Although every bookstore has shelves full of ‘how to’-books for parents, we have relatively little solid knowledge about child rearing, and even less about parenting. The main contention of this study is that the field of psychology has neglected to address the dilemmas of being a parent.
When attempts have been made to unravel the complexities of child rearing, scientists have almost invariably taken the child’s perspective, while turning a blind eye to the parental experience of bringing up a child. As a result, we are embarrassingly ignorant about how it feels to be a parent, and how child rearing by parents ‘works’.
The author postulates a definition of the word ‘parent’ which aims to capture the essence of the parental position vis à vis the child, and to serve as a sensitizing concept for critical perusal of the professional literature. A theory of parenting is outlined which encompasses many existing concepts, but rearranges these into a conceptual framework which helps explain both the sometimes unbelievable accomplishments of parents, but also their weaknesses and failures of parents. The crux of this framework is its emphasis on conditions that have to be met on a day-to-day basis in order for parents to grow in their tasks. These conditions should be the first focus of professional work with parents.
The author’s arguments are illustrated with numerous clinical vignettes from her thirty years of experience with mental health services for children. She is also familiar with a wide range of literature, and references abound to support many an innovative thought about an age-old subject.