence trends in child-rearing and marital relationships. Official policies on promoting specific aspects of family life will also inevitably impact on budgetary allocations to government departments.

It can be argued that such support has an entirely beneficial effect on family life, and that the more the investment the more the nation’s families will prosper. This is not necessarily the case, as the spending of billions of pounds on family-oriented services brings with it pressures on parents to conform to the wider goals of national government - a legitimate aim of the State provided that those goals are in harmony with most families’ wishes and insights into their own well-being.

The present reality

Taking a brief look at the more important areas in which State policy and practice can influence parenting will indicate how significant is that influence.

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