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Producing children in the 21st century: A critical discourse analysis of the science and techniques of monitoring early child development


Einboden, R and Rudge, T and Varcoe, C, Producing children in the 21st century: A critical discourse analysis of the science and techniques of monitoring early child development, Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for The Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 17, (6) pp. 549-566. ISSN 1363-4593 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 The Authors

DOI: doi:10.1177/1363459312472081


The purpose of this article is to identify the implications of commonly held ideologies within theories of child development. Despite critiques to doing so, developmental theory assumes that children’s bodies are unitary, natural and material. The recent explosion of neuroscience illustrates the significance of historical, social and cultural contexts to portrayals of brain development, offering the opportunity for a critical departure in thinking. Instead, this neuroscience research has been taken up in ways that align with biomedical traditions and neoliberal values. This article uses a critical discursive approach, supported by Haraway’s ideas of technoscience, to analyse a population-based early child development research initiative. This initiative organises a large-scale surveillance of children’s development, operating from the premise that risks to development are best captured early to optimise children’s potential. The analysis in this article shows an intermingling of health and economic discourses and clarifies how the child is a figure of significant contemporary social and political interests. In a poignant example of technobiopolitics, the collusion between health research, technologies and the state enrols health professionals to participate in the production of children as subjects of social value, figured as human capital, investments in the future, or alternatively, as waste. The analysis shows how practices that participate in what has become a developmental enterprise also participate in the marginalisation of the very children they intend to serve. Hence, there is the need to rethink practices critically and move towards innovative conceptualisations of child development that hold possibilities to resist these figurations.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biopolitics, child development, discourse analysis, risk, technology
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Public health
Research Field:Community child health
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Evaluation of health and support services
Objective Field:Health inequalities
UTAS Author:Einboden, R (Ms Rochelle Einboden)
ID Code:107965
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:16
Deposited By:Health Sciences
Deposited On:2016-04-01
Last Modified:2017-11-03

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