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    Media representations of early human development: Protecting, feeding and loving the developing brain


    O'Connor, Cliodhna and Joffe, Helene (2013) Media representations of early human development: Protecting, feeding and loving the developing brain. Social Science and Medicine, 97. pp. 297-306. ISSN 0277-9536

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    Abstract

    The public profile of neurodevelopmental research has expanded in recent years. This paper applies social representations theory to explore how early brain development was represented in the UK print media in the first decade of the 21st century. A thematic analysis was performed on 505 newspaper articles published between 2000 and 2010 that discussed early brain development. Media coverage centred around concern with ‘protecting’ the prenatal brain (identifying threats to foetal neurodevelopment), ‘feeding’ the infant brain (indicating the patterns of nutrition that enhance brain development) and ‘loving’ the young child's brain (elucidating the developmental significance of emotionally nurturing family environments). The media focused almost exclusively on the role of parental action in promoting optimal neurodevelopment, rarely acknowledging wider structural, cultural or political means of supporting child development. The significance of parental care was intensified by deterministic interpretations of critical periods, which implied that inappropriate parental input would produce profound and enduring neurobiological impairments. Neurodevelopmental research was also used to promulgate normative judgements concerning the acceptability of certain gender roles and family contexts. The paper argues that media representations of neurodevelopment stress parental responsibility for shaping a child's future while relegating the contributions of genetic or wider societal factors, and examines the consequences of these representations for society and family life.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: United Kingdom; Early brain development; Intensive parenting; Media; Neuroscience; Public engagement; Social representations; Thematic analysis;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 6618
    Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.048
    Depositing User: Cliodhna O'Connor
    Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2015 17:26
    Journal or Publication Title: Social Science and Medicine
    Publisher: Elsevier
    Refereed: Yes
    URI:

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