All Parents in Focus : Governing parents and children in universal parenting training

Abstract: The thesis deals with power and control in public health interventions in Sweden using structured parental support programs. The aim is to visualize how parents and children's relationships are described and discussed in manuals and courses intended for all parents with children between the ages of 0 and 17 and how the children themselves describe in their family.By using theories of power and governing, the thesis aims to study how the parent-child relationship is regulated through normative discourses and power processes in selected parenting courses (Connect and ABC). The thesis also wants to give children a voice about their position in the family. The interest of the thesis is how preventive work, through structured courses, currently used in universal parenting training, can contribute to promote children’s health.Previous research on universal parenting training in Sweden is based primarily on health economic calculations and quantitative assessments of behavioural changes in children and parents. This thesis instead wants to study the values ​​and methodology of parenting training programs and the children's experiences in their family when parents have participated in parenting courses. With a children´s rights perspective, the thesis also wishes to highlight the parenting support in relation to the children's situation.The thesis contains four qualitative studies. Two are conducted with discourse analysis (Study I and III) and two use content analysis (Study II and IV). Study I examines two public investigations from 1947 and 2008, both of which deal with child rearing, parenting and parenting education. Study II explores the contents of the course manuals of the Canadian Connect program and Swedish All Children in Focus (ABC) in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Study III examines how principles ​​about parental skills and children’s actions are reflected in the parenting courses. Study IV describes children's experiences of being children in the families where the parents have participated in a parenting course.The findings in study I show that society's views on parents' relational ability in both investigations creates the prerequisite for acting politically for universal parenting training. The children's position is subordinate to adults in the investigations. Furthermore, in Study II, it appears that the content of both program manuals (Connect and ABC) is in accordance with Swedish public health policies, where parental ability can be seen as a protective factor for children's development. The study also shows that the courses can both restrain and promote children's participation. Study III shows that leaders at course meetings encourage parents to improve their parenting through self-control and conflict management. Parental capacity is seen as a determinant for children's development and health. In study IV, with children´s interviews, the children´s relate their views on the relationship with their parents and the children´s own relational ability.Throughout the thesis the findings show how an adult perspective is used to deal with conflicts and stabilize relationships in the family. An adult ambition to understand children and promote good relationships within the family is hampered by the concern of both society and parents for the parental child rearing ability. This concern can contribute to an uneven balance of power between adults and children. Preventive manual-based parenting training offers limited scope for children's influence in a health-promoting public health context. Children's experiences should thus be captured when society provides parenting support.