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'Problem family' representations: the construction of intergenerational disadvantage in policy


Flanagan, K, 'Problem family' representations: the construction of intergenerational disadvantage in policy, Social Suffering in the Neoliberal: Age State Power, Logics and Resistance, Routledge, K Soldatic and L St Guillaume (ed), London, UK, pp. 11-27. ISBN 9781003131779 (2022) [Research Book Chapter]

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DOI: doi:10.4324/9781003131779


The idea of ‘intergenerational disadvantage’ locates the problem of disadvantage within the family, turning the family into the problem. Previous research has shown how so-called ‘problem family’ discourse has been configured over time, including its intersection with eugenics. ‘Problem family’ discourse underpins repeated attempts to identify and classify families by collating administrative data and to appropriate the home as a site of rehabilitative intervention. However, the digitisation of government practice has altered these practices in new and troubling ways. In this exploratory paper, I apply Carol Bacchi’s theory of ‘problem representations’ to an aspect of Australian welfare policy: the Try, Test, and Learn Fund, part of the Priority Investment Approach. Through an analysis of policy documents, I show how Try, Test and Learn constructs its subjects, ‘young parents’, in ways consistent with older forms of problem family discourse, and thus potentially consistent with their harms.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:intergenerational disadvantage, 'problem' families, 'what's the problem represented to be'
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Policy and administration
Research Field:Social policy
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Community services
Objective Field:Employment services
UTAS Author:Flanagan, K (Dr Kathleen Flanagan)
ID Code:149562
Year Published:2022
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DE200101182)
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2022-04-04
Last Modified:2022-04-04

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