The Interests of My Child

Special Report: The Social Differentiation of Children
The Individual Mobilizations of Parents Whose Children Are Failing Early at School
By Stanislas Morel

This article looks at parents’ individual mobilizations on account of their child who is failing in their first years at school. The focus is on the confrontation between the parents and a range of professionals (teachers, doctors, allied health professionals, psychologists, psychiatrists), who now pose as experts in the treatment of academic failure. The development of a field of professional intervention, however, tends to exert a contradictory effect on parents, often causing them anxiety. They are not only forced to at least partially entrust their ‘problem’ to these professionals, but also to acquire the necessary skills to maneuver between these specialists whose knowledge base is not unified. This process of the professionalization of the treatment of academic failure also serves to highlight the amateur nature of parental mobilizations. Although highly constrained, even the most disadvantaged among the parents do have some room for maneuvering and, through the interstices of the experts’ power, socially differentiated and relatively autonomous ways of representing children’s difficulties are revealed.

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